Dilaudid, generic name hydromorphone hydrochloride, is a medication that treats moderate to severe pain.
It is part of the opioid analgesics class of drugs.
In this blog piece, you will learn what Dilaudid is used to treat, common side effects, and important information to know before taking this medication.
What is Dilaudid?
Dilaudid is a medication that acts in the brain to change how you feel and perceive pain. It is part of the opioid narcotic analgesic class of drugs.
Analgesic is a term for a pharmaceutical drug that alleviates pain.
Dilaudid is available as an oral solution as well as oral tablets. This drug is prescribed to patients who are not responding to alternative non-opioid treatments.
How does Dilaudid work?
Dilaudid, or hydromorphone, is part of the narcotic analgesics class of medications.
It acts on areas of the central nervous system (CNS) to relieve pain.
What are common side effects of Dilaudid?
Common side effects of treatment with Dilaudid include the following:
Gastrointestinal problems (i.e., nausea, vomiting, and constipation)
Flushing of the skin
Dysphoria (negative emotional state)
Euphoria (extreme happiness)
Pruritus (itchy skin)
To prevent constipation, it is advised to eat dietary fiber, drink enough water, and partake in regular exercise.
You may also take a laxative to help with bowel movements, but make sure to talk to your doctor to discuss which laxative is right for you.
What are the more serious side effects of taking dilaudid?
Talk to your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following more serious side effects of dilaudid:
· Interrupted breathing during sleep (sleep apnea)
· Changes in mood or mental state such as agitation, confusion, or hallucinations
· Severe stomach or abdominal pain
· Difficulty urinating
· Signs of adrenal gland failure (loss of appetite, unusual tiredness, weight loss)
Seek emergency medical help if you or someone you know are experiencing any of the following:
· Slow or shallow breathing
· Severe drowsiness or difficulty waking up
· Signs of an allergic reaction including rash, itching or swelling of the face, tongue, or throat
· Severe dizziness
What is some other important information to know before taking Dilaudid?
If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, talk to your doctor about the risks of taking Dilaudid.
This drug may cause harm to the developing fetus, so it is better to be treated with non-opioid analgesics instead of dilaudid or other opioids.
If you are a pregnant woman taking dilaudid and give birth to a child, the baby will experience Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome, which may be fatal if not treated.
Combining dilaudid with certain medications is extremely dangerous and can be fatal.
Central nervous system (CNS) depressants such as benzodiazepines or alcohol may result in severe sedation, respiratory depression, coma, and death.
Benzodiazepines work by increasing the activity of the neurotransmitter Gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, in the brain.
GABA is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, and thus “quiets down” neurons to produce a calming effect (see this article about alprazolam for more information on benzodiazepines).
Dilaudid should not be taken with other CNS depressants such as non-benzodiazepine hypnotics or sedatives, anxiolytics (anti-anxiety drugs), tranquilizers, muscle relaxants, general anesthetics, antipsychotics, or other opioids.
This medication should be taken exactly as directed by your doctor. If you are taking dilaudid in tablet form, you can take it with or without food.
If you experience nausea, however, it may be beneficial to take it with food.
If you are taking the liquid form of dilaudid, it is important to carefully measure the dose using a special measuring device.
You should not use a household spoon because you may not get the correct dose.
Does dilaudid interact with other drugs?
The risk of the serious side effects described may be increased if dilaudid is taken with other drugs that can cause drowsiness or breathing problems.
Tell your doctor if you are taking other opioid drugs for pain or cough relief (i.e., codeine or hydrocodone), marijuana (cannabis), drugs for sleep or anxiety (alprazolam, lorazepam, zolpidem), muscle relaxants (carisoprodol, cyclobenzaprine), or antihistamines such as cetirizine or diphenhydramine.
Is dilaudid addictive?
Yes, dilaudid is extremely addictive. Even at recommended doses, dilaudid oral solution and tablets can lead to addiction, abuse, and misuse, similar to that of other opioid drugs.
Due to the major potential for addiction, dilaudid is only prescribed to patients who could not tolerate or did not respond to non-opioid analgesics.
Errors in the dose of dilaudid can cause accidental overdose and death.
If you are a healthcare practitioner who is prescribing or filling a prescription of dilaudid to your patients, be sure to properly communicate or dispense the dose.
When writing a prescription, it is imperative to include both the total dose in milligrams (mg) and the total volume of the dose in millilers (mL).
Doctors should prescribe the lowest effective doses of dilaudid to achieve the best treatment outcome and lowest risk of addiction or overdose.
Is it possible to overdose on dilaudid?
Yes, it is possible to overdose on dilaudid. Respiratory depression is the most common symptom of overdose.
Physicians should monitor respiratory rate at the beginning of treatment with dilaudid as well as during dose increases.
If you think someone has overdosed on dilaudid, give them naloxone if available, then call emergency medical help.
Teach your family or household members about the signs of an opioid overdose and how to administer naloxone if it ever occurs.
Signs of opioid overdose include slow or shallow breathing, slow heartbeat, or coma.
What are some other serious risks involved with taking dilaudid?
Dilaudid treatment has been reported to cause severe hypotension (low blood pressure) in some patients.
Patients who already have difficulty maintaining blood pressure or are taking other CNS depressants are at greater risk of dilaudid-induced hypotension.
Patients who have preexisting seizure disorders are at risk for developing seizures at a higher frequency.
What happens if I suddenly stop taking dilaudid?
Do NOT stop taking dilaudid suddenly, even if you feel better.
If you are experiencing unwanted side effects or want to discontinue this medication for another reason, talk to your doctor and they will slowly taper your dose.
Stopping dilaudid cold turkey may cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
Withdrawal symptoms of dilaudid include the following:
· Changes in mental state or mood (anxiety, trouble sleeping, thoughts of suicide)
· Watering eyes
· Runny nose
· Gastrointestinal disturbances such as nausea or diarrhea
· Muscle aches
· Sudden changes in behavior
Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.
Frequently asked questions (FAQ’s) about dilaudid:
1. What is the drug dilaudid used for?
Dilaudid, or hydromorphone, is a pain reliever used to treat moderate to severe pain.
2. How is dilaudid taken?
Dilaudid is taken as an oral tablet or oral solution.
It is important to take this medication exactly as prescribed by your doctor.
If dilaudid is taken in high doses, it can become habit-forming, which causes mental or physical dependence.
Dilaudid should be taken at the same time each day, with or without food.
The extended-release tablet should be swallowed whole and not crushed, broken, chewed, dissolved, snorted, or injected.
3. What is the difference between Exalgo extended-release tablets and hydromorphone (dilaudid) tablets?
Exalgo extended-release tablets work differently than hydromorphone tablets, even at the same dose.
Do not switch from Exalgo to dilaudid tablets unless your doctor tells you to.
4. What happens if you miss a dose of dilaudid?
If you miss a dose of dilaudid, skip the missed dose and go back to your regular dosing schedule.
It is imperative not to double doses because this medication is extremely addictive, so taking higher doses can increase potential for dependence and addiction.
5. How long does dilaudid stay in your system?
The elimination half-life of dilaudid is about four hours.
This means that half the drug is eliminated from your body in four hours.
Some of the drug is expected to remain in your body for two to three days.
6. What kind of pain does dilaudid treat?
Dilaudid, or hydromorphone is an opioid (narcotic) analgesic and is used to treat moderate to severe pain.
7. Are Percocet and dilaudid the same?
Both Percocet and dilaudid are opioid analgesics and are used to treat moderate to severe pain.
The main difference is that Percocet also contains a fever reducer and may be used for extended periods of time.
8. Is dilaudid more powerful than oxycodone?
Dilaudid is a stronger drug than oxycodone.
It is used for serious pain caused by cancer, surgery, or broken bones.
Want to learn more about dilaudid? Try these books!
Hydromorphone: 548 Questions to Ask that Matter to You
This book has extensive details to answer all your questions regarding dilaudid, or hydromorphone.
If you are wondering about drug interactions, allergies, or how to take this medication you can find that information here.
This guide will help you formulate the right questions to ask your doctor and includes room for notes so you can jot down important information during your appointments.
In addition, if you are a healthcare provider and want to make sure you can answer every question your patient has, then this guide book is for you as well.
The Pain Relief Secret: How to Retrain Your Nervous System, Heal Your Body, and Overcome Chronic Pain
This book by Sarah Warren discusses how we can relieve our pain by “Clinical Somatics” exercises that can be practiced ourselves and in our own homes.
It is a great book to read if you are skeptical of the opioid route for pain management, including treatment with dilaudid, or hydromorphone.
The vast majority of our pain is caused by the way we sit, stand, walk and run.
The simple exercises discussed in this book can teach anyone to heal chronic musculoskeletal pain, and to prevent future pain, injury, and joint problems.
Clinical Somatics is a method of neuromuscular education that relieves chronic muscle tightness, restores natural posture and movement, and relieves pain without medication or surgery.
If you have tried chiropractic treatments, natural medications, yoga, physiotherapy, or massage therapy but still experience chronic pain, this book is for you.
The Pain Antidote: The Proven Program to Help You Stop Suffering from Chronic Pain, Avoid Addiction to Painkillers, and Reclaim Your Life
This book details the innovative program at the Las Vegas Recovery Center, where Dr. Mel Pohl has helped thousands of people reduce their suffering from chronic pain without the use of painkillers.
Pohl shares his program’s concrete strategies including cutting-edge research on how pain affects your brain and how emotions affect your experience of pain.
The Pain Antidote also includes gentle exercises for pain reduction and health-supporting foods.
In this blog piece, we discussed what dilaudid is used to treat, how it works to relieve pain, and important information regarding usage, side effects, and potential for developing addiction.
Dilaudid (hydromorphone hydrochloride).Food and Drug Administration. December 2016.
Hydromorphone (oral route).Mayo Clinic. December 1st, 2019.