Is Dilaudid Harmful?
Dilaudid (hydromorphone) is an opioid analgesic prescribed to relieve pain. It is available in hospital settings as an injectable solution, or may be prescribed in either an oral solution or tablet form. Its use is frequently reserved for those with severe pain that cannot be treated with other medications.
Hydromorphone has an analgesic (painkilling) potency of two to eight times higher than morphine, with greater sedative properties and a shorter duration of action. It is a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act, with accepted medical use for pain relief but a high potential for abuse and dependence.
According to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), more than 4 million Americans used painkillers like Dilaudid nonmedically in the past month. Many who abuse Dilaudid experience severe adverse effects. Per the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), from 2008 to 2011, emergency room visits for non-medical use of Dilaudid increased to 18,224 from 12,142.
Addicts abuse hydromorphone tablets by ingesting, crushing and snorting, or dissolving them into a solution that may then may be injected.
Those who abuse Dilaudid do so for its desirable short-term effects. The Dilaudid high can produce:
- Euphoric feelings.
- A relaxing sensation.
- Reduced anxiety.
Dilaudid Side Effects
Using Dilaudid, even on a short-term basis, can result in many side effects. The most common side effects of hydromorphone include:
Severe Side Effects
Some more serious side effects of Dilaudid that occur less often include
- Severe fatigue.
- Chest pain.
- Respiratory distress.
- Loss of consciousness.
- Dry mouth.
- Constricted pupils.
- Stomach pain.
- Impaired coordination.
- Urinary retention.
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep.
- Appetite loss.
- Incrementally heightened sensitivity to pain.
- Excessive sweating.
- Changes in blood pressure.
- Slowed breathing rate.
- Heart rate changes.
The greatest risk of Dilaudid use is overdose. Overdose most often occurs when it is combined with other central nervous system depressants such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, and other drugs in the opioid category. Overdose also is sometimes seen in those who have quit using Dilaudid long enough for tolerance to subside, and then relapse with a dose of drug that is too high or even lethal.
Symptoms of hydromorphone overdose include:
- Cold, clammy skin.
- Blue tint to lips, tongue, fingernails, toenails, etc.
- Decreased muscle strength.
- Markedly constricted or pinpoint pupils.
- Dilated, non-reactive pupils indicating brain injury from lack of oxygen.
- Bradycardia (slowed heart rate).
- Hypotension (low blood pressure).
- Respiratory depression.
- Respiratory collapse.
Using Dilaudid on a long-term basis can result in many serious physical and psychological health problems, as well as social and legal problems in one’s life. Some of the many recognized long-term effects of abusing Dilaudid include:
- Infections and diseases from needle sharing (HIV, hepatitis, etc.).
- Track marks on arms and/or legs.
- Frequent mood swings.
- Social isolation.
- Impaired relationships.
- Increased legal problems.
- Reckless behavior.
- Possibility of injury while intoxicated (e.g., driving under the influence).
- Poverty or financial problems due to drug use.
- Eventual transition to other drugs like heroin.
- NOTE: Prescription opioid abusers are much more likely to use heroin at some point.
Continued use of Dilaudid can lead to severe dependence. Over time, the body may react as if it requires the drug to function adequately. A physically dependent person will begin to rely on the drug to prevent the onset of unpleasant and potentially medically dangerous withdrawal symptoms.
The appearance of withdrawal symptoms when use is ceased is a common indicator of dependence. Other signs of Dilaudid dependence and addiction include:
- Needing more of the drug to achieve the same high (tolerance).
- Becoming obsessed about finding the next dose.
- Experiencing repeated unsuccessful attempts to stop using.
- Using Dilaudid in physically hazardous situations such as while operating machinery.
- Lack of control over drug use.
- Failing to maintain personal and professional commitments due to drug use.
- Spending large amounts of time and energy obtaining and sing the drug.
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms upon cutting down or stopping use (see below).
Withdrawal symptoms usually begin within hours after the last dose of Dilaudid and may persist for several days or weeks. Symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite.
- Runny nose.
- Teary eyes.
- Fast breathing.
- Increased heart rate.
- Stomach pain.
- Muscle or joint pain.
It is not typically dangerous to stop using Dilaudid on your own; however, for many people the supportive care and medical intervention of a detox program can help to prevent relapse. Medical staff can help clients slowly taper the dose down to avoid uncomfortable and painful withdrawal symptoms. Some medications used to help diminish or eliminate withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings include methadone, buprenorphine, and clonidine:
- Methadone helps with drug cravings and helps reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms. It is often used as part of a long-term maintenance plan against opiate addiction.
- Buprenorphine also treats withdrawal symptoms and opiate cravings. It is often combined with naloxone (as Suboxone), which helps prevent misuse and minimizes the risk of long-term dependence on the maintenance drug.
- Clonidine does not reduce cravings, but it does help with some withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, muscle aches and pains, cramping, sweating, and runny nose.
Learn more about medication-assisted treatment helps to ease the stress of detox and pave the way for addiction treatment.
Post-detox treatment, which is essential for successful recovery, may include:
- Inpatient treatment. Programs often last between 30 and 90 days but may last longer, depending on the individual’s needs.
- Outpatient treatment. These programs offer therapy and incorporate other aspects of inpatient care while affording the client flexibility to live at home and attend to daily responsibilities.
- Therapy. This will help the recovering individual to discover underlying triggers for substance use and develop new sobriety-supporting beliefs and habits.
- Support groups. Programs like NA and AA, as well as secular programs like SMART Recovery, are available to those looking for support in recovery and are considered by many to be an essential component of abstinence maintenance.
Learn more about how to help a Dilaudid addict here. If you’re ready to find a program and begin your new life today, call us at 1-888-744-0069 . Our treatment support advisors are on hand 24 hours a day to get you started on your journey to a drug-free life.
To share your story or talk to others who understand, visit our Forum today.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine (April 15, 2016). Hydromorphone.
- Drug Enforcement Agency. Drug Fact Sheet: Hydromorphone.
- Drug Enforcement Agency: Office of Diversion Control. Drug & Chemical Evaluation Section. (July 2013). Hydromorphone.
- Heller, J. (April 20, 2016). U.S. National Library of Medicine. Opiate and Opioid Withdrawal.
- Berger, F. (February 24, 2014). Substance Use Disorder. U.S. National Library of Medicine