Most pain medications are available as liquid medicines. You can use these if you have problems with swallowing tablets. Some pain medication can be given as a patch stuck onto the skin. If you can’t swallow, or if you’re drowsy or confused and don’t want to swallow tablets or liquid medicines, the medication can be given through a tiny tube inserted just under the skin of the tummy or arm. Enough pain medication for 24 hours is made up and a small portable pump (a syringe driver) is used to give a continuous dose of the drug. The pump is set up by a doctor or nurse.
A syringe driver is very easy to set up. If you’re able to move around and walk, the syringe driver can be carried in a special holster or a pocket. If you are in bed, then it can be put on the bedside table or tucked under a pillow. Other medicines, for example to treat sickness, can also be given by the syringe driver.
Pain medication and addiction
Many people with a serious illness ask if they will become addicted to drugs such as morphine, or if the medication will make them confused and unable to look after themselves. The answer is 'no'. People who become addicted to drugs initially choose to take them, and then keep taking them because they have a psychological need for them. This is very different to someone who has a serious illness, is in pain, and needs to keep taking the drug to keep their pain under control. People in pain have a physical need to take the drug rather than a psychological need.
Someone with a serious illness shouldn't worry about becoming addicted to pain medication such as morphine.
The dose you take will be carefully tailored to your own needs and will only be increased if your pain gets worse. The right dose is the dose that manages your pain effectively. Many people stay on the same dose of morphine for many months. However, it can be harmful to stop taking morphine suddenly. If your pain is relieved by some other treatment, for example radiotherapy, the dose can be gradually reduced under the supervision of your doctor or nurse.