Hydromorphone is the generic name of the powerful opioid commonly known as the brand name, Dilaudid. Used to treat intense, severe pain, hydromorphone is only suggested for short-term use due to the high risk for abuse.
Hydromorphone is close to 10 times stronger than morphine. It is usually only prescribed when the pain has not responded to other opioids, like Vicodin, codeine, and morphine.
Commonly abused in suburban and rural areas, Dilaudid is known on the streets as smack, dust, juice, and dillies.
How Hydromorphone Abuse Begins
People tend to begin taking opioids due to an injury or trauma. Hydromorphone abuse usually begins this way.
Because the intense effects of the drug usually kick in within 15 minutes, it is a good option for people struggling with seemingly untreatable pain.
Tolerance can emerge quickly, leaving the person compelled to increase their dose or take a dose early in order to relieve their pain. As the dosage increases, risk for dependence goes up as well and can lead to addiction.
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Taking prescription hydromorphone puts a person at risk for opioid abuse, especially if tolerance or dependence to hydromorphone has occurred.
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), hydromorphone is typically found illegally by doctor shopping, forging fake prescriptions, theft, armed robberies, and illegal deals with doctors and pharmacies.
Ways People Abuse Hydromorphone
Taking hydromorphone in a way that is not prescribed is considered substance abuse, with or without a prescription.
Hydromorphone may be abused by:
- taking hydromorphone with other substances
- crushing and snorting
- injecting the drug
- adding dosages or pills to dosages
Signs Of Hydromorphone Abuse
Hydromorphone abuse results in euphoria, calm, and elation. This is a result of the way hydromorphone affects the brain.
Hydromorphone fully attaches to the opioid receptors in the brain. This causes a rush of dopamine and euphoria associated with opioid abuse.
Recognizing hydromorphone abuse can be difficult. Treating chronic pain can make a person appear more alert, pleasant, active, and happy. This makes it seem like they are not taking a CNS depressant.
However, over time, there are some clear symptoms of hydromorphone abuse that will usually emerge, such as:
- stomach pain
- dry mouth
- sweating excessively
- flushed face/skin
Another way to tell if a person is abusing their hydromorphone prescription is if they run out of their pills before the date of refill. This is a good indication that they are not taking their medication as prescribed.
Mixing Hydromorphone And Other Substances
Some people who abuse prescription medications, like hydromorphone, have a tendency to mix medications, or combine the pills with alcohol.
Unfortunately, they don’t realize that while attempting to get high, they are placing themselves at high risk for overdose and death.
Mixing hydromorphone with other CNS depressants (alcohol, benzodiazepines, barbiturates) is dangerous. The body can slow down excessively, which can result in system failure, oxygen deprivation, and even death.
Combining hydromorphone and stimulants like cocaine, Adderall, or methylphenidate, can be devastating as well. This mixture of substances can cause dehydration, heart dysrhythmia, and heart failure.
When taking hydromorphone, it is important to discuss any other medications or substances you may be taking with the prescribing doctor.
Otherwise, there are a number of side effects that may occur, such as:
- trouble breathing
- heart failure
- collapsed veins
Once tolerance and dependence occur, a person may begin engaging in behaviors that indicate addiction.
These behaviors may include:
- intense cravings for hydromorphone
- tolerance to hydromorphone
- experiencing withdrawal without hydromorphone
- taking increasing amounts of hydromorphone
- being unable to stop or lower hydromorphone dose
- avoiding social situations to continue abuse of hydromorphone
- hydromorphone abuse having negative impact on responsibilities and/or health
- continue abusing hydromorphone despite the negative impact
Physical symptoms commonly occur when a person has a dependence on or addiction to hydromorphone.
High doses of hydromorphone can impact the body in the following ways:
- issues swallowing
- hoarse voice
- breathing problems
- sexual dysfunction
- low sex drive
- irregular menstruation
- sleeping in inappropriate situations
Symptoms Of Hydromorphone Overdose
Excessive amounts of hydromorphone significantly affect heart function, breathing, and oxygen supply. Overdosing on hydromorphone can slow breathing and heart rate so much that these systems can fail entirely, resulting in death.
If a person is suspected of taking hydromorphone and is displaying any of the following symptoms, seek emergency medical services immediately:
- weak pulse
- shallow breathing
- pinpoint pupils
- muscle spasms
- bluish lips or fingertips
- clammy skin
Many emergency medical personnel carry Narcan in their vehicles, and it is becoming more common to see everyday people carrying Narcan, just in case. This medication can reverse the immediate symptoms of opioid overdose.
Even if a person receives Narcan during a hydromorphone overdose, it is important to seek medical attention afterward.
Treatment For Hydromorphone Addiction
Specialized treatment facilities offer specific treatment for opioid use disorders (OUD), like hydromorphone abuse or addiction. Equipped with detoxification units that are medically supervised, residents are able to safely detox from opioids.
During detox, medical staff may prescribe a variety of medications and supplements to ease withdrawal symptoms. Antidiarrheal and anti-nausea meds are commonly given, while prescription meds like benzodiazepines, buprenorphine, and naltrexone may also be prescribed.
After detox is over, it is strongly recommended that a person continue to a substance abuse treatment facility. While detox is a good precursor to rehab, it is not a treatment program, and should not be treated as such.
To treat a hydromorphone addiction, a person should seek a program that is certified as an opioid treatment program (OTP). These OTP programs are regulated to ensure that each resident receives treatments that have shown to be effective in the treatment of opioid addiction.
During an OTP, each resident is granted access to a number of different rehabilitation services, including medical, vocational, educational, and counseling, in addition to substance abuse treatment.
Getting Treatment For Hydromorphone Addiction
Hydromorphone addiction can be difficult to address without a substance abuse treatment program.
At Swift River, we offer a state-of-the-art treatment program specifically designed to treat heroin and opioid addiction. We realize that helping someone stop abusing opioids is only part of the solution.
Our professional staff is trained to effectively evaluate and address co-occurring disorders that are so often coupled with opioid addiction.
Using cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing techniques, specialized adventure therapy, and one-on-one interventions, we set you on a path toward the life we know you deserve.
We work hard to help you understand the root of your addiction and how to manage the stress of life while maintaining sobriety. Contact us today to learn about the available treatment options here at Swift River.
- Department of Health and Human Services — Integrating substance abuse treatment and vocational services
- Canadian Medical Association Journal — Fatal overdoses involving hydromorphone and morphine among inpatient: a case series
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — Assessing and Addressing Opioid Use Disorder (OUD)
- U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration — Hydromorphone
- American Society of Health-Systems Pharmacists — Drug Shortages-Hydromorphone Injection
- Health and Human Services — National Opioid Crisis Information