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Here, we'll discuss each drug separately and make note of any obvious differences seeing that they both belong to the same group of pain medications.

MS Contin

MS Contin is a trade name for morphine which is an opioid pain medication that works by acting on the central nervous system. The name stands for Morphine Sulphate Continuous which means that this specific formulation has extended release properties so that its effect lasts over a longer period of time.

Therefore, MS Contin is prescribed to patients who have severe pain that needs to be controlled over long periods of time and is taken every 12-24 hours depending on its need. This drug should only be prescribed to patients who have already used other opioid medications before, in other words these patients should be opioid-tolerant before using this medication.

Side-effects of this medication are the same for any drug which depresses the central nervous system and that can include dizziness, lightheadedness, disorientation, confusion and fainting. Special care should then be taken when prescribing this medication to elderly patients as these side-effects can lead to falls. 

Morphine can also cause severe allergic reactions and trouble with breathing and important notice should be taken of this.

Some of the main side effects of this medication which should also be noted include constipation, nausea, blurred vision, increased drowsiness or sleepiness and weight loss.


Oxycontin is a trade name for the drug oxycodone which is also an opioid pain medication which acts on the central nervous system. This trade name comes from Oxycodone continuous and is therefore also an extended release analgesic like MS Contin.

Even though Oxycontin is a sustained release medication, it can be given more often than MS Contin. It can be given every 12 hours to patient but this can be increased up to every 4 hours if the pain the patient is experiencing is severe.

The side-effect profile is the same, as mentioned above, with special care being taken with any possible allergic reactions. Breathing difficulties can also be experienced with this drug so patients need to be informed of the possibility of this situation. 

Why are there different sustained-release opioid drug?

A patient will be started on one of these drugs to help for the intractable pain they're experiencing and this will be done only if the patient is opioid-tolerant, as mentioned above.

If the patient is experiencing any severe side-effects or if they're not tolerating the medication, then at least there are other medications in the same class of drugs but with different formulations which can be used.

Changing from one opioid medication to another is done carefully in order to avoid any withdrawal symptoms from being experienced by the patient. This should be done in conjunction with and under the supervision of the patient's prescribing doctor.

As can be clearly seen, MS Contin and Oxycodone have very similar effects with the only clear differences being dosage intervals and chemical properties. Another difference is that the dosages in milligrams differ, but that shouldn't make any real difference as what counts is the amount of the medication which becomes available in the body (bioavailability) to offer adequate pain relief.

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