Morphine is a naturally occurring opiate found in the opium poppy. Its primary clinical use is in the management of moderate to severe pain, where it is regarded as the gold standard among analgesic medications designed to relieve pain. Morphine, named after the Greek god of dreams, Morpheus, was first isolated from opium in 1804 by a German pharmacist. By 1827 it was being commercially produced by the pharmaceutical company Merck and sold in the rapidly expanding global market.

Morphine, the most abundant alkaloid found in opium, composes on average 8-19% of the dry weight of opium from Papaver somniferum (the opium poppy). While the majority of pharmaceutical morphine is extracted from the opium latex of the poppy, processes using poppy straw (the roots, stems, and leaves of the plant) supply a percentage of pharmaceutical morphine as well. Most of the morphine extracted from both of these methods ends up converted into codeine, as codeine is found in much lower concentrations in opium, while worldwide codeine usage is also greater than the usage of morphine.

While morphine is not as prevalent in North American street drug culture, after heroin, morphine has a greater dependence liability than any other narcotic analgesic in common use. Morphine pills are commonly abused through several methods. After being crushed, the pills can be prepared from injection, smoked off a piece of foil, snorted, or the pill can be swallowed whole. Taken orally, the bioavailability of morphine is quite low(20-40%), so other methods are more commonly used by abusers looking a longer or more euphoric high.

Brand Names

MS Contin, Oramorph, Avinza, Kadian, Roxanol, Morphine Sulphate, M.O.S.-Sulfate, Duramorph, Infumorph

Street Names

Morph, M, Miss Emma, misties, greys (100mg MS Contin extended-release), red rockets (200mg MS Contin extended-release)


Marketed as a single-ingredient drug available in both instant-release and extended-release formulations sold under a wide variety of brand names.

  • MS Contin - tablet, morphine sulfate time-released: 15 mg, 30 mg, 60 mg, 100 mg, 200 mg
  • M.O.S. Sulfate - tablet, morphine sulfate instant-release: 5 mg, 10 mg, 25 mg, 50 mg
  • Avinza - capsule, morphine sulfate extended-release: 30 mg, 45 mg, 60 mg, 75 mg, 90 mg, 120 mg
  • Kadian - capsule, morphine sulfate extended-release: 20 mg, 50 mg, 100 mg
  • Roxanol - oral solution, morphine: 20 mg/mL
  • Duramorph - injection solution, morphine sulfate: 0.5 mg/mL, 1 mg/mL
  • Infumorph - injection solution, morphine sulfate: 10 mg/mL, 25 mg/mL
  • RMS - rectal suppository, morphine sulfate: 5 mg, 10 mg, 20 mg, 30 mg

Medical Uses

  • symptomatic relief of moderately severe to severe pain;
  • pain due to myocardial infarction or labor pains;
  • relief of shortness of breath stemming from both cancer and non-cancer causes;
  • suppression of severe diarrhea (e.g., that produced by cholera or IBS).

Route of Administration

inhalation (smoking), insufflation (snorting), oral, rectal, subcutaneous (SC), intramuscular (IM), intravenous (IV), intrathecal (IT)


2-3 h

Medical Dosage

  • moderate-severe pain: 10 to 30 mg oral every 4 h; 5 to 20 mg SC/IM / 4 h
  • severe pain(heart-attack): 8 to 15 mg IV, additional doses every 3-4h
  • labor pains: epidural 5 mg initial, then 1 to 2 mg / 1h if needed


  • Morphine is a Schedule II drug in the United States.
  • Morphine is Schedule I in Canada.
  • And internationally, morphine is a Schedule I drug under the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.



  • Schumacher MA, Basbaum AI, Way WL, Opioid Analgesics & Antagonists (Chapter 31) in: Basic and Clinical Pharmacology. 12e. Katzung BG, Masters SB, Trevor AJ (Editors). McGraw-Hill / Lange, 2012.
  • Clinical Practice Guideline for Management of Opioid Therapy for Chronic Pain. United States Department of Veterans Affairs / Department of Defense, May 2010. [PDF]
  • Controlled Substances - Alphabetical Order. DEA Office of Diversion Control, May 2013. [PDF]
  • Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Minister of Justice, Canada, Nov 2012. [PDF]

Related Pages

  • Morphine Medication Identification
    A list of imprints on morphine medicines with images and details including dosages, manufacturer, shape, and color.
  • Codeine
    Codeine is a naturally occurring opiate used as mild narcotic pain medicine. Read about codeine brand names, street names, formulations, medical uses, chemistry, legality, and other information.
  • Opium
    Opium is the dried latex obtained from the seedpod of the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum). Morphine is the main narcotic constituent of opium. Read about the other alkaloids found in opium, how opium was used throughout history, and how opium is still used today.
  • Poppy Tea
    Poppy tea can refer to any tea infusion brewed from dried ground-up poppy pods or poppy straw, or from whole poppy seeds. Learn about how poppy tea has been used for thousands of years as a home remedy as a pain reliever, sleep aid, cough suppressant, and intoxicant.
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