Morphine (INN) (pronounced /ˈmɔrfiːn/) (MS Contin, MSIR, Avinza, Kadian, Oramorph, Roxanol, Kapanol) is a potent opiate analgesic medication and is considered to be the prototypical opioid. It was discovered in 1804 by Sertürner, first distributed by same in 1817, and first commercially sold by Merck in 1827, which at the time was a single small chemists' shop. It was more widely used after the invention of the hypodermic needle in 1857.


Morphine is the most abundant alkaloid found in opium, the dried sap (latex) derived from shallowly slicing the unripe seedpods of the opium, or common or edible, poppy, Papaver somniferum. Morphine was the first active principle purified from a plant source and is one of at least 50 alkaloids of several different types present in opium, Poppy Straw Concentrate, and other poppy derivatives. Morphine is generally 8 to 17 per cent of the dry weight of opium, although specially-bred cultivars reach 26 per cent or produce little morphine at all, under 1 per cent, perhaps down to 0.04 per cent. The latter varieties, including the 'Przemko' and 'Norman' cultivars of the opium poppy, are used to produce two other alkaloids, thebaine and oripavine, which are used in the manufacture of semi-synthetic and synthetic opioids like oxycodone and etorphine and some other types of drugs. Morphine can be found in low to intermediate concentrations in the Iranian poppy (P. bracteatum), although this poppy is most often used for codeine and thebaine production. Higher, industrially useful concentrations of morphine are found in the oriental poppy (P. orientale). Lower concentrations may be found in a handful of other species in the poppy family, as well as in some species of hops and mulberry trees. Morphine is produced most predominantly early in the life cycle of the plant. Past the optimum point for extraction, various processes in the plant produce codeine, thebaine, and in some cases low quantities of hydromorphone, dihydromorphine, dihydrocodeine, tetrahydrothebaine, and hydrocodone. The human body also produces small amounts of morphine and metabolises it into a number of other active opiates.

In clinical medicine, morphine is regarded as the gold standard, or benchmark, of analgesics used to relieve severe or agonizing pain and suffering. Like other opioids, e.g. oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet, Percodan), hydromorphone (Dilaudid, Palladone), and diacetylmorphine (heroin), morphine acts directly on the central nervous system (CNS) to relieve pain. Morphine has a high potential for addiction; tolerance and psychological dependence develop rapidly, although physical addiction may take several months to develop.

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