Morphine Sulfate (Page 4 of 7)


9.1 Controlled Substance

Morphine sulfate is a mu-agonist opioid and is a Schedule II controlled substance. Morphine sulfate, like other opioids used in analgesia, can be abused and is subject to criminal diversion.

9.2 Abuse

Drug addiction is characterized by compulsive use, use for non-medical purposes, and continued use despite harm or risk of harm. Drug addiction is a treatable disease, utilizing a multi-disciplinary approach, but relapse is common. “Drug-seeking” behavior is very common in addicts and drug abusers. Drug-seeking tactics include emergency calls or visits near the end of office hours, refusal to undergo appropriate examination, testing or referral, repeated “loss” of prescriptions, tampering with prescriptions and reluctance to provide prior medical records or contact information for other treating physician(s). “Doctor shopping” to obtain additional prescriptions is common among drug abusers and people suffering from untreated addiction.

Abuse and addiction are separate and distinct from physical dependence and tolerance. Physicians should be aware that addiction may not be accompanied by concurrent tolerance and symptoms of physical dependence. The converse is also true. In addition, abuse of opioids can occur in the absence of true addiction and is characterized by misuse for non-medical purposes, often in combination with other psychoactive substances. Careful record-keeping of prescribing information, including quantity, frequency, and renewal requests is strongly advised.

Morphine sulfate is intended for oral use only. Abuse of morphine sulfate poses a risk of overdose and death. The risk is increased with concurrent abuse of alcohol and other substances. Parenteral drug abuse is commonly associated with transmission of infectious diseases such as hepatitis and HIV.

Proper assessment of the patient, proper prescribing practices, periodic re-evaluation of therapy, and proper dispensing and storage are appropriate measures that help to limit abuse of opioid drugs.

Infants born to mothers physically dependent on opioids will also be physically dependent and may exhibit respiratory difficulties and withdrawal symptoms. [ ] See USE IN SPECIFIC POPULATIONS (8.6)

9.3 Dependence

Tolerance is the need for increasing doses of opioids to maintain a defined effect such as analgesia (in the absence of disease progression or other external factors). Physical dependence is manifested by withdrawal symptoms after abrupt discontinuation of a drug or upon administration of an antagonist. Physical dependence and tolerance are not unusual during chronic opioid therapy.

The opioid abstinence or withdrawal syndrome is characterized by some or all of the following: restlessness, lacrimation, rhinorrhea, yawning, perspiration, chills, myalgia, and mydriasis. Other symptoms also may develop, including irritability, anxiety, backache, joint pain, weakness, abdominal cramps, insomnia, nausea, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, or increased blood pressure, respiratory rate, or heart rate.

In general, taper opioids rather than abruptly discontinue. [See ] DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION (2.5)


10.1 Symptoms

Acute overdosage with morphine sulfate is manifested by respiratory depression (a decrease in respiratory rate and/or tidal volume, Cheyne-Stokes respiration, cyanosis), extreme somnolence progressing to stupor or coma, skeletal muscle flaccidity, cold and clammy skin, constricted pupils, and, in some cases, pulmonary edema, bradycardia, hypotension, cardiac arrest and death.

Morphine sulfate may cause miosis, even in total darkness. Pinpoint pupils are a sign of opioid overdose but are not pathognomonic (e.g., pontine lesions of hemorrhagic or ischemic origin may produce similar findings). Marked mydriasis rather than miosis may be seen with hypoxia in overdose situations. [ ] See CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY (12)

10.2 Treatment

Give primary attention to re-establishment of a patent airway and institution of assisted or controlled ventilation. Employ supportive measures (including oxygen and vasopressors) in the management of circulatory shock and pulmonary edema accompanying overdose as indicated. Cardiac arrest or arrhythmias may require cardiac massage or defibrillation.

Naloxone is a pure opioid antagonist that is a specific antidote to respiratory depression resulting from opioid overdose. Since the duration of reversal is expected to be less than the duration of action of morphine sulfate, carefully monitor the patient until spontaneous respiration is reliably re-established. If the response to opioid antagonists is sub-optimal or only brief in nature, administer additional antagonist as directed by the manufacturer of the product.

Do not administer opioid antagonists in the absence of clinically significant respiratory or circulatory depression secondary to morphine sulfate overdose. Administer such agents cautiously to persons who are known, or suspected to be physically dependent on morphine sulfate. In such cases, an abrupt or complete reversal of opioid effects may precipitate an acute abstinence syndrome.

In an individual physically dependent on opioids, administration of the usual dose of the antagonist will precipitate an acute withdrawal syndrome. The severity of the withdrawal symptoms experienced will depend on the degree of physical dependence and the dose of the antagonist administered. Reserve use of an opioid antagonist for cases where such treatment is clearly needed. If it is necessary to treat serious respiratory depression in the physically dependent patient, initiate administration of the antagonist with care and titrate with smaller than usual doses.


Chemically, morphine sulfate is 7,8-didehydro-4,5 alpha-epoxy-17 methyl-morphinan-3,6 alpha-diol sulfate (2:1) (salt) pentahydrate with a molecular mass of 758. Morphine sulfate occurs as white, feathery, silky crystals; cubical masses of crystal; or white crystalline powder. It is soluble in water anlightly soluble in alcohol, but is practically insoluble in chloroform or ether. The octanol:water partition coefficient of morphine is 1.42 at physiologic pH and the pKa is 7.9 for the tertiary nitrogen (the majority is ionized at pH 7.4)

Chemical Structure
(click image for full-size original)

For the 10 mg and 20 mg per 5 mL strengths: Each 5 mL of oral solution contains 10 or 20 mg of morphine sulfate USP and the following inactive ingredients: citric acid, edetate disodium, FD&C Green No. 3 (fast green), glycerin, methylparaben (only in 20 mg/5 mL concentration), propylparaben (only in 20 mg/5 mL concentration), sodium benzoate, sorbitol and water.

For the 100 mg per 5 mL (20 mg/mL) strength: Each 5 mL of oral solution contains 100 mg of morphine sulfate USP and the following inactive ingredients: citric acid, edetate disodium, glycerin, sodium benzoate, sorbitol, and water. Additionally, the tinted solution contains D & C Red No. 33 and sucralose.


12.1 Mechanism of Action

Morphine sulfate, an opioid agonist, is relatively selective for the mu receptor, although it can interact with other opioid receptors at higher doses. In addition to analgesia, the widely diverse effects of morphine sulfate include drowsiness, changes in mood, respiratory depression, decreased gastrointestinal motility, nausea, vomiting, and alterations of the endocrine and autonomic nervous system.

Effects on the Central Nervous System (CNS)

The principal therapeutic action of morphine sulfate is analgesia. Other therapeutic effects of morphine sulfate include anxiolysis, euphoria and feelings of relaxation. Although the precise mechanism of the analgesic action is unknown, specific CNS opiate receptors and endogenous compounds with morphine sulfate-like activity have been identified throughout the brain and spinal cord and are likely to play a role in the expression and perception of analgesic effects. In common with other opioids, morphine sulfate causes respiratory depression, in part by a direct effect on the brainstem respiratory centers. Morphine sulfate and related opioids depress the cough reflex by direct effect on the cough center in the medulla.

Morphine sulfate causes miosis, even in total darkness.

Effects on the Gastrointestinal Tract and on Other Smooth Muscle

Gastric, biliary and pancreatic secretions are decreased by morphine sulfate. Morphine sulfate causes a reduction in motility and is associated with an increase in tone in the antrum of the stomach and duodenum. Digestion of food in the small intestine is delayed and propulsive contractions are decreased. Propulsive peristaltic waves in the colon are decreased, while tone is increased to the point of spasm. The end result may be constipation. Morphine sulfate can cause a marked increase in biliary tract pressure as a result of spasm of the sphincter of Oddi. Morphine sulfate may also cause spasm of the sphincter of the urinary bladder.

Effects on the Cardiovascular System

In therapeutic doses, morphine sulfate does not usually exert major effects on the cardiovascular system. Morphine sulfate produces peripheral vasodilation which may result in orthostatic hypotension and fainting. Release of histamine can occur, which may play a role in opioid-induced hypotension. Manifestations of histamine release and/or peripheral vasodilation may include pruritus, flushing, red eyes and sweating.

Endocrine System

Opioid agonists have been shown to have a variety of effects on the secretion of hormones. Opioids inhibit the secretion of ACTH, cortisol, and luteinizing hormone (LH) in humans. They also stimulate prolactin, growth hormone (GH) secretion, and pancreatic secretion of insulin and glucagon in humans and other species, rats and dogs. Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) has been shown to be both inhibited and stimulated by opioids.

Immune System

Opioids have been shown to have a variety of effects on components of the immune system in and animal models. The clinical significance of these findings is unknown. in vitro

All resources are included in as near-original form as possible, meaning that the information from the original provider has been rendered here with only typographical or stylistic modifications and not with any substantive alterations of content, meaning or intent.

This site is provided for educational and informational purposes only, in accordance with our Terms of Use, and is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a medical doctor, nurse, nurse practitioner or other qualified health professional.

Privacy Policy | Copyright © 2021. All Rights Reserved.