What is Dilaudid?

Dilaudid is a prescription medicine, with the generic name hydromorphone HCL, that’s used to treat pain ranging from moderate to severe. It’s a part of the opioid class of drugs, and it works on the brain to impact how the body responds to pain, and how it feels pain. This type of opioid is also frequently referred to as a narcotic.

When someone is prescribed Dilaudid, it’s important that they use it exactly as prescribed by their doctor because it can lead to severe problems when it’s taken in larger amounts or outside of the parameters it’s specified for including slowed or stopped breathing.

When someone is prescribed Dilaudid, they should be warned that it is habit forming and the use of this drug does carry the risk of abuse or dependency, even when it’s taken as directed.

Even when someone is taking Dilaudid because they’re prescribed to it, there may be side effects. Some of these side effects can include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Sweating
  • Flushing of the skin
  • Dry mouth

These side effects may be more apparent when someone first starts taking Dilaudid, and they may subside with continued use of the drug. The drug also comes along with other more serious warnings including the risk of mental or mood changes including agitation or confusion, severe abdominal pain, problems urinating, and signs of adrenal malfunction including weight loss and loss of appetite.

Hydromorphone or Dilaudid may be prescribed in several different forms. These include as a liquid, tablet, suppository, or a solution that’s injectable. When people are abusing Dilaudid, they may also inject it, or crush the pills and snort them for a faster-acting, more powerful effect.

People often abuse this prescription opioid because it can lead to a euphoric high that’s similar to what someone experience with a drug like heroin. It also acts as a sedative and relaxes the person taking it.

If you’re wondering if someone is on Dilaudid, or what the signs of Dilaudid abuse are, you’re not alone. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, there were around one million people in the U.S. in 2011 that reported using this drug for non-medical purposes at least one time during their life. It’s also a drug that’s prescribed very commonly, so it’s widely available. For example, according to the DEA, there were nearly four million prescriptions dispensed for hydromorphone in 2012.

How Is Dilaudid Used?

If you’re wondering whether or not someone is on Dilaudid, or what the signs of Dilaudid abuse are, it can also be helpful to know a little bit about the drug. First, it’s a schedule II prescription drug, and it dulls pain by attaching to particular receptors in the brain as well as the central nervous system. Like other opioids, it also affects the brain’s pleasure center so when someone takes it, it creates a feeling of well-being.

Some of the most common reasons people are prescribed Dilaudid is to help with the management of pain related to cancer and serious injuries. When someone takes Dilaudid, it usually starts working within around 15 minutes, and it can relieve pain for up to six hours. Small doses are typically prescribed, usually 2 mg or 4 mg, and the pills are either round or triangular. It’s also available in liquid form, and in a hospital or clinical setting, it may be given intravenously.

Signs Someone Is On Dilaudid

There are a few different ways someone would be classified as abusing Dilaudid. The first would be failing to follow the instructions of their prescription. This could include taking higher amounts than what they’re prescribed or taking it more often. The effects of Dilaudid tend to lead to tolerance, so people have to continue taking larger doses to get the same feeling with the drug.

Some of the general signs someone is on Dilaudid include:

  • Mood swings which can range to shows of euphoria, to depressive or irritable states
  • Breathing problems
  • Sweating
  • Itching or scratching
  • Coordination problems
  • Nodding off or trouble staying awake or alert, particularly at strange times
  • Sweating excessively
  • Headache
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Dry mouth
  • Anxiety
  • Rash
  • Hoarseness of the voice

When someone is using Dilaudid, they may also experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop using the drug or take a smaller dose. The symptoms of Dilaudid withdrawal can include abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, muscle aches and pains, chills, loss of appetite, insomnia, diarrhea and sweating.

Lifestyle and Behavioral Signs Someone is On Dilaudid

When someone is on Dilaudid, particularly if they’re abusing the drugs, they may be able to keep specific physical symptoms of their use hidden from the people around them, but there are also lifestyle and behavioral signs someone is on Dilaudid or abusing prescription drugs in general. These can include:

  • Forging prescriptions for Dilaudid or visiting many doctors to receive multiple prescriptions
  • Stealing from family or friends
  • Spending a lot of money when purchasing Dilaudid illegally
  • Lying or becoming defensive about the use of Dilaudid
  • Isolation from friends and family
  • A decline in performance at school or work
  • Problems keeping commitments including personally and professionally
  • Being obsessed with getting the next dose of Dilaudid
  • Buying Dilaudid online or illegally on the street

It’s important for people to note that with Dilaudid and many similar prescription painkillers, it doesn’t necessarily have to take a long time for tolerance to develop. Individuals who use Dilaudid, even if they follow their prescription, may find that they become tolerant to the drug just two or three doses after starting to use it.

Combining Other Drugs with Dilaudid

In addition to someone being on Dilaudid and abusing it on its own, it also becomes particularly dangerous when it’s combined with other substances. If someone is on Dilaudid recreationally, they may pair it with benzodiazepines or alcohol, and all of these drugs depress the central nervous system. When they’re combined with one another, it can lead to very dangerous or deadly side effects including a slowdown of breathing and heart rate.

Another problem that comes with someone being on Dilaudid and abusing the drug is that it may lead them to use other opioids, such as heroin. Prescription opioids can become a gateway drug for heroin because heroin tends to be cheaper and easier to get, while having similar effects.

If you suspect someone close to you is on Dilaudid, it’s important to speak with a medical professional or an addiction specialist, because there is a high likelihood of overdose and other serious health problems that come with the misuse of this prescription opioid.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.