Morphine has been around in its present form for over 200 years and in earlier versions for hundreds of years more. Derived from the opium found in poppy flowers, morphine is a powerful analgesic (pain-reducing medication) that belongs to the family of opioids that includes heroin, oxycodone (Oxycontin), and hydromorphone (Dilaudid).
A Schedule II Narcotic
Morphine is prescribed as treatment for pain (both acute/sudden onset pain and chronic/long-lasting pain). People who are experiencing chronic pain after surgery may be treated with morphine. It has also been used to treat heart attacks and for labor pains. Morphine can be administered by intravenous, intramuscular and subcutaneous routes.
As a Schedule II narcotic in the classification system issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, morphine’s use is strictly regulated. This is in part because morphine, like other opiates, is highly addictive.
Side Effects of Morphine
The potential side effects of morphine treatment include:
- Clammy skin
- Memory loss
- Severe weakness
- Slow heartbeat
- Tingling sensations
Morphine and Pregnancy
In addition to morphine’s use for labor pains, it’s important to keep in mind that morphine is an ingredient in other medications, such as cough medicine and prescription pain medications. The FDA classifies morphine as a Pregnancy Category C drug, meaning that while there have been no controlled studies in pregnant women, the drug should only be prescribed to pregnant women if the benefits outweigh the risks.
A study of morphine given to rats during the second trimester of pregnancy resulted in higher-than-normal incidences of birth defects including:
- Decreased body weight
- Decreased brain size
- Decreased male fertility
- Decreased size of the testes
- Delayed sexual maturation
- Developmental delays
- Exencephaly (the infant’s brain is located outside the cranial cavity)
- Kidney problems
- Skeletal problems
- Slow growth
Tests conducted on rats and mice used a much higher dose of the medication than the usual therapeutic dose in humans.
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