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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What are the side effects of morphine for COPD?

    My mother who is now 68 uses oxygen 24/7 and at times she is given morphine to help with her shortness of breath. It seems to really help her but I am worried about any side effects as it is a strong drug.
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  • 3


    Dr Mark Hurwitz

    Respiratory & Sleep Medicine Physician

    Director Respiratory and Sleep Medicine The Canberra Hospital Clinical Associate Professor The Australian National University Medical School View Profile

    There are clearly side effects with morphine, and one would have to balance that appropriately. Having said that, it has been used with success in relieving these fears associated with COPD, but the side effects associated with it from the simple perspective are basically constipation, which one needs to watch and manage. But the major side effect that one always worries about is that it can totally depress respiration. It can depress one respiratory drive. And as a consequence of that, particularly if it's more severe and not recognized, and if the dose is steadily increased, that that can then precipitate respiratory failure. And that clearly can be very significant and very severe in somebody with COPD.

    So that's always a balance. If the person does indeed need it, of using it to adequately control symptoms, but also making sure that one monitors it very carefully and doesn't cause any problems associated with it, from a simple thing like constipation, to more severe things is respiratory failure.

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