Cancer hurts, plain and simple! When I was in really bad shape, my doctor prescribed 30 milligram extended release morphine every 12 hours, and a 15 milligram morphine pill for breakthrough pain. Morphine is very addictive and can have many side effects. There are some things to consider before you decide to take this medication.
Breakthrough Pain: Breakthrough pain in simple terms is pain that is not controlled by your round the clock pain medication. For instance, a cancer patient may take morphine twice a day. It generally controls the pain, but there are times when the pain comes anyway. Those moments, or times when the pain breaks through despite medication, can be treated with a smaller dosage of morphine. So, how do you know if you need something as strong as morphine?
How Bad is the Pain?: If you are in serious pain and by serious, I mean pain that won’t let you sleep, makes you scream, thrash, whimper, pass out, unable to walk etc. Then yes, you need a great pain medication and shouldn’t just suffer. Many people think that discomfort of any kind is ‘pain.’ There is a big difference between having an organ ripped open by a tumor, a bone splintered, a limb cut off etc. and a sore back, a bad headache, or a minor surgery. Guidelines for prescribing opiates for non cancer pain or serious conditions are fairly strict. Hospitals often use a pain assessment chart to gauge pain levels, you can find a printable form here.
Serious Condition: Some people do not have as high of a tolerance for pain as others and that should always been taken into account. Also, pain that does not ever go away can become unbearable to a person. Pain is a very personal thing and only you know how much you can handle. Usually, unless you’ve got a pretty serious medical condition, doctors will not even consider giving you morphine. They will most likely start you off with something lighter. Morphine is generally used to treat moderate to severe pain. If you have a serious condition, morphine will most likely provide pain relief. I had to take it for almost a year and a half. It kept the pain bearable but there are definite side effects and consequences to opiate use.
Tolerance Levels: Also consider the possibility of building up a tolerance to your medication. Let’s say you take morphine for everyday pain and later you have a serious injury. Odds are good that you will not get the relief you need because you will have a very high tolerance for opiates. Only take the minimal amount of medication that you need to function. At one point, I was in the hospital for months and was taking ten times the normal amount of Diladud that an average person would take. The reason was that my tolerance had been built up. I had to experience withdrawals after cancer treatments and they were pretty horrible. For that reason, I caution people to only take morphine if they truly cannot stand the pain they are in. I don’t believe there is any reason to suffer needlessly.
Morphine Side Effects: There are a lot of side effects to taking morphine. The biggest one is respiratory depression. It will slow down or may cause your breathing to be shallow. You never want to accidentally take too much. You will most likely feel sleepy, be unable to drive, nauseous, dizzy, constipated, and have a sense of happiness or well being that isn’t conducive with your situation. A more detailed list of side effects can be found on My Medications .
Cancer and Serious Conditions: If you truly have a serious medical condition and your pain is unbearable, don’t feel ashamed about taking morphine. Especially in the event that you or your loved one are in end of life care. It truly is much easier to keep pain under control than to get it under control. I used to try and not take my medication until I couldn’t stand the pain any longer. This usually resulted in an emergency room visit. If you take your regular dose and only use your other morphine for breakthrough pain, you should be fairly comfortable. Although, your doctor will eventually have to up your dosage because at some point the morphine won’t work as well.
Just consider the reason for taking morphine, if the pain is truly unbearable, whether a lesser medication would work, the possible side effects, and what you feel is best. It’s your body and you are the one going through the pain. No one else can ever truly understand severe pain until they’ve felt it themselves.
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