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Information Leaflets

Morphine – quick acting

Quick acting Morphine (normal release) is used to control on-going pain. This page explains what it does, how to use it and the potential side effects.


Please note: You can also download a copy of this information leaflet at the bottom of this page or view our full list of information leaflets.

Quick Acting Morphine (normal release)

Other names: Oramorph or Sevredol (tablets or liquid)

What is it for?

Quick acting Morphine is generally used to treat cancer related pain.  It should start to reduce your pain within about 30 minutes and reach its maximal effect after an hour.  A dose should last for about 3-4 hours.  It is often given regularly when your doctor or palliative care nurse is working out how much Morphine you may need to control your pain.  It is also used to control breakthrough pain quickly. Morphine can also be used to help reduce the feelings of breathlessness for certain conditions.

Isn’t Morphine something that’s only used right at the end?

No.  Morphine is given for different sorts of severe pain.  This may sometimes be as a result of a heart attack or after a major operation.  If you have cancer, treatment with Morphine may be needed to allow you to continue as pain free a life as possible.  You will be able to go on taking Morphine for as long as you need to.  The effects do not wear off with time and the dose can be increased if needed.

When do I take it?

You may be told to take quick acting Morphine regularly every 4 hours.  An extra dose of quick acting Morphine should be taken if the pain comes back between the regular doses.  Quick acting Morphine can also be used like this if you are taking a regular long acting painkiller.  Wait about 30-60 minutes after taking the extra dose.  If you still have pain, take another dose of the quick acting Morphine.  If you regularly need to take more than 2 extra doses in a day, tell your doctor or nurse.

What do I do if I forget to take a regular dose?

Take a dose as soon as you remember.  Do not take a double dose to make up for the missed one.  If you are sick and bring up the medicine, repeat the dose as soon as you feel better.

Are there any side effects from taking Morphine?


This is most common when you first take Morphine or when the dose is increased.  It should settle after a few days. If this doesn’t settle, please talk to your doctor or palliative care nurse.


This is a very common side effect.  It is important to drink plenty of fluids and always take a laxative regularly, as prescribed by your doctor.  The dose of laxative can be increased or reduced to make sure you pass a soft motion regularly.


If you feel sick when you first start to take Morphine, try taking it with food.  Your doctor may need to give you some anti-sickness medicine for a few days until the sickness goes away.

Will I become addicted to Morphine and unable to stop taking it?

If you no longer need your Morphine, the dose can be reduced gradually by your doctor without any problems.

Will Morphine always relieve my pain completely?

Although Morphine is a very good painkiller, it is not helpful for all types of pain.  Other treatments may be needed and suggested by your doctor or nurse.

What do I do if certain things like movement bring on pain?

Some people find that doing certain things like having a bath or going for a walk brings on the pain.  Your doctor or nurse may suggest you try taking a dose of quick acting Morphine 30 minutes before you start doing something that brings on the pain.

How will I know if the Morphine is not going to work for some of my pain?

You may still have pain despite taking bigger doses of Morphine and may feel unwell in one or more of these ways:

• more sleepy than usual

• feeling sick more of the time

• restlessness or jumpiness

• bad dreams

Do not worry if this happens. Tell your doctor or nurse. Your doctor may reduce your dose of Morphine and suggest other treatments to help the pain.

Can I drive?

Once you get used to taking Morphine and do not feel sleepy or unwell, you may be able to drive.  Please ask for a copy of the St Barnabas Patient Information Leaflet “Strong Painkillers and Driving L00082”.

Can I drink alcohol?

If you don’t have a medical reason to avoid alcohol, it should be safe to drink one or two drinks a day while using Morphine (as long as you don’t drive). Some people may find that alcohol makes them drowsier and if this happens it is best avoided.

How do I store my drugs?

Like all medications, drugs should be kept in a secure place out of the reach of children and vulnerable adults.  They should be kept somewhere cool and protected from light.

How do I dispose of my drugs?

Only drugs currently in use and within their expiry date should be kept.  When drugs are no longer needed or are not being used, you must return them to a chemist to be destroyed.

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