Physician attitudes and beliefs about use of morphine for cancer pain

Thomas E. Elliott, Barbara A. Elliott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


The recent literature asserts that mistaken physician beliefs and attitudes are critical barriers to adequate cancer pain relief. To determine the prevalence of 12 proposed myths or misconceptions about morphine use in cancer pain management (CPM), we surveyed all physicians engaged in direct patient care in Duluth, Minnesota (N=243). A 62% response was obtained. Many physicians misunderstood concepts of morphine tolerance, both to analgesia (51%) and to side effects (39%). Many were unaware of the use of adjuvant analgesics (29%), efficacy of oral morphine (27%), and nonexistent risk of addiction in CPM (20%). Analysis of result by physician age and specialty groups confirmed significant levels of misunderstanding in all subsets. Strategies to change physician attitudes and beliefs regarding morphine in CPM should focus on tolerance concepts, dosing schemes, safety, efficacy, lack of addictive risk, use of drug combinations, and the fact that cancer pain can be relieved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)141-148
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Pain and Symptom Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1992


  • Cancer pain
  • analgesia
  • attitudes
  • morphine
  • narcotic analgesics
  • pain control
  • physician education


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