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A patient’s guide to Oramorph (morphine sulphate oral solution 10mg/5ml) for use in breathlessness

Read our guide below about using Oramorph in breathlessness.

You can also download a PDF version of this patient information by following the link on the right.

What is Oramorph?

It’s a liquid form of morphine, a drug often used as a pain killer. In small doses, we prescribe Oramorph for the relief of long term or chronic breathlessness.

Why we use it

Oramorph has been used as a treatment for breathlessness for many years. It has proven to be effective and safe.

Will it help?

Patients tell us they find it very helpful in relieving their breathlessness. Many say it has allowed them to sleep and cope better with daily activities.

How does it work?

Oramorph works quickly to relieve the feeling of being breathless and does not linger in your system. You will start on a small dose 2 to 4 times a day, If this seems to help you, we can gradually increase the dose.

Once you become used to Oramorph, you can take extra doses when you are breathless. You can also use it before doing activities that you know will make you breathless.

What are the possible side effects?

These can include:

  • constipation. We often prescribe a gentle laxative as well as Oramorph
  • itchy skin (mild)
  • drowsiness (rarely). If you do feel drowsy you must not drive

Itchiness and drowsiness usually go away over time, and with continued use of Oramorph.

I have some concerns about taking Oramorph for breathlessness. Is it safe?

Yes when prescribed correctly in small doses.

Some people may feel concerned at the thought of using morphine as it’s often used for pain relief in cancer or end of life patients. This is not why we prescribe Oramorph for breathlessness. It has been proven safe and effective.

You may have concerns about morphine addiction. We only prescribe a small amount which does not cause addiction. We will safely wean you off or stop Oramorph if it no longer helps you or you do not need it.

You may notice that the packet information leaflet includes a warning that states that it’s dangerous to take Oramorph when you have a breathing condition. This is only a potential problem if you need to take very large doses to treat pain.

Oramorph is not dangerous in the low doses we prescribe for treating breathlessness.

What happens if Oramorph does not work for me?

You must tell your doctor immediately if you feel that the Oramorph no longer helps. You need an alternative dose or medication.

Is oxygen a treatment for breathlessness?

No. Oxygen corrects low oxygen levels and reduces strain on your heart and lungs. You can have a normal oxygen level and be very breathless which is why we use other treatments for breathlessness like Oramorph.

About our patient information pages and leaflets

This patient advice is intended as general information only. We aim to make the information as up to date and accurate as possible, but please note that it is subject to change.

Always check specific advice on any concerns you may have with your doctor.

Contact us

Buckinghamshire Integrated Respiratory Service (BIRS)
Opening times
Buckinghamshire Integrated Respiratory Service (BIRS)

01296 255670

buc-tr.birs@nhs.net

Opening times

Monday to Friday, 8.15am to 6.30pm

Weekends and bank holidays, 9am to 4.30pm

If you need medical advice out of hours please dial 111.

In the event of an emergency please call 999.