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Morphine (for breathlessness)


What does it do?

Morphine is used to reduce breathlessness and cough.

How should you take it?

Take morphine as directed with a glass of non-alcoholic drink.
Measure the liquid carefully with an oral syringe. Leave at least four hours between doses.

It takes at least 20 minutes to start working. Try taking it before activities that you know make you breathless like showering, or before you go out.

Your dose is: ____________________________________________ Date: __________________

What if you forget a dose?

If you are taking morphine regularly for your breathlessness, take the missed dose as soon as possible. If it is close to the time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and carry on as normal. Do not take two doses at the same time.

If you are only taking it when you need it for breathlessness, then you don't need to take it.

Can you take other medicines?

Tell your pharmacist or doctor about all medicines or treatments that you may be taking, including vitamins, herbal products or recreational drugs.

What side effects might you notice?

The doses used for breathlessness are much smaller than those which would be used for pain, so the side effects are usually minimal. Side effects that can happen with morphine used in doses for pain relief are listed below.

Side EffectsRecommended action

Slow or shallow breathing, hard to wake up

Change in heartbeat

Tell your doctor immediately

Constipation, confusion, dizziness, agitation, mood swings

Tell your doctor

Drowsiness, weakness, headache, trouble sleeping

Nausea, vomiting, stomach upset

Dry mouth or throat, changes in vision, trouble peeing

Swollen feet or legs


Tell your doctor if troublesome

If you notice any other effects, discuss them with your doctor or pharmacist.

Other information:

  • The small amount of morphine used to treat breathlessness isn't likely to cause addiction if you haven't had problems with addiction before.
  • Tell your doctor if you have lung, bowel, liver, kidney, bladder or heart problems, if you have ever had a seizure, or have had a recent head injury.
  • Tell your doctor if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding.
  • Morphine can impair your ability to do tasks such as driving or using machines. Alcohol makes this worse. Discuss your risk with your health professional. (search NZTA - Are you safe to drive?)

This leaflet contains important, but not all, information about this medicine.

Prepared by the PILs Committee at Christchurch Hospital, Canterbury District Health Board, New Zealand. September 2020

For more general information about this sheet annd its contents, see: What does a My Medicines sheet cover?

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About My Medicines

My Medicines Patient Information Leaflets (PILs) contain important, but not all, information about the medicines they describe.

For more information about the sheets, see: What does a My Medicines sheet cover?

My Medicines is developed by a team at the Canterbury District Health Board. Our team is made up of doctors, pharmacists, and a non-medical person to help us keep to plain language. We also discuss our information with specialist health professionals or groups when needed