How do morphine and morphine sulfate differ

MorphineDrug groupsOpioidsMorphine is an active ingredient from the group of opioids, which is a natural component in the milky sap of the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) occurs. It has analgesic, antitussive, and psychotropic properties and is mainly used to treat pain. Another medical field of application is oral substitution treatment for opioid addiction. The most common possible adverse effects include constipation, nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, poor appetite, abdominal pain, sweating, rash, itching, dizziness, headache, depression, and tiredness. Morphine is also abused as an intoxicant and can be physically and psychologically dependent. An overdose is life threatening.

Synonymous: Morphinum, Morphium, Morphini sulfas pentahydricus, Morphini sulfasPhEur, Morphine sulfate pentahydrate, Morphini hydrochloridumPhEur, Morphine hydrochloride


Morphine is available in Switzerland in various dosage forms, including in the form of tablets, capsules, as an oral suspension, syrup, morphine drops, suppositories and as an injection preparation. It is also prepared as a magistral recipe in pharmacies.

Structure and properties

Morphine (C.17H19NO3, Mr = 285.3 g / mol) is mainly present in medicinal products as morphine hydrochloride and morphine sulfate pentahydrate. These are white, crystalline powders that are soluble in water. Morphine is a vegetable alkaloid found in the milky sap of the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum L.) occurs. The dried milk juice is called opium.


Morphine (ATC N02AA01) has pain-relieving, cough-relieving, psychotropic, dampening and calming properties. The effects are mainly based on the binding to μ-opioid receptors.

Indications Dosage

According to the specialist information. The dosage depends on the dosage form.


Morphine can be abused as a euphoric intoxicant. That is why the sale is strictly regulated and the drugs are subject to narcotics legislation.

  • Hypersensitivity
  • Traumatic brain injury, increased intracranial pressure
  • Respiratory depression, obstructive airways disease
  • Acute abdomen, intestinal obstruction, delayed gastric emptying
  • Acute liver disease
  • Simultaneous therapy with MAO inhibitors

The complete precautionary measures can be found in the medicinal product information sheet.


Morphine is mainly conjugated in the liver by UGT2B7 to morphine-3-glucuronide (M3G) and morphine-6-glucuronide (M6G) and demethylated to normorphine. Morphine-6-glucuronide is an active metabolite. Interactions are possible with central depressant drugs, alcohol, other opioids, opioid antagonists, anticholinergics, cimetidine, diuretics, P-gp inhibitors and muscle relaxants. Morphine must not be combined with MAO inhibitors.

unwanted effects

The most common possible adverse effects include constipation, nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, poor appetite, abdominal pain, sweating, rash, itching, dizziness, headache, depression, and fatigue.

An overdose of morphine can lead to respiratory paralysis (respiratory depression), low blood pressure, circulatory failure and coma. Opioid antagonists are administered as an antidote.

Morphine can be physically and psychologically dependent and, if stopped quickly, cause withdrawal symptoms.

see also

Morphine drops, opioids, opioid antagonists

  • Pharmaceutical product information (CH, USA)
  • De Gregori S. et al. Morphine metabolism, transport and brain disposition. Metab Brain Dis, 2012, 27 (1), 1-5 Pubmed
  • Donnelly S., Davis M.P., Walsh D., Naughton M. World Health Organization. Morphine in cancer pain management: a practical guide. Support Care Cancer, 2002, 10 (1), 13-35 Pubmed
  • European Pharmacopoeia PhEur
  • Jegu J. et al. Slow-release oral morphine for opioid maintenance treatment: a systematic review. Br J Clin Pharmacol, 2011, 71 (6), 832-43 Pubmed
  • Wiffen P.J., Wee B., Moore R.A. Oral morphine for cancer pain. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 2013, CD003868 Pubmed

Conflicts of Interest: None / Independent. The author has no relationships with the manufacturers and is not involved in the sale of the products mentioned.

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