Exploring the myths of morphine in cancer: views of the general practice population

Matthew Grant, Anna Ugalde, Platon Vafiadis, Jennifer Philip

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Methods: Semi-structured interviews were held with patients presenting to a metropolitan general practice clinic in Melbourne, Australia. A grounded theory framework underpinned the data collection and thematic analysis undertaken.

Results: Interviewees (15) were aged 24–81, with a variety of experiences with cancer care and previous morphine use. Interviewees were highly supportive of morphine use in cancer care, with this attitude founded on the perceived severity of cancer pain and the powerful nature of morphine. They described a number of reasons morphine may be used in cancer care: to treat pain, to enable peace and also as a treatment for cancer.

Conclusion: The public view of morphine to emerge from this study is markedly different from that discussed in the myths of morphine. It is viewed as a medication that has the ability to provide peace and control both pain and the course of cancer. The participants in this study described a wish for greater involvement in pain control decisions, perceiving morphine as a facilitator rather than a barrier to good cancer care.

Background: Morphine is widely used in cancer care, and understanding the concerns and perceptions of patients, family and friends is vital to managing pain and distress effectively. The ‘myths of morphine’ have frequently been discussed in medical literature, yet the extent to which such views are held is not clear. This qualitative project explores the perceptions and attitudes of the wider community towards morphine use in cancer care, to understand this ‘mythology’ according to those who in the future may themselves require its use.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)483-489
Number of pages7
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Attitudes
  • Cancer
  • General population
  • Morphine
  • Opioids
  • Perceptions
  • Views

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