The Morphine Myth Part I

The Morphine Myth

Morphine has a reputation as a strong and dangerous drug so why does hospice use it? When used properly, morphine has several very helpful purposes. While it is not a medication to be taken lightly, there are a lot of misconceptions out there—especially with regards to hospice care.

Morphine is a naturally derived medicine in the same class of opioids as codeine, hydrocodone and oxycodone. It is used to treat sharp, acute pain and it also relaxes the lungs and makes it easier to breathe—a common ailment of those that require hospice care. With reduced pain and easier breathing, the hospice patient can eat, sleep and maintain a higher quality of life with comfort and dignity.

Amid our nation’s current opioid crisis, many myths persist regarding morphine’s legitimate use. These myths result in less than optimal pain and symptom management for hospice patients, but the confusion infused by these myths into the decision-making process can often lead to highly complicated grief for loved ones following a patient’s death.

Dr. TJ Hawkins, Ph.D., Bridgeway Hospice’s Director of Program Services, notes that in over 10 years of experience as a Grief and Bereavement Counselor, he has seen many loved ones struggle greatly from issues of anger and guilt regarding the circumstances surrounding the use of morphine at the end of life. Sometimes these complicated grief factors can lead to serious cases of depression and can highly debilitate their post-loss life. Dr. Hawkins recommends approaching the use of this drug with an open mind and seeking a thorough education of the uses of morphine from your healthcare provider.

Many hospice patients never even take morphine because they don’t need to. It is the degree of pain that the person is in that determines the medication. Hospice practitioners start with the mildest form of medicine and work from there. If it is appropriate that the patient be given morphine, the initial doses are low and slowly increased until they relieve the person’s pain and shortness of breath

While morphine has a reputation as a dangerous boogeyman and a hard drug, it is also a valuable tool for improved quality-of-life for hospice patients. Opioids properly administered in a healthcare setting are nothing to be afraid of. By reading this, you are already doing the right thing by researching and learning more about the topic. Take your time to consider the benefits of this medicine to your loved one’s comfort and dignity.

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