Trauma is accompanied by changes in liver perfusion and acute phase proteins. Such changes have the potential to alter drug metabolism. There are few studies describing drug disposition in acute trauma. We determined the pharmacokinetics of an intermediate extraction drug, morphine, in trauma patients. Nine patients with an Injury Severity Score (ISS) > or = 16 were studied within 48 hours of trauma. Morphine 5 mg was given intravenously and serial blood and urine samples were drawn to derive pharmacokinetic parameters. Alpha acid glycoprotein (AAG) levels were determined. Total morphine clearance (CL) and volume of distribution (Vss) were decreased compared to established literature values. Area under the curve (AUC) and terminal half-life (T 1/2 alpha) were increased. AAG levels were higher than reference range. Elimination half-life was increased. The decrease we observed in Vss may be attributed to increased binding of morphine by AAG, which is increased after trauma as in our patients. Decreased clearance and increased half-life of an intermediate extraction drug may be explained by increased protein binding, decreased liver blood flow, and reduced hepatocellular function. Decreased clearance of the magnitude observed in these patients could result in drug accumulation. Better understanding of the effects of trauma on the pharmacokinetics of low, high, and intermediate extraction drugs will prevent excessive or suboptimal drug dosing.