dilaudid

Modified: 22nd Jul 2019

Since Dilaudid is one of the most widely used pain medications, many people across the country have used it at some point.

Here’s what you need to know about this pain medication.

What Is Dilaudid?

Dilaudid is a Schedule II narcotic. Physicians classify this drug as an opioid analgesic and use it to treat severe pain from injury or illness.

Definition

Dilaudid is a brand name for hydromorphone. It is an opioid synthesized from morphine to increase its potency.

This drug works by acting on opioid receptors and delta receptors in the body. Though similar to morphine, it presents a ketone group that morphine lacks.

Dilaudid also binds to fewer receptors than morphine, which limits the side effects of the drug while still offering substantial pain relieving properties.

How Is It Taken?

Dilaudid can be administered:

  • orally (i.e., via the mouth)
  • intravenously (i.e., via an injection into a vein)
  • intramuscularly (i.e., via an injection into a muscle)
  • epidurally (i.e., via an injection in the epidural space around the spinal cord)

The Patient Safety Authority reveals that 7.5 mg of orally distributed Dilaudid is about as powerful as 30 mg of morphine. In IV form, it becomes more potent. In fact, liquified Dilaudid can be 20 times more potent than morphine.

The sheer potency of this drug gives it an extremely high potential for misuse and abuse. As such, doctors typically limit their prescriptions to the lowest possible dose so that their chronic pain patients can reap the benefits of the drug without the risk of developing a dependence on it.

A typical dose of this drug is 2 to 4 mg every four to six hours when taken orally, 1 to 2 mg every two to three hours when taken intramuscularly (i.e., through an injection), and 0.2 to 1 mg every two to three hours through an IV.

It’s also important to note that taking Dilaudid orally results in a lower bioavailability than taking it through an injection.

Who Takes It?

Some doctors will prescribe Dilaudid to adult patients who require treatment for severe pain. However, doctors typically only prescribe this drug to patients when alternative pain medications are not enough to sufficiently treat their pain.

For instance, doctors may prescribe this pain medication to patients who have just undergone major surgery.

Other pain patients who may require a Dilaudid prescription include those who:

  • suffer from chronic pain
  • struggle with recurring infections
  • sustained injuries from an accident (e.g., a car collision, gunshot wound, etc.)

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A Brief History of Dilaudid

The synthesis of hydromorphone dates all the way back to 1921. A German lab first created the drug after isolating a ketone from morphine. By 1926, the formula for hydromorphone was perfected, and doctors began using the drug for pain treatment and chronic pain management.

Although hundreds of studies boasted the clinical effectiveness of hydromorphone, morphine remained popular. In fact, morphine was the drug of choice for most doctors who treated patients in pain.

Once Dilaudid was established as a brand of hydromorphone, it went on to play a critical role in managing the kinds of pain that morphine could not sufficiently treat.

Although it has become a widely used pain medication, there is still a lot that the medical community does not understand about hydromorphone. For instance, medical professionals have yet to understand the full effects of the drug. Thankfully, researchers continue to learn more about hydromorphone every day.

Naturally, this research has led to the discovery that, like many other painkilling narcotics, hydromorphone can be addictive and has a high potential for abuse.

Consequences of Dilaudid Misuse

People may need this drug for a number of reasons. After all, physical pain is a consequence of countless medical conditions and situations.

Still, not everybody who uses this narcotic actually needs it. Sometimes, people use the drug for reasons outside of treating pain. Even pain patients who actually do need it may be at risk of developing an addiction by taking more of the drug than they require.

The people who are the most at risk of abusing Dilaudid and developing a dependence on it include those who:

  • have easy access to the drug
  • experience stressful life events
  • suffer from mental illness, such as PTSD
  • have a family history of substance abuse
  • have a personal history of substance abuse
  • use it to cope with past or childhood trauma
  • have a serious illness or injury that requires pain treatment

Effects on the Mind and Body

As with any habit-forming substance, Dilaudid incites chemical reactions in the body that bring about a wide range of both short- and long-term health effects.

It’s important to note that this particular drug can cause physical, mental, and even behavioral changes in users. More details are provided below:

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Short-Term Health Effects

Dilaudid has a relatively short half-life. This means that it does not take very long for the body to completely purge the substance. In this case, it takes 2 hours for the body to rid itself of half an IV dose of the drug. For an oral dose, it takes about 4 hours.

Although the side effects of this medication typically do not last long, they can be intense.

The short-term side effects of regulated use include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • sedation
  • sweating
  • euphoria
  • dysphoria
  • dry mouth
  • flushing (i.e., redness)
  • pruritus (i.e., itchiness)
  • dizziness or lightheadedness

These and other similar side effects can occur even when patients with a prescription take the drug as directed by their doctors.

However, abusing this drug can lead to much more serious side effects, including:

  • stroke
  • seizures
  • heart attack
  • abdominal pain
  • trouble urinating
  • respiratory depression or collapse

Long-Term Health Effects

One time or short-term use of this painkiller does not typically cause long-term effects.

However, prolonged use or abuse of the medication can lead to:

  • changes in behavior
  • extreme mood swings
  • symptoms of withdrawal
  • an altered sense of reality
  • adrenal insufficiency (i.e., kidney failure)
  • severe hypotension (i.e., low blood pressure)
  • gastrointestinal issues (i.e., digestive problems)
  • the development of substance use disorder (SUD)

These and other serious long-term side effects may indicate a chemical dependency that requires professional treatment.

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Using Dilaudid With Other Drugs

This particular drug may interact with other drugs in potentially harmful ways.

In some cases, mixing any form of hydromorphone with other prescriptions may lessen the desired effects of each drug. In others, combining prescription drugs may create a synergistic effect, meaning that the potency of one or both of the medications is significantly enhanced.

In any case, the combined chemicals of multiple substances have the potential to create adverse reactions in the body. This is why doctors advise against using any prescription drug with alcohol.

Dilaudid could have potentially dangerous interactions with medications such as:

  • sleep aids
  • beta blockers
  • antihistamines
  • antidepressants
  • cold medications
  • heart medications
  • anti-anxiety medications
  • other narcotic pain medications

If you need a prescription like Dilaudid for pain management, it is always wise to speak with your doctor about any medications you currently take prior to starting a new one.

Which Drugs Are Commonly Used With Dilaudid?

Doctors often use brand-name hydromorphone medications to enhance the painkilling properties of morphine and other narcotic medications. They may use hydromorphone medications as a backup or as a synergist.

Physicians also sometimes prescribe anti-nausea drugs in conjunction with hydromorphone. Not only does this ease any digestive side effects of hydromorphone, but it also enhances the desired effects of the drug altogether. Unfortunately, combining these medications may also increase hydromorphone’s potential for abuse.

People who struggle with substance use disorder (SUD) may mix hydromorphone medications with other drugs to produce synergistic effects.

Some use alcohol, antidepressants, other narcotics, or even illicit drugs to enhance the feelings of euphoria produced by hydromorphone.

Others may use hydromorphone drugs for their antagonist effects. For instance, people who abuse illicit stimulants like cocaine and amphetamines may use hydromorphone to help them sleep after a “crash.”

Treating Dilaudid Addiction

Dilaudid and other hydromorphone mediations can help manage severe or chronic pain. However, a drug this potent that triggers the reward centers of the brain also carries a high potential for abuse. So, it is imperative to use this drug as instructed by your doctor.

It is also worth it to ask your doctor about lowering your dosage or switching your prescription altogether if your risk of developing an addiction increases at any point during your use.

If you are concerned about your Dilaudid use or have any questions about treatment for hydromorphone addiction, please contact us here or call us at (855) 247-4046.

Article Reviewed by Dr. Keerthy Sunder, MD, DFAPA

Dr. Keerthy Sunder, MD, DFAPADr. Keerthy Sunder, MD is an accomplished and internationally recognized expert in the field of addiction. He has earned diplomates from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, the American Board of Addiction Medicine, and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.