Learn more about Dilaudid and its uses, side effects, and more.
Dilaudid, the brand name for hydromorphone, is a narcotic from the opioid analgesic class of drugs and is used to relieve moderate to severe pain. Dilaudid is similar to the drug morphine, but has an effect that is two to eight times more effective at killing pain. It works by binding to the opioid receptors in the brain, blocking the signals which cause a patient to feel pain. You may also find hydromorphone under the brand names:
- Hydrostat IR
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Dilaudid and its generic and brand name counterparts are prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain. Pain related to surgery, sudden acute injuries, burns are just a few of the pain related conditions where Dilaudid may be prescribed for use. Dilaudid is almost always delivered intravenously in a hospital setting due to the high risk of respiratory failure at high doses. However, it can also be used in oral, rectal, and intranasal forms.
The following common side effects of Dilaudid use include when the drug is being used as a compounding powder, powder for injection, injectable solution, intravenously, orally as a tablet or liquid, and rectal suppository:
- Difficulty breathing
- Dysphoria (Disinterest in life, depression like symptoms)
- Dry mouth
- Pruritus (Itchy skin)
- Decreased appetite and/or weight loss
- Joint or muscle pain
- Decreased frequency of urination
Persons taking Dilaudid-HP, Dilaudid-5, Exalgo, and Hydrostat IR may also experience one or more of these common side effects.
Overdoses of Dilaudid can be fatal as the drug causes acute respiratory failure. Symptoms of overdose include:
- Sleepiness or unusual drowsiness
- No muscle tone
- Decreased movement
- Pupil constriction
- Lack of responsiveness
- Decreased awareness
- Cold, clammy, or bluish skin
- Respiratory failure
Tolerance and Dependence
Hydromorphone, Dilaudid, and all other brand name versions of this drug carry an enormous addiction risk. Dependence happens when the body cannot function normally without use of the drug. Because the effects of the drug wear off approximately five hours after use, the body begins to crave another dose to recreate the chemical euphoria it was previously experiencing.
Psychologically, dependence can cause unpleasant side effects that are not present when regular doses of the drug are being taken.
Over time, a person may develop a tolerance to the dosage that once made him or her feel good. This causes a need for higher or more frequent dosing.
As is the case with all narcotic drugs, anyone taking Dilaudid, or other hydromorphone drugs like Dilaudid-HP, Dilaudid-5, Exalgo, and Hydrostat IR, needs to be closely monitored as they are tapered off from the drug to avoid adverse reactions due to withdrawal. Quitting Dilaudid “cold turkey” is highly discouraged as the resulting withdrawal symptoms can be severe.
Symptoms of withdrawal, which may begin 6-10 hours after the last dose, include:
- Muscle & bone pain
- Muscle spasms
- Joint pain & stiffness
- Nausea & vomiting
- Leg pain
- Flu-like symptoms including sneezing, chills, & fever
- Itchy skin
- Intense need or craving for the drug