What is the Difference Between Oxycodone and Morphine?

Helga George
Helga George
Morphine is usually administered intravenously.
Morphine is usually administered intravenously.

Oxycodone and morphine are two strong pain relievers that share structural similarities and are both alkaloids, which are nitrogen containing organic molecules. They differ in that morphine is a component of opium and is part of a group of chemicals known as opiates. All compounds that have a similar structure to the opiates, including those synthesized chemically like oxycodone, are known as opioids. These compounds differ in their method of metabolism, degree of side effects, and frequency of usage as a street drug.

Morphine is derived from the opium poppy, while oxycodone is synthesized from an alkaloid found in opium.
Morphine is derived from the opium poppy, while oxycodone is synthesized from an alkaloid found in opium.

Morphine is obtained from the latex of opium poppy seed pods. The crude opium contains a mixture of compounds. Morphine has long been used as a pain reliever and has played a curious role in medicine. In the 1800s, it was prescribed by doctors as a cure for alcoholism as it was considered a more benign addiction. It was also known as the “army disease” after the American Civil War when soldiers returned home with war injuries and subsequent morphine addiction.

Oxycodone is a prescription opioid painkiller used to dull moderate to severe pain.
Oxycodone is a prescription opioid painkiller used to dull moderate to severe pain.

The opioid oxycodone is synthesized from thebaine, another alkaloid found in opium. With morphine being so addictive, there was a consensus to not make morphine substitutes available in pill form. Another difference between oxycodone and morphine is that the latter drug is considered the “gold standard” for the treatment of patients with severe chronic illnesses. Very high doses have been found to prolong the life of seriously ill cancer patients. Morphine is also used in hospital settings to relieve pain after surgery.

Some people who are prescribed oxycodone become addicted to this potent painkiller that belongs to the opiate family.
Some people who are prescribed oxycodone become addicted to this potent painkiller that belongs to the opiate family.

Oxycodone and morphine differ in their mode of metabolism. Unlike morphine, oxycodone is metabolized by enzymes in the liver that detoxify a number of prescription drugs. This has several implications for the metabolism of this compound. Other drugs may interfere with the metabolism of oxycodone. There are also genetic differences in how efficiently these enzymes detoxify their targets, leading to metabolism that may either be too quick or too slow.

Morphine was once thought to be a cure for alcoholism.
Morphine was once thought to be a cure for alcoholism.

One benefit of oxycodone is that it has fewer side effects than morphine. The latter drug brings on a very strong feeling of pleasure and euphoria. There is pleasure after taking oxycodone, but fewer euphoric side effects than from taking morphine. This should cause oxycodone to be less addictive.

Street availability is another difference between oxycodone and morphine. Since morphine is so rarely prescribed for home use, it is not commonly sold on the street. There are large numbers of prescriptions filled for oxycodone in the United States. The drug is available in a slow-release form called OxyContin® that is highly popular with recreational drug users. There is a problem with teenagers stealing these pills from family medicine cabinets and then switching to heroin after they have gone to college.

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Discussion Comments

anon1005813

From: AngelGirl: First, I have a question? How are those of you who are taking Oxycontin getting that prescription? My doctor told me you could only get it if you had cancer.

I have taken all three: Morphine ER, Oxycontin and Oxycodone. My pain began about 10 years ago. I was given Oxycontin and it was working well. I have degenerative disc disease, and had 2 failed back surgeries, which left me only 2/3 of a spine. I have several herniated discs in the remainder of my spine, six in my neckm and most recently they found a lump on the back of my neck, which could be cancer. I will have it removed next month.

Due to the failure of the surgeries, I was sent to pain management. He put me on Oxycontin and it still worked very well. After 2019 when the prescribing regulations changed, I was cut off the Oxycontin and put on Oxycodone. It did not work as well and then I was told I was to be weaned down to 90 milligrams a day, which is now the maximum amount a doctor can prescribe for any of the few pain medicines left.

He dropped me after six months of being on 90mgs and told me I would have a very hard time finding a pain management doctor who would prescribe even the 90mgs/day. He was right, because I found a wonderful pain management doctor, and after reviewing all my MRI's and X-rays, he told me he believed I was in real pain, but he could not prescribe 90mgs of pain medication, that it would have to be less. I go to see him in 3 weeks and he will be prescribing one pill less, so that will be a total of 70mgs/day. This will continue until I am where he thinks I can handle the pain.

He could not believe how horrible my MRI's and other issues were that I had developed, such as degenerative arthritis and others. I think both the morphine and the oxycontin work the same, but Oxycodone is not as helpful in reducing the pain.

If you are getting oxycontin, then it is the best one, so do not change it. It seems I've been lied to because some of you are still getting oxycontin. May God bless you all!

anon1005669

I use both but I go to a pain management. I think the oxycodone works the best and I have been on both for about 10 years now. I lost all but a tiny, tiny part of my pancreas and then developed Crohn's Disease, too. I have really bad pain with both, but the oxycodone does work longer. I also used a drug call stadol. It's what they use in women in labor. It is sniffed up the nose. It works well, but you can't use it too long. Hope this helps.

anon993554

I've broken my back three times and have several slipped discs, including one in my top neck. I have no tail bone and have been on 20mg oxnorm five times a day and 60mg ms oxycontin three times a day, as well as Lyrica 75 mg two times a day. For the last year it has given me some kind of normal life, but now I feel I have a tolerance and will speak to my local gp to arrange some other relief. I hope that helps.

anon987106

it is not that one is stronger than the other, it's just a conversion rate. To get a comparable dosage you take the oral morphine dose and divide by 3 and multiple bt 2. IE 30mg of morphine is equivalent to 20mg of oxycodone.

In England, the oncologists seem to prescribe oxycodone in preference due to reduced sedating effects, less constipation and general better mood stability. It is also preferred for other chronic pain conditions but not readily in the GP's prescription list yet, I think.

anon946236

I have been on both morphine and Oxycontin and you are right: morphine makes me like a zombie also but I was also on a high mg of morphine. It seemed to work then my doctor switched me to Oxycontin and oxycodone (roxys) and I come to the point where the Roxy at a lower dose works better for me.

I have been in constant pain for the last six months and am having surgery Monday so to answer your question ddjohn, oxycodone is better but morphine does work too. Good luck.

anon925397

I have used them both and I find that the OxyContin is far better than morphine. I was a zombie on the morphine but since I have been on the OxyContin I have been fine, you have to watch for constipation but that's the same with both.

stoneMason

They have their differences but oxycodone and morphine are still fairly similar. They're both heavily abused and many doctors now avoid prescribing them unless it's absolutely necessary. My aunt has degenerative arthritis which is very painful and she can't get her doctor to give her oxycodone or morphine.

donasmrs

@ddljohn-- As far as I know, oxycodone effects are stronger than morphine, not the other way around. But you might want to check with your doctor.

I used oxycodone for a short while after my surgery and it was great. I had the slow-release one and one tablet before nighttime gave me pain-relief throughout the night. I haven't used morphine, so I can't compare the two. But my doctor said that oxycodone is one of the best chronic pain relievers.

I think you should try oxycodone firs if your doctor approves. I think it will work for you. Also keep in mind that everyone's body responds to medications differently. So you might need a different drug combination or dose than other people to experience the same kind of pain relief.

ddljohn

Has anyone used oxycodone and morphine before? Which is the better drug for pain management?

I suffer from chronic pain. Out of ten, I would say that my pain is between six and seven. I've tried several different opiates and none of them have worked well. Every time I see my doctor, he switches me to another medication and I'm just so disappointed. I spoke to him over the phone today and told him that the drug I'm on is also not enough for my pain. He told me that he will prescribe me something like oxycodone if I still feel the same way after a few days.

Will oxycodone be effective? Or do I need something stronger like morphine?

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    • Morphine is usually administered intravenously.
      By: Jonathan Vasata
      Morphine is usually administered intravenously.
    • Morphine is derived from the opium poppy, while oxycodone is synthesized from an alkaloid found in opium.
      By: peteri
      Morphine is derived from the opium poppy, while oxycodone is synthesized from an alkaloid found in opium.
    • Oxycodone is a prescription opioid painkiller used to dull moderate to severe pain.
      By: lightwavemedia
      Oxycodone is a prescription opioid painkiller used to dull moderate to severe pain.
    • Some people who are prescribed oxycodone become addicted to this potent painkiller that belongs to the opiate family.
      By: JJAVA
      Some people who are prescribed oxycodone become addicted to this potent painkiller that belongs to the opiate family.
    • Morphine was once thought to be a cure for alcoholism.
      By: yellowj
      Morphine was once thought to be a cure for alcoholism.
    • Oxycodone has fewer side effects than morphine.
      By: nyul
      Oxycodone has fewer side effects than morphine.
    • Many soldiers who fought in the American Civil War experienced a morphine addiction following the war due to injuries suffered in battle.
      By: Robert Young
      Many soldiers who fought in the American Civil War experienced a morphine addiction following the war due to injuries suffered in battle.
    • A morphine patch may be prescribed for people who experience chronic pain as a result of cancer.
      By: prudkov
      A morphine patch may be prescribed for people who experience chronic pain as a result of cancer.
    • Pharmacists are responsible for monitoring prescriptions written for patients in order to prevent prescription drug abuse.
      By: stokkete
      Pharmacists are responsible for monitoring prescriptions written for patients in order to prevent prescription drug abuse.
    • There are large numbers of prescriptions filled for oxycodone in the U.S.
      By: endostock
      There are large numbers of prescriptions filled for oxycodone in the U.S.