Lynchburg Journal of Medical Science

Lynchburg Journal of Medical Science


Hospital Medicine


Lawrence Herman, DMSc, MPA, PA-C



Purpose: The purpose of this basic review article is to discuss the treatment option of morphine for patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), that are experiencing the symptom of breathlessness.

Methods: A PubMed literature search was conducted with the following search terms: “morphine”, “breathlessness,” and “COPD”. Articles published from 2016 to current were considered. Eleven pertinent articles were retrieved and served as the basis for this clinical review.

Results: To better understand the recent research on this topic, three randomized controlled trials published in the last five years were reviewed, along with guidelines from relevant national societies. One trial revealed improved breathlessness for patients receiving morphine.Another revealed improved breathlessness and quality of life over a four-week period with morphine over placebo.7A third found no difference in breathlessness for morphine vs placebo. None of these studies found significant increased adverse events with the use of morphine.

Conclusion: This review will include discussion about the risks and benefits of morphine for breathlessness in COPD patients. The research reviewed indicates that morphine could be beneficial in improving disease-specific health status, without affecting carbon dioxide (CO2) buildup, or causing serious adverse events. At this time, morphine should be considered for patients with COPD and the symptom of breathlessness, after discussion between patient and clinician about risks and benefits. Further research with more subjects will be required.

Keywords: Morphine, Breathlessness, COPD.


Available when accessing via a campus IP address or logged in with a University of Lynchburg email address.

Off-campus users can also use 'Off-campus Download' button above for access.