What is Morphine?

The drug that we know as Morphine was first identified in Germany in the early 1800s. The drug was so strong that the doctor was identified the drug named it after Morpheus, the God of Dreams in Greek Mythology.

What is Morphine?

Morphine belongs to a group of drugs known as opiates. Morphine is derived from raw opium from the poppy plant. Morphine is a painkilling drug and is one of the most effective drugs known for pain relief so is mostly used to treat moderate to severe pain and severe coughs. Morphine can also be used to ease pain before, during and after operations.

Is Morphine an Opiate or an Opioid?

Te terms Opiate and Opioid and narcotic are often used interchangeably in the media. Just what is the difference? And is Morphine an Opiate or an Opioid?


Generally, Opiate refers to natural substances that are derived from opium. Opium is derived from the opium poppy and includes chemical compounds, such as Morphine and Codeine. Therefore, classic examples of Opiates are Codeine and Morphine.


These types of drugs work by binding to the same receptors as opiates. However, they do not occur naturally. There are two types – semi-synthetic or synthetic Opioids.

While synthetic opioids are man-made chemically, semi-synthetic opioids are a mixture derived from chemical modifications to natural opiates.

Fentanyl and Methadone are examples of synthetic opioids. Hydrocodone and Oxycodone are examples of semi-synthetic opioids.

Opioid vs Opiate

Generally, media commentators has turned away from differentiating between opiate and opioids. Often you will here the term opioid for both natural or synthetic (or semi-synthetic) substances that work on the main opioid receptor systems (there are three – mu, kappa, delta). If the term opiate is used it commonly means the naturally occurring substances within the opioid class.

What Does Morphine Look Like?

Morphine comes in many different forms. You can get syrup, liquid for syringes, pills and capsules. Morphine pills and capsules look different depending on their strength and manufacturer.

What Are the Immediate Effects of Taking Morphine?

Morphine will provide relief from pain and gives the patient a sense of well-being. Opiates in general slow down breathing, heart rate and brain activity and as a result the body’s tolerance to pain is increased. Morphine also suppresses the cough reflex which is why it is used to treat severe coughs. Morphine does have side-effects, two of the most common are constipation and nausea and with higher doses of morphine, additional drugs to relieve or prevent these symptoms may be needed.

Morphine is commonly abused. People may experience euphoria due to morphine. Frequent use of morphine leads to tolerance and dependence.

What Are the Long-term Effects of Taking Morphine?

When morphine is prescribed by a doctor for the treatment of pain and are taken in the prescribed dosage, they are safe and there is little chance of addiction. However, when morphine is not used for medical uses and is abused by being taken in excessive doses, addiction can result and so you should never stop taking it suddenly. If you stop taking the drug suddenly withdrawal symptoms can occur. The severity of the symptoms will depend on the amount of drug taken and for how long. Withdrawal symptoms may include uneasiness, diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, nausea, chills and insomnia.

What Class of Drug Is Morphine?

Morphine is a class A drug, it is only legal for a person to possess morphine if it has been prescribed for that individual. The maximum sentence for unlawful possession is 7 years imprisonment and a fine. The maximum sentence for supplying is life imprisonment and a fine.

Photo Credit: Vaprotan

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2013.

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