Driving ability in cancer patients receiving long-term morphine analgesia

Lancet. 1995 Sep 9;346(8976):667-70. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(95)92281-4.


When given in single doses to healthy volunteers, opioid analgesics impair reaction time, muscle coordination, attention, and short-term memory sufficiently to affect driving and other skilled activities. Despite the increasing use of oral morphine daily, little is known about the effect of long-term opioid therapy on psychomotor performance. To examine the effects of continuous morphine medication, psychological and neurological tests originally designed for professional motor vehicle drivers were conducted in two groups of cancer patients who were similar apart from experience of pain. 24 were on continuous morphine (mean 209 mg oral morphine daily) for cancer pain; and 25 were pain-free without regular analgesics. Though the results were a little worse in the patients taking morphine, there were no significant differences between the groups in intelligence, vigilance, concentration, fluency of motor reactions, or division of attention. Of the neural function tests, reaction times (auditory, visual, associative), thermal discrimination, and body sway with eyes open were similar in the two groups; only balancing ability with closed eyes was worse in the morphine group. These results indicate that, in cancer patients receiving long-term morphine treatment with stable doses, morphine has only a slight and selective effect on functions related to driving.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Automobile Driving*
  • Cognition / drug effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Morphine / administration & dosage
  • Morphine / adverse effects*
  • Morphine / blood
  • Neoplasms / complications*
  • Neurologic Examination
  • Pain / drug therapy*
  • Pain / etiology
  • Personality Tests
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects*


  • Morphine