Dilaudid vs. Oxycodone: Which is Better for Pain Management?

There are so many prescription painkillers available at this point that it can become confusing and even overwhelming to know the right option for you. The following provides an overview of two commonly prescribed drugs, which are Dilaudid and oxycodone.

Dilaudid vs. Oxycodone: Which is Better for Pain Management?
  • Both Dilaudid and Oxycodone are strong painkillers available only by prescription to treat pain that won’t respond to over the counter pain medicines.
  • Oxycodone is a narcotic analgesic that is potent but also has a high abuse potential.
  • Dilaudid is hydromorphone hydrochloride, which is closely related in many ways to morphine.
  • In general, both oxycodone and Dilaudid can be classified as narcotic analgesics, and they come in varying strengths.
Before looking at the specifics of Dilaudid vs. Oxycodone, it’s important to have an understanding of what each of these drugs is and how it acts, independently of comparing it to the other.

Dilaudid, also called hydromorphone hydrochloride is a controlled substance and prescription pain reliever. It acts as an opioid agonist, which means it delivers pain relief by binding to opioid receptors. An example of a pure opioid agonist is morphine, and Dilaudid is closely related and acts in a way that’s very similar to morphine. Other members of this class of medicines include oxycodone, as well as fentanyl, codeine, and hydrocodone.

All opioid agonists share some features in common including the fact that they not only provide pain relief but also euphoria, a sense of relaxation and feelings of well-being. When someone takes Dilaudid, it reduces the pain signals that are sent to their brain, while simultaneously changing how they emotionally respond to pain.

There are varying dosing options with Dilaudid, which can include liquid or tablet forms of the medicine, and how much a person takes depends on factors like the strength of the dose. There is a liquid concentrate version of Dilaudid that is for people who are opioid tolerant. This means they’ve been treated with other opioids for at least a period of a week. If someone who is not opioid tolerance takes the liquid concentrate version of Dilaudid, they may experience adverse side effects or even death.

Hydromorphone, which is the key active ingredient in Dilaudid has been approved by the FDA since 1984, but there are some people who shouldn’t take this drug including:

  • People with brain disorders like seizures or brain injuries
  • Patients with breathing problems like asthma or sleep apnea
  • Anyone with mood or mental disorders including depression
  • People with kidney or liver disease
Oxycodone is also an opioid pain medicine available by prescription and used to treat pain that’s severe. Oxycodone is available in different versions including immediate release and controlled release. OxyContin is one version of controlled-release oxycodone.

Unfortunately, people often abuse OxyContin by crushing up the controlled release tablets and snorting them or dissolving them and injecting them. This gives this a rapid, powerful high.

As with Dilaudid and other opioids, oxycodone works by suppressing the central nervous system, and this can lead to respiratory depression, overdose, coma, and death, so it’s important for people to be very careful with this drug and take it only as instructed by their physician.

Dilaudid is usually stronger than equivalent doses of oxycodone. According to The World Health Organization’s three-step treatment ladder for cancer, the first step would be a non-opioid medicine, and then the next step would be a mild opioid like codeine. After that, the final step is a powerful opioid which could include either oxycodone or hydromorphone.

A few things to note about Dilaudid vs. Oxycodone, and the two drugs in general:

  • Hydromorphone is actually stronger than morphine, and it’s fast-acting as compared to other pain medicines, so there tends to be a higher potential for abuse than with oxycodone, although both are frequently abused
  • Dilaudid tends to have fewer side effects than morphine, such as rashes
  • Oxycodone tends to work well for break-through pain or use on an as-needed basis, while the longer lasting versions can provide around-the-clock pain relief
  • Oxycodone is also considered stronger than morphine, so this is something it has in common with Dilaudid
  • When looking at Dilaudid vs. oxycodone, both can cause constipation, and in some cases, it can be severe
  • Dizziness and drowsiness are two common symptoms of both Dilaudid and oxycodone
  • Long-term of use of Dilaudid and oxycodone can lead to addiction and dependence

Finally, with both Dilaudid and oxycodone, the user will most likely need to be weaned off slowly if they’ve used it for more than two weeks to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Dilaudid vs. Oxycodone: Which is Better for Pain Management?
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