What is Dilaudid?

Dilaudid is a brand name medication used in the treatment of acute and chronic pain. It’s often prescribed to help patients manage the side effects of an ongoing illness or as a recovery aid after surgery. Pain relief is usually the main goal of taking Dilaudid.

The product’s main ingredient is hydromorphone, an opioid chemical. Like many opioids, this chemical derives from morphine and has similar effects.

The two drugs are so similar that “morphine” is often used as a shorthand term for hydromorphone. When a doctor talks about administering a “morphine drip” to a patient, this often means that they’re giving the patient hydromorphone.

Besides Dilaudid, hydromorphone is included in several other brand name medications. All of these products have similar effects. These products include:

  • Dilaudid-HP
  • Exalgo
  • Jurnista
  • Hydromorph Contin

Although it’s proven to have many medical benefits, it’s also frequently abused by both recreational users and prescription misusers. Its sedative and muscle-relaxing qualities make the drug very real target of abuse. Added to that, opioids like Dilaudid are also highly addictive, making it hard for users to break free from their grasp. These qualities make it a popular street drug.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, the drug has a few common street names. Recreational users often refer to it by the following names:

  • D
  • Ds
  • Drug Store Heroin
  • Dillies
  • Dust
  • Footballs
  • Juice
  • Smack

Davis’s Drug Guide classifies hydromorphone as a "High Alert Medication." According to the Guide, this classification comes from the fact that it "bears a heightened risk of causing significant patient harm when it is used in error."

Yes. And it’s 8x stronger than morphine.

Hydromorphone is in the opiate category. It’s produced by extracting and synthesizing morphine to be stronger than the original chemical.

Essentially, this means that its mechanism of action is targeting the brain’s opioid receptors. So, its effects are like those of heroin, fentanyl, and other drugs within the opioid classification.

Like most prescription painkillers, Dilaudid is a “downer” drug. They target the parts of the brain that cause us to feel sedated and at ease (See “How Does it Affect the Brain?” section below). They also inhibit the other parts of your brain that would normally make you feel alert or anxious.

In short, don’t expect hydromorphone to give you a jolt of energy.

What Does Hydromorphone Look Like?

This drug comes in a variety of different forms. It is most commonly ingested in pill or tablet form. 

Tablets come in an array of different colors, sizes, shapes, and inscriptions. There are white, off-white, blue, orange and green pills. Each is shaped differently and has different numbers inscribed on its surface. 

A gallery featuring pictures of hydromorphone is available here:

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A gallery featuring photos of Dilaudid is available here:

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A gallery of images of Exalgo is available here:

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The drug also comes in liquid form. Users often refer to the liquid version as "elixir" or "liquid elixir." It also comes in a suppository form.

Additionally, doctors sometimes administer the drug via injection. Some patients are given a shot in the arm by a doctor. Others are instructed to inject themselves at home every day.

No. At the moment, the drug does not come in patch form. However, the Small Business Innovation Research program, as well as the Department of Health and Human Services, are currently funding the development of hydromorphone patches. These transdermal patches would be applied to the arm as an extended-release supply of the drug.

We’ve seen a number of other opioids released in patch form (namely fentanyl). While they work well for patients who suffer from chronic pain, they also carry a high risk of abuse.

The drug was actually developed well over a century ago in Germany.

Albert and Hans Knoll, the two scientists who owned Knoll Pharmaceuticals, wanted to develop a more effective form of morphine. Despite the well-documented pain-relieving qualities of morphine, many people aren’t able to take full advantage of it because of its unmanageable side effects.

The nausea, delirium, and the disturbing twitches (known as “myoclonus”) that often accompany morphine use can make the experience quite uncomfortable.

Rotating between opioids has been shown to help both manage pain and cut down on undesirable side effects. As a result, hydromorphone was developed as a morphine alternative – either to replace it entirely or to switch out morphine to make the process more comfortable.

The product hit the market in 1926. Dilaudid was its original trade name.

Hydromorphone & the Opioid Crisis

When we talk about the opiate problem in America, we tend to hear the same drugs discussed over and over. Heroin, fentanyl, oxycodone, methadone, and others take the spotlight.

This is for good reason, too. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that there were 53,000 opioid overdose deaths in 2016. Heroin caused 40% of these deaths.

In recent years, though, one of the most dramatic rises in opioid overdose deaths has to do with fentanyl, an opioid 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine.

This compound is a prescription medication like hydromorphone. But much of the fentanyl found on the streets is actually produced illicitly in illegal manufacturing facilities. Plus, fentanyl and fentanyl-like substances have been found in everything from cocaine and heroin to street Xanax and methamphetamine.

In fact, among the 72 thousand fatal drug overdoses estimated in 2017, an astounding 29,406 involved fentanyl. The next highest death count (belonging to heroin) claimed about 16 thousand, around half as much. The rising abuse of fentanyl, then, marks a deadly new phase in the opioid epidemic. And one that lawmakers, health officials, and an increasingly concerned public are scrambling to control.

Given just how bad the problem has gotten, it can be difficult to understand exactly how this epidemic got started in the first place. And equally importantly, how has it evolved since its beginnings in the early nineties?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention breaks down the epidemic into three distinct waves.

Wave 1 (Early 90s): Legal prescribing of opioids like OxyContin, Dilaudid, Percocet, and Vicodin increased dramatically. More aggressive marketing strategies from pharmaceutical companies, misleading research, and doctor negligence lead to a population of patients that quickly became physically dependent on and addicted to prescription painkillers.

Wave 2 (Around 2010): As the medical community and the public grew more aware of the dire problem of prescription painkiller addiction, new legislation was passed to help curb the spread. New prescribing guidelines crafted by organizations like the CDC were also enforced.

However, addicted patients soon found that heroin was a cheaper and more readily available alternative to prescription opioids that offered a similar high. As a result, overdoses involving heroin skyrocketed around this time, leading to a shift in the opioid epidemic away from prescription pills and towards illicit opioids like heroin.

Wave 3 (Around 2013): Illicitly produced fentanyl and fentanyl-like compounds (called “analogues”) enter the abuse scene. Many of these drugs are produced in illegal manufacturing facilities both overseas and in the United States. They are also mixed with a variety of drugs like heroin, cocaine, and even benzodiazepines like Xanax.

And as fentanyl and fentanyl analogues are incredibly powerful compared to other opioids, many drug users began overdosing unintentionally. Today, 130 Americans die on average every day due to an opioid overdose. An estimated 40% of these deaths are from fentanyl and its analogues. And unfortunately, the problem is only getting worse.

But How Dangerous is Hydromorphone?

But what about morphine? What about Dilaudid overdoses? Why is there less discussion about the risks and side effects of this drug?

Here are some facts and statistics to think about:

  • It’s a semi-synthetic opioid agonist. This makes it closely related to hydrocodone (Vicodin) and oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet). This class of opioids is responsible for more than 35% of all overdose deaths each year.
  • The DEA reports that around 14,000 people died from overdosing on this drug in 2008.
  • The drug is a huge problem in Canada, as well. The Office for the Chief Coroner for Ontario calls it the second-most deadly drug used in the province. In 2015, nearly 120 Ontario residents died of a hydromorphone overdose.
  • It’s so deadly in high doses that two states have used it in the lethal injection process. Ohio, Arizona, and Missouri have all used hydromorphone to execute convicted criminals.
  • This drug sends a lot of people to the Emergency Room. Research conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows that, between 2004 and 2011, nearly 19,000 people reported to the ER after overdosing on it.

As these statistics show, it is as big of a threat as its counterparts. The risks, side effects, and overdose rates of this drug are something we should worry about. We should pay close attention and educate addicts as best as possible. 

The Legal Status of Hydromorphone

Throughout the 20th century, Dilaudid was subject to a number of legal disputes around the world. As the drug was used more and more often, its high addictive potential became more apparent. And many physicians and experts in the field recommended that it be listed as a controlled substance under the DEA.

In the US, it was classified as a Schedule II narcotic under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, a Schedule II drug is defined as:

“hav[ing] a high potential for abuse which may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence. Examples of Schedule II narcotics include: hydromorphone (Dilaudid®), methadone (Dolophine®), meperidine (Demerol®), oxycodone (OxyContin®, Percocet®), and fentanyl (Sublimaze®, Duragesic®).  Other Schedule II narcotics include: morphine, opium, codeine, and hydrocodone.

Examples of Schedule II stimulants include: amphetamine (Dexedrine®, Adderall®), methamphetamine (Desoxyn®), and methylphenidate (Ritalin®).

Other Schedule II substances include: amobarbital, glutethimide, and pentobarbital.

It is also listed in the most restricted class of prescription medications in the following countries:

  • Austria
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom
  • France
  • Canada
  • Australia
  • Italy
  • Czechoslovakia
  • Croatia
  • Slovenia
  • Poland
  • Spain
  • Greece
  • Russia

Individual cases vary from person to person. And the amount abused, the location it’s abused in, and a variety of other factors can all play into the punishment handed down for abusing hydromorphone.

It’s generally up to the discretion of the sentencing judge, then, to decide on what kind of punishment is most appropriate for the specific nature of the crime.

That being said, there are guidelines that define the maximum legal penalty for crimes related to abusing Schedule II drugs like Dilaudid. According to the Congressional Research Service, these include:

For Simple Illegal Possession of Hydromorphone

  • 1st Offense
    • Not less than $1,000
    • Up to 1 year
  • 2nd Offense
    • Not less than $2,500
    • 15 days to 2 years
  • 3rd Offense
    • Not less than $5,000
    • 90 days to 3 years

For Trafficking of Hydromorphone

  • 1st Offense
    • $500,000 (for an individual) or $2.5 million (for an organization)
    • Up to 15 years imprisonment
  • 2nd Offense
    • $2 million (for an individual) or $10 million (for an organization)
    • Up to 30 years imprisonment
  • 3rd Offense
    • $2 million (for an individual) or $10 million (for an organization)
    • Life imprisonment

For Smuggling of Hydromorphone

  • Any Offense
    • Up to $250,000
    • Up to 20 years
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Hydromorphone Prescriptions and Dosage

This narcotic doesn’t always ruin lives. There are many people who use it responsibly. They take it to manage their pain after surgery or while recovering from an injury.

According to the U.S National Library of Medicine, Dilaudid and other hydromorphone products should be prescribed to "People who are expected to need pain medication around the clock for a long time and who cannot be treated with other medications."

People suffering from the following conditions might benefit from using it:

  • Chronic pain
  • Back pain
  • Nerve pain
  • Chest pain
  • Stomach pain
  • Gout
  • Pancreatitis
  • Cancer side effects
  • End-of-life symptoms

This list is by no means exhaustive. It is up to the doctor whether a pain condition requires the heavy, sedative effects of hydromorphone.

An appropriate and safe dose of Dilaudid usually depends on a number of factors. Preexisting health conditions, other medications, and allergies will all determine how the drug will affect the patient. The individual’s age, size (BMI), and metabolism can be a factor, as well.

Under normal circumstances, the typical dose is as follows:

Pills

  • For moderate-to-severe pain: 2-4 mg every 4-6 hours. Gradually increase under doctor supervision.
  • For chronic severe pain: As necessary (under doctor’s guidance)

Oral Liquid

  • For moderate-to-severe pain: 1-2 mg every 2-3 hours. 
  • For chronic severe pain: As necessary (under doctor’s guidance)

Rectal Suppository

  • For moderate-to-severe pain: 3 mg every 6-8 hours. 
  • For chronic severe pain: As necessary (under doctor’s guidance)

Injection

  • For moderate-to-severe pain: 1-2 mg every 2-3 hours.
  • For chronic severe pain: As necessary (under doctor’s guidance)

Intravenous

  • For moderate-to-severe pain: If the patient has never taken opioids, doctors recommend they start with 0.2-1 mg every 2-3 hours. If they are in critical condition or have developed a morphine tolerance, doctors recommend 0.2-0.6 mg per 1-2 hours.

For chronic severe pain: As necessary (under doctor’s guidance)

In certain situations, a patient may be hooked up to an IV pump that provides them with on-demand hits of hydromorphone. This method of administration is called "Patient-controlled analgesia," or a PCA pump.

If someone is recovering from surgery in the hospital, for example, they may be given a pump. This pump has a button they can press whenever they need a Dilaudid shot.

A usual intravenous dose is between 0.1 and 0.2 mg. Each time a patient presses the button, they’ll be cut off for five minutes.

When taken in small, responsible doses, its effects last roughly 5 hours. This window will fluctuate depending on how the drug has been taken. If injected directly into the bloodstream, the body will work hard to process it as quickly as possible. The effects, therefore, won’t last as long. This is why IV patients are granted access to on-demand doses.

When it comes to intravenous doses, the onset of action takes place within 5 minutes. The peak effect duration is around 10-20 minutes.

With other forms (oral, suppository, etc.), the onset of action takes place within 15-30 minutes. The peak duration is between 30 and 60 minutes.

Some patients may be prescribed extended-release tablets that prolong the drug’s effects. These pills can take up to 6 hours to take full effect. The peak duration will last roughly 9 hours.

Even when used safely and responsibly, hydromorphone can have a range of side effects. According to Everyday Health, the most common of these side effects may include:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Drowsiness
  • Sweating
  • Flushing
  • Itching
  • Mood changes

However, regular and legitimate users may also experience a number of more serious side effects as well. These could include:

  • Slowed or stopped breathing
  • Rash or hives
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Swelling of the eyes, face, lips, tongue, mouth, or throat
  • Hoarseness
  • Seizures
  • Fainting

In rare cases, patients may experience a severe allergic reaction to Dilaudid. Symptoms of an allergic reaction may range from intense flushing of the skin to a severe rash or case of hives. The patient will also get nauseous. They may vomit or have diarrhea. These are signs that the body is expelling the toxic chemical.

Important Drug Interactions to Be Aware Of

As a powerful prescription drug, Dilaudid can have some pretty dangerous interactions with other drugs and medications. This is an important aspect of taking Dilaudid to consider. But in that same vein, recreational abusers also should be aware of these interactions as well.

Interactions with Medications 

  • Severe
    • Opioid Analgesics/Painkillers (e.g., OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin) or Naltrexone
  • Serious
    • Agents That May Cause Respiratory Depression/Sodium Oxybate
  • Moderate
    • Selected Opioid Analgesics/Cimetidine
    • Opioids/Buprenorphine
    • Opioids/Butorphanol
    • Opioids/Nalbuphine
    • Opioids (Immediate Release)/Benzodiazepines
    • Opioids (Immediate Release)/Sleep Drugs; Tranquilizers
    • Opioids (Immediate Release)/Muscle Relaxants
    • Opioids (Immediate Release)/Antipsychotics; Phenothiazines
    • Agents with Hyponatremia Risk/Desmopressin
    • Agents with Hyponatremia Risk/Desmopressin (Nocturia)
    • Opioids/Gabapentinoids

Interestingly enough, many patients report that hydromorphone causes them to feel extremely itchy. Even those who aren’t allergic find themselves scratching at an insatiable itchy on the surface of their skin.

According to a research team at Washington University in St. Louis, itching sensations stem from the opioid receptors. Painkillers work by binding to those very receptors. So, while the drugs work to eliminate any pain we might feel, they also activate the receptors in such a way that causes us to feel itchy.

There is no current solution to this problem, but the researchers are working on it. Reporting on the research project in Scientific American, writer Erica Westley says, “Now that scientists know that pain relief and itching can be decoupled, they will try to make itch-free drugs a reality.”

It depends. According to an article published on MotherToBaby.org, pregnant women can take Dilaudid under certain circumstances.

If a pregnant woman is already using hydromorphone, they should continue to take it for the duration of their pregnancy. “Stopping an opioid medication suddenly could cause you to go into withdrawal,” the article says, “Any reduction in hydromorphone needs to be done slowly and under the direction of your healthcare provider.”

Women who are using the drug, therefore, should reach out to their doctor before they stop using.

“Studies find that pregnant women who take opioids in higher doses or for longer than recommended by their healthcare providers have an increased risk for pregnancy problems.” - MotherToBaby.org

This does not come without risks though. The article states, “Studies involving women who regularly use opioids during their pregnancy have found an increased chance for poor pregnancy outcomes such as poor growth of the baby, stillbirth, premature delivery, and c-section.”

Ultimately, pregnant women need to seek the advice of a doctor when it comes to opioids. One CDC report showed that roughly 82% of all opioid-using mothers were taking Dilaudid or a similar drug while pregnant. This is a troubling statistic because of the potential harm that the drug can cause a newborn.

Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome

While pregnant women technically can take this drug in some instances under the direction of a qualified physician, doing so increases the risk of a condition known as neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome, a.k.a. neonatal abstinence syndrome or NAS.

Essentially, this condition is caused by an unborn fetus becoming physically dependent on an opioid like Dilaudid. Just as the nutrients and foods passing through a woman’s body also help nourish the baby they’re carrying, so too is the child exposed to many drugs and chemicals inside the mother.

According to MedlinePlus, “If the mother continues to use the drugs within the week or so before delivery, the baby will be dependent on the drug at birth. Because the baby is no longer getting the drug after birth, withdrawal symptoms may occur as the drug is slowly cleared from the baby's system.”

The severity of this condition depends on a number of factors, such as how long the mother has been using, how well the body breaks the drug down, and how much they’ve been taking. But there are a number of symptoms common in NAS.

These include:

  • Blotchy skin coloring (mottling)
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive crying or high-pitched crying
  • Excessive sucking
  • Fever
  • Hyperactive reflexes
  • Increased muscle tone
  • Irritability
  • Poor feeding
  • Rapid breathing
  • Seizures
  • Sleep problems
  • Slow weight gain
  • Stuffy nose, sneezing
  • Sweating
  • Trembling (tremors)
  • Vomiting

NAS can be prevented by working closely with a physician and being 100% honest about Dilaudid use habits. And as most people might expect, developing a hydromorphone addiction can make the risk of NAS significantly higher.

How Does Dilaudid/Hydromorphone Affect the Brain?

Dilaudid is so addictive because of the way it affects the human brain. It impacts the brain in such a way that it’s easy to see why so many people abuse it and become chemically dependent on it.

As Thomas R. Kosten and Tony P. George write in their research paper “The Neurobiology of Opioid Dependence: Implications for Treatment” published in the journal Science & Practice Perspectives, “Opioid tolerance, dependence, and addiction are all manifestations of brain changes resulting from chronic opioid abuse.”

What they mean by this is that the effects of opioids on the brain are drastic. They’re so drastic that they can (and do) cause someone’s entire thought process and outlook on life to change over time.

But how do these drugs work? How can they be so enjoyable that someone would risk their life abusing these substances?

National Geographic created a great video to describe how opioids affect your body and brain.

Here’s How Dilaudid Affects Your Brain Chemistry

“Opioid medications are so effective at treating acute pain because they attack it from every neurological angle.” - Healthcare Triage

Opioid painkillers are truly a miracle of science. Although they’re addictive and dangerous, they work on a complex level that can be somewhat hard to understand.

This video entitled "The Science of Opioids," produced by Healthcare Triage, does an excellent job of explaining how painkillers work:  

As the video explains, drugs like hydromorphone inhibit our ability to feel pain. They essentially block the pain signals from getting into our brain. Normally, these signals would let us know that a part of our body is hurting and that we’re potentially in danger.  But, when we have opioids in our system, the receptors made to receive those signals are dulled.

That’s why these drugs are called "painkillers." While they don't really "kill" the pain (those signals are still traveling, but they're locked out of the brain), they kill our ability to feel it.

At the same time, these drugs trigger the release of endorphins. As you may know, endorphins are chemicals that can make us feel very happy. Our body produces endorphins to remind us that, if an activity makes us feel good, we should continue to do it all of the time.

For example, one of the reasons why we remember to eat every day is that our body craves the endorphin rush we get from eating. It’s a survival mechanism that the human body has developed over time to help us stay alive.

The problem, of course, is when our endorphin “reward system” is based around something dangerous like opioids. 

“There are three types of opioid receptors…When activated with an opioid agonist like morphine, hydrocodone, or heroin, they will all produce analgesia. Each one also comes with an unpleasant suite of side effects.” - Healthcare Triage

Even though dopamine makes us feel good for a while, it’s not always a great thing. We actually have opioid receptors in our brain to regulate how much gets in. Hydromorphone, heroin and other opioids actually bind to these receptors to allow the huge influx of dopamine through.

This is why we feel so good when we take them. Swallowing or injecting Dilaudid gives our brain a gigantic rush of dopamine. This rush is one that’s impossible to achieve from any normal, everyday activity.

But a rush of dopamine isn't all good. It also comes with side effects. Some of these side effects are mental, and others are physical.

Upon being activated by morphine, certain receptors cause us to feel anxious and depressed. Others cause our respiratory system to slow down. We start to breathe at a slower rate. The dopamine rush of an opioid high can cover these symptoms up for a while. But, the user will start to feel these effects as the medication wears off.

Like all opioids, the way someone develops an addiction is by feeding their cravings. These cravings occur because, as the medication’s effects wear off, the body starts to crave more.

Remember those negative side effects? Anxiety, depression, etc? Without the drug in our system, those side effects become stressors. In other words, they are environmental factors that make us want to use the drug again. Our brain, after all, has taken note of the fact that hydromorphone makes us happy. It understands the drug as something that inhibits our ability to feel pain.

It generates signals that make us desire to use the drug. Those signals are what we call "cravings."

When someone continues to feed those cravings, it is likely that they’ll become chemically dependent on the drug. Even if they’re taking it as part of a prescription, they may start to abuse or misuse it.

Hydromorphone Abuse and Misuse

When it comes to prescription drugs like Dilaudid, sometimes it can be hard to understand what constitutes “abuse” since this drug is technically legal. After all, if you have a legitimate prescription for it, isn’t it fine to take it?

That’s why it’s important to understand what constitutes proper use of a prescription drug like Dilaudid, and what kinds of behaviors qualify as abuse. Not only will it help patients get the intended effect out of this medication, but it will also help prevent the development of a serious addiction down the line.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse outlines a few behaviors that qualify as drug misuse. These behaviors are:

Overusing: Prescription opioids come with a recommended dosage for a reason. A patient who takes more than the advised dose can increase their tolerance and become chemically dependent on the drug.

Using someone else’s meds: No one should take the medication of another person whether it’s purchased, stolen or borrowed. Even patients in pain should only use meds with a doctor’s permission.

Non-medical use: Taking opioids for fun is always considered drug abuse. Even if the individual was prescribed them, using prescription painkillers for fun is considered misuse.

Unprescribed methods of consumption: Prescription drugs are intended to be taken in a certain form. A doctor will prescribe pills, injections or suppositories based on the needs of the patient. If someone snorts, shoots up or plugs the drug without a doctor’s permission, they are abusing it.

Mixing with other drugs: Consuming hydromorphone and another drug at the same time (without the authorization of a doctor) is considered drug abuse. Mixing Dilaudid with alcohol, benzos, or other downers is unsafe. Because these drugs also depress the central nervous system, the mixture can produce a deadly interaction. The two substances will work in combination to slow the user’s system down. The consequences can be fatal.

*The terms “drug abuse” and “drug misuse” are used somewhat interchangeably. Both terms are used to describe the same behavior. Misusing or abusing prescription drugs can be extremely dangerous. It can lead the individual to quickly develop an addiction. 

Like other opioids, getting high on hydromorphone tends to bring about extreme feelings of calm, pain relief, confusion, and even euphoria in some cases.

At normally prescribed doses, most patients will experience only pain relief and a bit of drowsiness. But when these drugs are abused and misused (by taking more of the medication or mixing it with other drugs), it can lead to severe sedation and euphoria due to the dopamine rush involved.

The feelings experienced also depend on the method of administration.

  • Orally – Due to the low bioavailability of hydromorphone, taking it orally leads to both the longest lasting and least intense high. Sedation and pain relief are the main characteristics of this kind of high.
  • Snorting – Snorting provides a quicker rush than taking it orally and can lead to euphoria as well. However, only a small amount of the drug is actually absorbed by the mucosal lining while the rest goes into the stomach.
  • Plugging Plugging leads to a more intense high due to the lack of filtration systems in this area of the body. It can also be incredibly dangerous, though.
  • Intravenous – Like other IV drugs, using hydromorphone this way leads to an almost immediate rush that’s both intense and short-lived. Sedation follows for several hours after.

Misusing hydromorphone can have all kinds of negative side effects. Users who take it long enough to become chemically dependent may experience the following symptoms:

Hypotension: “Hypotension” is the medical term for low blood pressure. This may not sound serious, but it can be. Low blood pressure can actually be a sign of damage in the central nervous system.

Respiratory depression: Our breathing rate directly reflects our blood pressure. When someone’s heart is beating fast, they’ll breathe more. Because opioids slow down the heart rate, they’ll also slow down the speed at which the lungs pump oxygen. Abusing opioids can cause short-term respiratory problems (respiratory failure), as well as long-lasting effects on the lungs.

Hearing loss: This is one of the lesser-known side effects of Dilaudid addiction. But, as an article in The Primary Care Companion for CNS Disorders explains, the drug can actually damage the part of the brain the processes sound. These “cochlear sensory cells” can die off within a matter of months in certain cases, the report shows.

Memory loss: Many narcotic painkillers can cause memory loss. Pain, after all, is a type of memory. The brain logs and stores information about pain to help us avoid threatening situations. For example, most of us learned not to touch a hot stove because we did it at some point in the past. By eliminating the ability to feel pain, our brain stops working as hard and may cease to produce the cells we need to create new memories.

Myoclonic jerks: “Myoclonic jerk” is a fancy medical term for seizures. These can range from mild twitches to full-blown epileptic episodes. They happen mostly in people who are genetically prone to epilepsy. However, they can occur in anyone who experiences nerve damage due to opioid use.

Extravasation: This is a common problem for IV opioid users. When someone uses a drug like hydromorphone intravenously, there’s always a chance of missing the vein. If the drug enters a muscle or another organ, serious damage can occur. Similarly, if any of the drugs leak from the vein, an infection can develop. If left untreated, the tissue will start to rot and may die.

The side effects of a Dilaudid addiction aren’t just physical. It can create legal problems for addicts, as well.

Remember, it’s classified as a Schedule II narcotic substance under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. This classification includes drugs such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl, opium, and morphine. The U.S. Department of Justice says that all of these drugs “have a high potential for abuse which may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.”

Unauthorized possession, distribution, and manufacture of a Schedule II controlled substance is illegal. This means that if someone is caught carrying the drug, selling it or trying to make it, they’ll probably end up in court.

They’re also likely to get a fine and, possibly, serve some time in prison. At the moment, a first-time possession offense comes with a possible $1,000 fine and potentially a year in jail. Additional offenses carry heavier punishments.

How Addictive Is Dilaudid?

Opioid pain medications, as we’ve seen, are incredibly addictive. They set the stage for the current opioid epidemic by causing countless pain patients to become physically dependent on them.

In fact, the CDC points out that “as many as one in four patients receiving long-term opioid therapy in a primary care setting struggles with opioid addiction.”

Part of what makes prescription opioids is, of course, the euphoria associated with them. The brain and the body start to crave the dopamine rush associated with using. And eventually, addicts find themselves unable to stop themselves from using again.

Added to that, opioids also have a particularly uncomfortable withdrawal syndrome, making it especially hard to quit them once the body’s already physically dependent.

Finally, opioids like Dilaudid have been shown to create physical dependency incredibly quickly. In fact, studies have shown that tolerance, one of the main factors of physical dependency, can actually develop within just a few hours of taking high doses.

How addictive, then, is Dilaudid? The resounding answer is “VERY.”

Short- & Long-Term Side Effects of Dilaudid Abuse/Addiction

Developing a hydromorphone abuse problem can have literally hundreds of detrimental effects on the life of an individual. Just as addiction envelops nearly every aspect of an individual’s way of thinking, so too does it have an impact on nearly every aspect of their life.

Below are just some of the most noteworthy ways that a Dilaudid abuse problem can devastate an individual’s life in both the short-term and in the long-term.

Any substance abuse problem or addiction can have a devastating impact on personal finances. And a Dilaudid problem is no different.

  • Short-Term Effects
    • Less spending cash available
    • Loss of job
    • Owing money to friends and family
  • Long-Term Effects
    • Inability to qualify for a loan
    • Ruined credit score
    • Loss of long-term career advancement

As addiction changes the way an individual thinks and behaves, the constant need to get high can also destroy the trust and love that many social relationships are built on. Below are just a few of the social effects of a Dilaudid addiction to consider.

  • Short-Term Effects
    • Loss of trust among friends and family members
    • Severe isolation
    • Only associating with a bad crowd (other drug users)
    • Losing out on old hobbies and social activities that used to bring joy
  • Long-Term Effects
    • Complete alienation from friends and family
    • Inability to rebuild relationships or receive forgiveness
    • Complete loss of confidence in ability to relate to others

As to be expected, using Dilaudid illicitly can cause a host of detrimental side effects, both in the short-term and long-term. In addition to a deadly overdose, these effects include:

  • Short-Term Effects
    • Skin/tissue infections
    • Gastrointestinal problems
    • Rash, hives, and extreme itching
    • Fatigue
    • Headaches
    • Chest pain
    • Insomnia
  • Long-Term Effects
    • Permanent brain damage
    • Organ failure
    • Permanent gastrointestinal problems
    • Inability to perform sexually
    • Reproduction problems
    • Infection from blood-borne pathogens like HIV and Hepatitis

Abusing hydromorphone is illegal and carries with it some pretty severe legal consequences. These include:

  • Short-Term Effects
    • Jail time
    • Legal fees
    • Monetary punishments (up to millions of dollars)
  • Long-Term Effects
    • Harsher sentencing after multiple incidences (up to life imprisonment)
    • Inability to get a new job due to a felony record
    • DUIs

The intoxicating nature of opioids like Dilaudid and the brain-changing effects of addiction add up to a particularly dangerous substance abuse problem when it comes to the mind. Some of the most noteworthy effects include:

  • Short-Term Effects
    • Mental impairment while high
    • Debilitating cravings and withdrawals
    • Inability to focus on anything but getting high again
  • Long-Term Effects
    • Development of anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders
    • Impaired decision-making skills
    • Poor response to stress
    • Inability to regulate own behavior

Be Careful—The Risk of Overdose is Serious

“A variety of effects can occur after a person takes opioids, ranging from pleasure to nausea, vomiting, severe allergic reactions and overdose, in which breathing and heartbeat slow or even stop.” SAMHSA, Opioid Overdose Toolkit

Essentially, a Dilaudid overdose occurs when the user takes more than their system can handle. If someone’s tolerance is too low for their dose, their central nervous system will slow down to a dangerous level.

As it was pointed out above, our heart rate is closely connected to our CNS. When the CNS slows down, the heart rate also slows. The lungs follow suit. If someone dies from a hydromorphone overdose, it's because their heart stopped pumping blood and their lungs stopped pumping air. This is called "respiratory failure."

“Opioid overdose can occur when a patient deliberately misuses a prescription opioid or an illicit drug such as heroin,” SAMHSA writes in their Opioid Overdose Toolkit. “It can also occur when a patient takes an opioid as directed, but the prescriber miscalculated the opioid dose or an error was made by the dispensing pharmacist or the patient misunderstood the directions for use.”

The Toolkit goes on to outline who, specifically, is at a high risk of overdose. “Also at risk is the person who takes opioid medications prescribed for someone else, as is the individual who combines opioids—prescribed or illicit—with alcohol [or] certain other medications,” it says, “and even some over-the-counter products that depress breathing, heart rate, and other functions of the central nervous system.”

There are a few vital overdose signs to keep an eye out for. If you or another person experiences any of the following symptoms while using hydromorphone, seek medical help immediately:

  • Stopped breathing
  • Slowed breathing
  • Stopped heartbeat
  • Slowed heartbeat
  • Coma
  • Unconsciousness
  • Weak muscles
  • Cold or damp skin
  • Dilating pupils
  • Faintness
  • Dizziness

Yes. Dilaudid overdoses can be treated with an opioid antidote called naloxone. This chemical is sold under the trade names Narcan and Evisio. Narcan is a nasal spray product that works to reverse the effects of the overdose. Evisio works similarly but is injected into the thigh.

These drugs can save lives. However, they must be administered within a certain timeframe. The exact time frame depends on a number of factors such as the amount of hydromorphone consumed and the user’s BMI.

It is crucial that you contact an ambulance as soon as possible if you or someone else overdoses. Calling for help could mean the difference between life and death.

That means no hesitating. No second guessing. And no simply “hoping for the best.” Saving the life of an opioid overdose victim requires action, and that means now.

So, if you spot the signs of a Dilaudid overdose, call 9-1-1 immediately.

If you do have to leave the side of the victim – even for less than a minute to call emergency services – it’s critical that you put the victim in what’s known as the “recovery position.” This position helps to reduce the likelihood of complications like choking or vomiting. And it too could end up saving their life.

You may also be asked to begin performing CPR as well. You can find a detailed outline of how to perform this vital lifesaving function at the Mayo Clinic CPR Guide page.

The video below from the Overdose Prevention & Education Network also provides step-by-step instructions for treating an opioid overdose too.

Sometimes, doctors prescribe hydromorphone suppositories instead of tablets. These are given to patients who, for whatever reason, are unable to take the drug orally. When taken in this form, the drug is quickly absorbed by the user’s body. It tends to have heightened effects because it never passes through the liver.

Because of these heightened effects, suppositories are popular with recreational users. Addicts enjoy taking the drug rectally because it gets them higher than oral consumption does. This practice is referred to as "plugging Dilaudid."

But with this more intense buzz also comes a higher risk of overdosing. That’s because when Dilaudid is taken this way, the drug bypasses many of the body’s best filtration systems. The liver, kidneys, and stomach all play a major role in breaking down substances into safer, less harmful compounds.

And when these organs are skipped entirely, the drug stays far more potent than if it had been taken any other way. This, of course, can spell disaster and can be much more damaging when taken irresponsibly.

But it isn’t just overdoses either. Constipation, organ failure, brain damage, and a slew of other long-term problems can all become more likely down the road too.

Rectal consumption, then, is both dangerous and it also increases the risk of overdose.

Dilaudid Junkies Often Transition to Heroin

Prescription painkiller addicts are 19x more likely to pick up heroin for the first time. Here’s why…

As prescription opioids have grown in popularity over the past few decades, heroin has also become more popular.

Why? Because painkillers are much more expensive.

The unfortunate reality is that most heroin addicts don’t plan to become one. They simply start by misusing prescription drugs. Once they become chemically dependent on the substance, they turn to heroin as a cheaper, more powerful alternative.

As Dr. Sanjay Gupta points out in his article, "Unintended Consequences: Why Painkiller Addicts Turn to Heroin," published on CNN.com, prescription pills are not a cost-effective way to feed an addiction. “Opiate pain medications cost the insured about $1 per milligram; so a 60-milligram pill would cost $60,” he writes, “You can obtain the equivalent amount of heroin for about one-tenth the price.”

It’s no surprise, then, to learn that 80% of heroin user began by abusing prescription drugs.

Alexa Epitropoulous recently wrote a fantastic piece about the opioid problem in Alexandria, Virginia. The article, published in The Alexandria Times as a section of their multi-part series on addiction, profiles a few people who found themselves addicted to a drug they’d never thought they would try.

One of the addicts, Emma Tyrell, developed an opioid addiction when she was 43 years old. She was prescribed Dilaudid and other painkillers to help manage her pain after surgery.

“That opened the door for Tyrell, who soon transitioned from prescription pills to heroin,” the author writes in her article.

Another woman profiled in the piece had a similar story. Heidi Christiansen took prescription painkillers for a half-decade before she made the transition. After moving from Louisiana to Washington D.C, she found herself unable to obtain the drugs she was hooked on.

“Suddenly, her pipeline to prescription pills evaporated,” Epitropoulous writes, “She was subsequently introduced to heroin, which led to her injecting heroin intravenously several times a day.”

“Christiansen had been on prescription pills for six years before being introduced to heroin at age 47.” - Alexa Epitropoulous, The Alexandria Times

The transition made Christiansen’s life much worse. She turned to crime to pay for her habit and ultimately wound up in jail. “Heroin is such a powerful drug that, instead of saying, ‘I never want to do this again,’ the first thing that comes out of your mouth is, ‘Let’s get some more of that,” she is quoted in the article.

Fortunately, both women had turned their lives around. They were each living in a rehab treatment facility at the time of the article’s publishing. Their story, however, serves as a reminder of how dangerous a habit like hydromorphone addiction can be.

Dilaudid Addiction Symptoms

Hydromorphone abuse is no joke. Like all opioids, it’s an extremely addictive chemical. It can cause all kinds of physical, emotional and legal problems in your life and the lives of those around you.

It’s important, therefore, to understand the symptoms of opioid addiction. If you or a loved one is currently taking this painkiller, keep a close eye on the habit.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (or DSM-5) outlines a number of addiction warning signs. These signs are used by medical professionals to diagnose addiction use disorder.

Here are a handful of the signs to look for:

In an article published in Medical Daily, Dr. Timothy Huckaby writes, “When addiction comes into play, it manipulates the brain to create a new operating system. It slowly develops a distorted perception of survival, that the brain needs the reward only drugs can provide and that this is crucial to surviving."

Cravings are a key sign that someone has (or is becoming) chemically dependent on a drug. They feel a strong desire to use the drug because their brain has been programmed to believe they need it. The more they feed their cravings, the more addicted they’ll become over time.

Addicts often use drugs or alcohol to feel more "like themselves." Once they're hooked, they may have trouble feeling comfortable in their own skin without the drug in their system. Most of us associate our true selves with the times we feel happy, after all, and opioids can make us feel good for a little while.

As Dr. Adi Jaffe writes on PsychologyToday.com, “Cravings are strong memories that are linked to the effect of drugs on the brain’s neurochemistry.”

If someone’s happiest memories are linked to an opioid, then, it’s easy for them to start thinking that drugs are the key to being happy.

When someone uses a drug frequently, they’ll quickly develop a tolerance for it. This means that they’ll need increasingly larger doses for the drug to affect them.

“It takes a higher dose of the drug to achieve the same effect as when the person first used it,” the NIDA Blog Team writes, “This is why people with substance use disorders use more and more of a drug to get the ‘high’ they seek.”

So, even if a person is using hydromorphone for medical purposes, they can still become addicted. If they continue taking more of it over time, their system will start to depend on it to thrive.

The life of a drug addict can be hard work. It takes a lot of time to get high and feed cravings. When someone spends the majority of their time getting high, recovering from their high or trying to obtain drugs, it’s a serious warning sign.

Casual drug users (responsible drinkers, for example) will spend relatively little time on their habit. They might have a nightly beer after work or spend a Sunday drinking in front of the TV while they watch football. An addict, on the other hand, spends most of their day under the influence of the drug.

Addictions cost a lot of money. Hydromorphone can be an expensive drug, particularly if insurance isn’t covering the cost. When someone is using, the habit can quickly drain their bank account.

Dr. Indra Cidambi says that always needing money is a possible sign of drug addiction. In her article "Identifying Alcohol or Drug Abuse in the Workplace," she explains that borrowing habits may be used to identify addicts.

“The cost of obtaining drugs or alcohol for heavy, daily use can be prohibitive,” she writes, “Consequently, the need for money is chronic and employees using substances may frequently borrow money from colleagues.”

If someone suddenly stops performing well at their job or in their education, drug addiction might be a possible explanation. A drug can easily become the most important thing in a user’s life. As a result, they spend less time focusing on their job or school work and their performance suffers.

Additionally, a Dilaudid hangover can be tough to get through. It’s hard to focus on the task at hand while working through an opioid-induced fog. This may cause someone to perform the task poorly.

There are a few reasons why addicts gravitate toward other addicts for a few reasons.

Firstly, it makes for easy access to their drug of choice. When an addict’s immediate social circle is comprised of other users, they’ll always have a way to find drugs when they need them. Secondly, addicts often feel shameful about their habit. They might be embarrassed and only comfortable around others who share the same problem.

If someone abandons their old friends to hang out with a new, drug-using crowd, it could be a sign that they’re using too.

Few other activities can compete with the rush of dopamine that opioids provide. An addict’s craving is not going to be fed by hanging out with their siblings, watching TV with their parents or even holding their child for the first time. Those things simply don’t hold up to opioids on a chemical level.

As a result, addicts may fail to meet their family responsibilities. They probably won’t enjoy spending time with their loved ones (if they even see them at all).

In an article entitled, "Addiction as a Disease of Isolation," Dr. Shahram Heshmet explains that drug addiction is rooted in insecurity, self-doubt and a desire for connection. Drugs provide addicts with a (seemingly) stable source of happiness. When the addict spends their time taking prescription pills, they don’t have to worry about the medication rejecting them or making them feel anxious in the same way that people might.

Many addicts feel happier spending time alone (with their drugs). It’s common for them to isolate themselves to avoid the pain of rejection.

Legal problems seem to follow closely behind drug addiction. While some addicts avoid trouble with the law, many of them are convicted of various crimes. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 18% of federal inmates are in prison for drug-related offenses.

One side effect of opioid addiction is that the addict stops caring about the consequences of their habit. An addict who is convicted of a crime, therefore, may continue using despite the legal ramifications. If you or someone you love continues to use opioids even after being charged, it’s a sign that the addiction is a serious problem.

Hydromorphone abuse is a dangerous activity in itself. As this article outlines, it can have all kinds of physical and mental consequences.

However, Dilaudid addiction often makes people risk their safety in other ways, as well. They might take part in any number of risky behaviors while they’re high or in order to get high.

Driving under the influence of opioids, for example, is both illegal and dangerous. Entering dangerous situations to buy drugs is also dangerous. When someone is constantly risking their own safety to get high, it’s a big red flag.

The number-one warning sign is that someone wants to quit using their drug of choice but can’t. Whether it’s because they experience physical withdrawal symptoms when they stop or because their psychological attachment to the substance is too strong, it’s a surefire symptom of addiction.

If an addict thinks about quitting but gets anxious or physically sick without the drug in their system, it’s because their body has become chemically dependent on it. It’s vital that the individual gets professional treatment before their condition worsens.

It can be difficult to identify whether or not you’re addicted to Dilaudid. This is especially the case when a doctor has prescribed the medication. Take one of our free online assessments to determine whether your habit is something to worry about:

Am I A Drug Addict?

Am I An Opiate Addict?

Am I Addicted to Prescription Drugs?

Is My Family Member A Drug Addict?

Taking one of the short online quizzes above is easily the quickest way to assess an addiction. But there are other methods as well. Some of the most notable are listed below. 

  • The DSM V Guidelines – The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th Edition) or the DSM V is the most trusted and widely used catalogue of mental disorders today. It includes descriptions, diagnostic criteria, and so much more about every mental disorder recognized by physicians and psychiatrists today. It contains 11 scenarios to help narrow down whether or not someone is struggling with a substance use disorder.
  • NIDA’s Self-Assessment Tools – These highly specialized tools provide a wide range of options for getting a sense of how bad an addiction has really gotten. Some of these assessments only take a few minutes to complete while others are significantly more in-depth. Ultimately, there’s an assessment tool here that anyone can get the most out of.
  • Consultation with an Addiction Specialist – Finally, one of the best ways of determining whether you or someone you love is struggling with a Dilaudid addiction is by speaking with an addiction professional. Doing so allows for a more individualized approach and also gives you the opportunity to ask questions and get personalized recommendations as well.

Detox for Dilaudid Addicts

It’s not easy to come to terms with being an addict. Most hydromorphone addicts, after all, started with a simple prescription. They hurt themselves at work or were diagnosed with an illness, began taking the drug and, before they knew it, found themselves with an unmanageable habit.

Luckily, there is hope for opioid addicts. There are plenty of professional and local resources available to help addicts overcome their addiction. The first step, however, is detoxification.

What is Opioid Detox?

Detoxification is essentially the process that happens after a user stops taking their drug of choice. During the first few weeks of detox, their body works very hard to get rid of all traces of the drug left in it.

As a result, they will likely go into "withdrawal." Essentially, withdrawals are the body's response to the absence of opioids.

Because their system has become so accustomed to having the drug in it, both their brain and body go a bit haywire. The addict will experience strong cravings (the strongest they’ve felt since they began using). They’re also likely to get nauseous, to vomit and to experience a range of other withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawals are known for being quite uncomfortable. They may even be painful in certain cases. Dilaudid withdrawal symptoms can be particularly unpleasant.

These withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritation
  • Insomnia
  • Exhaustion
  • Chills
  • Bone and muscle aches
  • Runny nose
  • Runny eyes
  • Profuse sweating
  • Muscle cramps
  • Stomach aches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

This list is by no means exhaustive. Hydromorphone withdrawal symptoms will differ depending on a number of factors. The addict’s age, liver health, and metabolic rate can all affect the process. The severity of their addiction can impact their symptoms as well.

Most professional rehab facilities offer Dilaudid detox services. These services give addicts the opportunity to detoxify from hydromorphone in a safe, drug-free environment.

In a treatment center, the addict will go through withdrawals under the supervision of medical professionals. These professionals will ensure that the process goes as safely and as smoothly as possible. Doctors will administer any medications necessary to ease the addict’s pain or help the process move faster.

They’ll also work to make sure that the addict stays hydrated throughout the process. This is a key factor in a successful detox.

In some cases, the doctor may determine that the addict's best option is "tapering." This means that the doctor will give the addict smaller and smaller doses of the drug for a period of time until they're ready to come off entirely. Tapering off of opioids can be the best method for addicts who suffer from chronic pain as they can have a higher risk of relapse.

The opioid withdrawal timeline depends on a series of factors. The amount an addict was using, how long they were using for and the strength of their metabolism can all affect the detox process.

If the addict was taking hydromorphone for a chronic illness like cancer or AIDS, this could impact their detox timeline, as well.

Under normal circumstances, though, the withdrawal process lasts roughly a week. It usually looks like this:

Days 1-3: Withdrawal symptoms will start to appear within 12 hours of the addict’s last dose. These symptoms will include strong cravings, anxiety (a result of the cravings) and light nausea. Over the next 2-3 days, the addict will get increasingly sicker. They’re likely to have trouble eating and drinking. It’s important that they stay hydrated.

Days 3-5: Peak withdrawal symptoms occur after 3-4 days of detox. At this point, the addict will probably vomit profusely. They may also experience diarrhea. This is a sign that the addict’s body is clearing the drug and any byproducts out of their system. They are likely to sweat heavily, as well. This is another sign of the body expelling toxins.

Days 5-7: After peak symptoms have passed, the addict will start to feel better. They might still experience nausea. During this time, they should eat something to get nutrients back into the body. After all of that vomiting and diarrhea, their system will be drained of vitamins and minerals. Eating some healthy foods will expedite recovery time.

Days 8+: In most cases, withdrawals will end within seven days. If someone is suffering from a severe Dilaudid addiction, it may take them a bit longer. Nearly all addicts will feel anxious or depressed for a while after they finish detoxing. Their dopamine levels, after all, have been messed with an in an unnatural way. It takes some time for the brain to adjust to a drug-free dopamine supply.

Yes. Detoxing from home is possible. However, most addiction specialists and professional doctors will not recommend it. There are a number of risks involved in a home detox. These risks don’t exist in a professional treatment center.

These risks include:

Easy access to drugs: It’s not hard for an addict to reach out for their pill bottle or call up a dealer when they’re detoxing at home.

Stressors/triggers: Most addicts can be easily triggered to use. These triggers are eliminated in a drug treatment center.

Dehydration: One of the biggest risks of withdrawal is dehydration. The body expels massive amounts of water during detox. Addicts often forget how important it is to stay hydrated while they work through the stages of withdrawal.

Malnutrition: Many opioid and Dilaudid addicts have been neglecting their nutritional health for years. And when it comes time to detox, their body may have a hard time fighting through the worst of their withdrawals without any help. Added to that, patients will likely be so preoccupied with the discomfort of withdrawal that they may not give their body's the nutrition they so desperately need. And that can lead to serious complications down the road.

Choking/Aspiration: Another hazard of detoxing alone is the very real threat of choking on one’s own vomit and aspiration (inhaling vomit into the lungs). While these complications may only affect the most severe of addicts, it’s important to recognize that they can lead to serious problems like pneumonia or even death. A professional program can help prevent and treat both.

If someone absolutely must go through the process on their own terms, though, there are a few things they should do. Here are a few home detox tips:

  1. Ask for help: A close friend or family member should be in the room (or at least in the house). This person should monitor the addict to make sure that they don’t relapse.
  2. Get the supplies ready: Before the process begins, stock up on water and Advil. This will ensure that the addict has everything they need in the house so they don’t have a reason to go outside until they’re finished.
  3. Clear their schedule: Remember, detox can take up to a week. The addict needs time to withdraw and recover. They’re not going to feel very good, so make sure that their schedule is wide open.
  4. Avoid detox kits: There are a ton of “kits” out there that claim to help addicts get off drugs faster. These kits will not make the process easier. A healthy diet, a steady flow of water and a dedication to recovery are the keys to quitting hydromorphone

One of the biggest dangers of going through Dilaudid detoxification without the support of a professional program comes from the high risk of overdosing.

To explain, opioids are notorious for building up tolerance incredibly quickly. And as we’ve seen, tolerance can actually develop in as little as several hours at especially high doses.

But people who are addicted to opioids also lose much of that tolerance while they’re in recovery. And most importantly, they lose their tolerance much more quickly than they expect.

This can be a recipe for disaster when it comes to relapsing since many users will go right back to the same dosage that got them high before. And since their tolerance has plummeted since last using, that same dosage may actually cause an accidental and potentially fatal overdose.

Partnering with a professional treatment center, then, is not only helpful because they’ll likely educate patients about the dangers of a lowered tolerance. But they’ll also use the best techniques for preventing relapse all together, making the threat of an overdose even less likely to occur.

“Medical detoxification safely manages the acute physical symptoms of withdrawal associated with stopping drug use.” - NIDA, Understanding Drug Abuse and Addiction: What Science Says

Opioid detox isn’t easy. But, it’s a necessary step in recovery. Medical detox, or detoxification in a professional treatment center, is the best way to ensure an addict makes it through recovery without a relapse.

One reason why this is the case is that the doctors in a treatment center may prescribe detox drugs to help the addict recover. These drugs can help the addict to manage their withdrawal symptoms while they get clean.

Some common detox drugs include:

Methadone: Methadone is a drug used in Opioid Replacement Therapy (ORT). It gives the addict a small dose of opioids to help them feed their cravings. It is taken once per day and must be acquired from a specialized methadone clinic.

Another benefit of methadone is that it can actually stop some opioids from having an effect on the body should an addict relapse. That’s because methadone has what’s known as a “high affinity” for opioid receptors in the body. This basically means it doesn’t get pushed off of the receptor once it’s already stuck.

As a result, some drugs like heroin and codeine won’t have a euphoric effect when taken.

Methadone was once the go-to drug for treating opioid addiction with medication-assisted treatments or MATs. However, this drug is far less popular than it used to be. The once-daily dosage and strict federal regulations have caused many addiction specialists to turn toward more effective ORT medications. Plus, it also has a higher risk of abuse than other MATs on the market today.

Buprenorphine: This drug is an ingredient in Suboxone and Subutex. These two products are ORT meds, as well. Buprenorphine is a popular form of treatment. It’s also proven to be effective. NIH data shows that opioid addicts who take the drug on a daily basis are nearly 2x more likely to move forward with sobriety.

Like methadone, buprenorphine also has a high affinity for opioid receptors but only activates them a little bit – enough to reduce or even eliminate the symptoms of opioid withdrawal.

Unlike methadone, however, buprenorphine is able to be prescribed in a physician’s office and administered at home. That means that patients don’t have to travel to a specialized facility each day for their dose. And that can make recovery far more accessible for those who need this valuable medication.

That being said, this drug can still be abused and should only be taken with care.

Naltrexone: The newest of these medical detox drugs is naltrexone. It’s marketed as a brand name medication called Vivitrol. Unlike methadone and buprenorphine, naltrexone is not an ORT drug. It’s actually an opioid antagonist. This means that it prevents the addict from being able to feel the effects of opioids. Essentially, it’s like an opioid antidote.

As an opioid antagonist, naltrexone basically blocks off the opioid receptor without actually activating it. Similar to methadone, patients using naltrexone can’t achieve the euphoric effects of opioids like heroin or morphine.

If someone is addicted to Dilaudid, for example, they won’t be able to get high off of it. In fact, they won’t feel a single thing at all! While there is still a risk of overdose with this drug (it doesn’t prevent opioids from infiltrating the system) it makes it easier for addicts to commit to their recovery. 

And unlike methadone, naltrexone has zero potential for abuse since it doesn’t activate the receptor, making it entirely non-addictive.

Rehab for Hydromorphone Addicts

“Medical detoxification is only the first stage of addiction treatment and by itself does little to change long-term drug use.” - NIDA, Understanding Drug Abuse and Addiction: What Science Says

Dilaudid addiction is both a physical and mental illness. A successful recovery requires that the addict overcomes both aspects of their condition.

Detox is a way for the addict to fight the physical symptoms of their addiction. Rehab gives them the ability to address the psychological and emotional aspects.

In rehab, the addict will spend time attending various forms of therapy. Some therapy sessions are one-on-one meetings with an addiction specialist. Others are group support sessions. In these meetings, the addict will confront various aspects of their condition.

Ultimately, the addict will leave the treatment center with a new sense of self. They’ll come to grips with how addiction has affected their lives. They’ll also learn what they can do to stay clean in the future.

Rewiring the brain of an addict is no small feat. After all, addiction has been proven to lead to real-life observable changes in the physical structure of the brain. As NIDA points out, “Brain imaging studies from people addicted to drugs show physical changes in areas of the brain that are critical for judgment, decision-making, learning, memory, and behavior control.”

In general, there are three types of treatments that rehabilitation centers employ: one-on-one counseling, group talk sessions, and behavioral therapies.

While there are countless factors also at play, one of the most common reasons for substance abuse is self-medication. Whether it’s chronic pain, depression, anxiety, or intrusive memories, many drug addicts take these medications to reduce the negative symptoms of underlying diseases.

In fact, early emotional trauma (which can be a precursor for many mental disorders) has actually been linked dramatically with substance abuse later in life. According to ACES Too High, having an ACE (adverse childhood experiences) score of 4 “increases the likelihood of becoming an alcoholic by 700%.” Added to that, people with ACE scores above 0 have a 200 to 400% higher chance of using drugs or alcohol at an early age compared to those with a score of 0. And people with a score of 5 are 7 to 10 times more likely to report addiction to illegal drugs.

One-on-one counseling attempts to get to the heart of an individual's substance use problem by identifying underlying conditions like emotional trauma. It can also provide patients with a new perspective on their problems that they may not have considered before.

And finally, individual counseling can also help identify co-occurring disorders like depression and anxiety or even schizophrenia and OCD. And that can make treating their addiction dramatically more effective.

Similar in structure to the typical 12-step meeting, many programs also use group talk sessions to help move patients along their path to recovery. During these sessions, patients typically go around the circle and share their own personal experiences related to addiction, sobriety, and recovery as a whole.

The benefit of these sessions is two-fold.

First, patients in these groups actually develop a sense of companionship as a result of group talk sessions. And as that companionship grows, the support network of each patient also expands. The larger and more effective the support network is, the better the odds will be for achieving future recovery.

And second, learning more about how addiction has impacted the lives of others can help shed light on a patient’s own personal relationship with substance abuse. For instance, walking a friend or family member through all of the gifts in their life that they should be thankful for can also help the individual themselves understand what they should be thankful for too.

It isn’t any wonder, then, why so many addiction treatment facilities incorporate group talk sessions into their treatment models.

While one-on-one counseling and group talk sessions can go a long way towards emotional healing and building a support network, behavioral therapies teach patients real-life strategies for staying sober.

These strategies can help show individuals how to control their cravings, avoid triggers, and essentially be more mindful of the best ways of staying sober in the long-term. And when they’re evidence-based, they are even more effective.

Evidence-based behavioral therapies are ones that have been proven effective by legitimate studies and research. And when it comes time to choose a Dilaudid addiction program, seeking out facilities that use these therapies should be a priority.

The following are the evidence-based behavioral therapies endorsed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse:

Some programs may use a number of other treatments and therapies to help promote wellness and sobriety during recovery. These may be aimed at improving self-confidence, aiding in stress-management, healing the physical body, and/or boosting mental focus. A “holistic” approach to recovery using therapies like those below has consistently been linked to better recovery outcomes.

Types of Dilaudid Rehab Programs

One of the keys to a successful recovery is finding the right type of rehabilitation program to meet the individual needs of the patient. Not all recovering addicts will need the same level of care. And not all recovering addicts will have the same life obligations or goals.

Fortunately, there are a number of different rehab programs to choose from. The three most common are inpatient, outpatient, and intensive outpatient rehabilitation programs.

An inpatient program allows for the highest level of care. And in most cases, that means the best chances of a full recovery and achieving long-term sobriety. That’s because an inpatient program requires patients to stay on the campus grounds at all times. Eating, sleeping, and treatment sessions all take place within an inpatient program.

Given the "restricted" nature of an inpatient program, patients are exposed to fewer stressors and triggers, allowing for a smoother recovery. Added to that, patients may be required to bring along a chaperone if they do leave, making it difficult if not impossible to obtain any drugs during the program.

The tradeoff here, however, is that these programs can be highly disruptive to normal day-to-day life. Holding down a job, attending classes, or even fulfilling some family obligations can be tough during an inpatient program.

They typically will last around 30 days.

An outpatient program is a much more flexible option compared to inpatient. Rather than being confined to the location of a facility at all times, treatment sessions in an outpatient program only take place during the evenings several times a week. This allows patients to go throughout their day normally while still getting a valuable level of care.

More flexibility, however, also comes with a greater risk of relapse in most cases. Since recovery isn’t the sole concern, the distractions and stresses of daily life can make relapse more likely. Plus, patients aren’t restricted during the day so exposure to drugs is both easier and more likely.

Individuals with a minor to moderate Dilaudid addiction, then, will get the most out of this type of program.

They typically will last around 3 months.

An intensive outpatient program or IOP offers a higher level of care than an outpatient program without sacrificing flexibility altogether. These programs follow the same structure as an outpatient program (evening treatment sessions throughout the week). But sessions are longer and typically will take place more frequently as well.

This is the perfect option for individuals that need more help during rehabilitation but can’t afford to miss work or school entirely for a whole month. It can also be a great way to “step down” after graduating from an inpatient program too.

They typically will last around 3 months as well.

Decreasing the Risk of Relapse

In the NIH's article "Drugs, Brains and Behavior: The Science of Addiction," the organization outlines the relapse rates among drug addicts. According to the article, between 40% and 60% of all addicts relapse after they finish detox. This is quite an alarming statistic.

Many addicts overdose when they relapse. Addicts who overdose on Dilaudid, heroin or another opioid often remained clean for a period of time before relapsing.

While a relapse isn’t always the end of the addict’s life, it can be fatal. This is due to the fact that their system isn’t prepared to handle a large dose of opioids. When they relapse, addicts usually start by taking the amount they’re used to taking. Sometimes, this amount is too much.

It’s important for addicts to get support after detox. This can help them to avoid a relapse or overdose. Rehab can help them to develop the mental tools they need to stay clean once the drug is out of their system.

How Expensive Is Dilaudid Rehabilitation?

As with every form of treatment for any disease, rehab programs cost money. And unfortunately, treatment costs are one of the biggest reasons that addicts don’t get the help they so desperately need.

According to one national survey from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), nearly one-third (26.9%) of American adults who admitted they needed help said that cost of treatment was a major barrier to recovery. That’s over 217 thousand people.

What makes this situation even more unfortunate is the fact that treatment is actually more affordable than most people think. With new legislation like the Affordable Care Act and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, insurers are now required by law to cover a substantial portion of addiction treatment costs. Some patients may even end up paying no out-of-pocket costs at all.

Added to that, federal health insurance programs like Medicaid and Medicare are also required to include addiction treatment in their coverages.

Plus, many addiction facilities also offer a range of programs to help make treatment more affordable. These include:

  • Financing Options
  • Pay-As-You-Go Programs
  • Sliding Scale Costs Based on Income
  • Sponsorships
  • Grants
  • Referral Programs

Ultimately, Dilaudid rehabilitation is more cost-effective than ever. And when you consider the enormous price tag of maintaining a hydromorphone addiction, the obvious choice becomes even clearer.

What to Look for When Choosing a Rehab Program

While proximity and cost are important when it comes to choosing a recovery program, the much more critical component is finding the right program. This can be harder than most people think.

The list of questions below can help you begin thinking about what characteristics are most important to you or the people you love. And they can also help narrow down your top choices during the rehab interview stage of recovery.

What services do you offer (detox, rehab, aftercare)?
What is your staff-to-patient ratio?
Do you offer medicated services or is your program more holistic in nature?
Do you specifically offer services for opioid addiction recovery?
Are you qualified to treat co-occurring disorders?
Do you have 24/7 nursing staff?
Are you nationally accredited?
Do you offer family-based therapy too?
Do you use evidence-based care methods?
What types of amenities do you offer?
Do you have individualized plans or are you more of a one-size-fits-all facility?
Do you accept my insurance?
Do you also offer nutrition and exercise programs during recovery?
How long does your program last?

Crack Cocaine Addiction and Treatment

There is a Life After Dilaudid Addiction

Are you or a loved one addicted to hydromorphone? We want to help. While it’s a useful drug that helps millions of people to manage their pain, it can also be deadly.

Addiction treatment can eliminate the risk of overdose. It can also prevent other serious consequences.

Give us a call. Our expert staff can work with you to find the best treatment option for you. You’ll be on the path to living a much happier and healthier life in no time.

Talk to a Rehab Specialist

Our admissions coordinators are here to help you get started with treatment the right way. They'll verify your health insurance, help set up travel arrangements, and make sure your transition into treatment is smooth and hassle-free.

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