In this section
Morphine is a very effective medicine for
pain management and is used often in both adults and children.
Children are given morphine to relieve
pain. They will not get 'high' and will not get addicted. If their
pain stops they can gradually stop taking the morphine. Morphine used to relieve pain can help children continue to move
about and carry on with their lives.
Morphine is a medication which works very well for managing pain
and shortness of breath. It is a strong pain reliever
(analgesic). It is very commonly used in medical treatment and
is used regularly at The Royal Children's Hospital.
Children can take morphine as tablets or liquid. They usually
take it every few hours. Sometimes, if their pain is stable, they can take a special 'continuous release' or 'slow release' form
of morphine which they only need to take one or two times a
Children who cannot take medicine by mouth can have morphine
through a small plastic tube that sits in a vein (intravenous or
'IV') or under the skin (subcutaneous or 'sub-cut'). They may then
have a portable pump which they carry about with them. The pump
releases controlled and regular doses of morphine.
Your doctor will work out a starting dose which may need to be
increased or decreased. The amount of morphine needed varies
between children. It is important that a specialist nurse or doctor
supervises changes in the dose as any changes must be monitored
The dose needed is very individual. Some children need more than
others. The correct dose is the amount which eases your child's
pain. So that your doctor can help achieve the best possible pain
control, with the least side effects, you will need to tell them if
you think your child continues to have pain or shortness of
Your child's body will get used to a certain dose of morphine
and the dose may need to be increased over time. This is called
'tolerance'. A dose increase does not necessarily mean your child's
condition is getting worse and does not mean that they are becoming
Many people think morphine means terminal care. In fact, it is
recommended and used regularly for patients with severe
short-term (acute) and long-term (chronic) pain.
Morphine can be used for a long time and although the body does
develop tolerance, the dose can be changed to achieve good control
of a person's pain symptoms.
Children can move about and participate in activities if their
pain is well controlled. This improves their quality of life.
The side effects of morphine are well known and include:
Very occasionally, side effects become a problem that cannot be
managed well. If this happens there are other medications
similar to morphine which your child can take instead.
Children are prescribed morphine to relieve pain. If
their pain stops, they can gradually stop taking the morphine. They
will not get 'high' and will not become addicted.
Because the body becomes used to the morphine dose, it is
important that the medication is not stopped suddenly. The dose
must be reduced slowly over time under the supervision of a
Speak to your child's doctor, specialist nurse, pharmacist or
the Children's Pain Management service at the RCH.
Produced in consultation with the Royal
Children's Hospital (RCH) Department of Palliative Care, Pharmacy Department and the Children's Pain
Management Service. Many thanks to the parents who helped with this
factsheet. First published March 2006. Updated October