A morphine pump is designed to dispense small amounts of morphine directly into the spine. Also called an intrathecal morphine pump, this surgically-implanted pump is used to treat chronic pain. Using a morphine pump instead of taking morphine orally reduces the total amount of morphine that a patient takes on a daily basis.
The word “morphine” is derived from the Greek god Morpheus, the god of dreams. One of the early medical uses of morphine, an addictive narcotic, was to treat opium addition. During the Civil War in the United States and the Franco-Prussian War in Europe, morphine was used as a general anesthetic as well as for pain relief. Many soldiers returned home addicted to the drug. Addicted Civil War veterans were said to have the “army disease.” Ultimately, possessing morphine without a prescription became a crime in the US beginning in 1914 with the passage of the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act.
Many people feel the effects of endorphins after exercising. Endorphins make a person feel euphoric as well as diminish any pain the person may be feeling. Enkephalins also help kill feelings of pain. In addition, enkephalins can cause drowsiness. Both endorphins and enkephalins are natural molecules that are routed through a group of receptors in the spinal cord or in the brain stem to help prevent pain and anxiety. Morphine, whether injected or taken orally, uses these same receptors to block pain and enhance feelings of pleasure. Although patients who take morphine may still feel pain, the pain does not bother the patients as much.
The more morphine a person takes, the more likely the person is to become tolerant of the drug. This means that the patient may have to take more morphine to kill the same amount of pain over time. Additional side effects of morphine consumption include constipation, lack of appetite, confusion, and lack of coordination. A patient can experience withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia, muscle twitching, and anxiety if the patient stops taking morphine suddenly or misses a prescribed dosage.
A morphine pump can greatly reduce the amount of morphine that a patient has to take for pain control. If a patient can successfully pass an intrathecal morphine test in a pain clinic, a patient who might normally take 75 milligrams (mg) of morphine by mouth on a daily basis may be able to reduce the amount to 1 mg per day via a pump. The overall amount of morphine that a patient takes is adjusted by a qualified physician on an individual basis. Even when using a pump, a patient may need additional medication for pain management.