Back Pain Home > What Is Morphine Sulfate Used For?

Morphine sulfate is a drug that is used for treating short-term or long-term pain. This active ingredient is found in many prescription pain medications and works by binding to opioid receptors throughout the body. Although morphine sulfate is not approved for use in children, a healthcare provider may prescribe this medication on an off-label basis. Other off-label uses of morphine sulfate include treating shortness of breath or hastening death.

What Is Morphine Sulfate Used For?

Morphine sulfate is an active ingredient in many different prescription medications. It is most often used to treat pain, although it is sometimes also used for other reasons (such as for anesthesia during surgeries or other procedures or for treating shortness of breath).
For pain control, morphine sulfate is used both for short-term pain (such as after a surgery) and for long-term pain control. Because it is a narcotic, many healthcare providers like to limit its use to the shortest period of time possible (see Morphine Addiction for more information).
Morphine sulfate is especially useful for "palliative care" (pain relief for people who are dying), as it helps relieve shortness of breath often experienced near the end of life, in addition to relieving pain, helping the patient sleep, and providing some anxiety relief. The medication is also commonly used to treat pain during a heart attack (especially if nitroglycerin does not adequately relieve the pain).
Morphine sulfate comes in several different forms, reflecting the many different ways the drug can be used. Short-acting tablets or oral solution are the most useful for treating temporary pain or breakthrough pain (occasional pain that occurs despite treatment with longer-acting pain medications). Long-acting tablets and capsules are generally used when continuous, around-the-clock use of potent opioid medication is necessary for an extended period of time (for more than a few days). Injectable forms can be given by IV, in an "epidural," or even in an implanted pump.
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Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
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