Hydromorphone (Dilaudid) Abuse, Addiction, And Treatment Options

Hydromorphone, otherwise known as Dilaudid, is a highly potent opioid. Each time it is abused, the risk of overdose and/or death increases. Treatment for Dilaudid addiction needs to be integrated, individually tailored, and address all aspects of dependence and addiction.

What Is Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)?

Hydromorphone, better known by the brand name Dilaudid, is a synthetic opioid narcotic medication that is 5-6 times more potent than morphine and three times more potent than heroin. It is intended for treating severe pain after injuries or post-surgery.

Because Dilaudid is effective at reducing pain while inducing feelings of euphoria, it is often abused. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration have warned about safety issues with the entire family of opioid medications. In 2014, 10.3 million people reported using prescription opioids recreationally (non-medically), and more than 28,000 people in the U.S. died from opioid abuse. Seventy percent of opioid users reported that they had used abused prescription opioids like Dilaudid before transitioning to heroin.

To avoid further increases in Dilaudid addiction and overdose rates, it’s important to make sure each person who needs addiction treatment has access to it. We can work toward helping more people receive the treatment they need to overcome addiction by making inpatient drug rehab treatment more accessible, and making information and resources more readily available.

Signs of Dilaudid Abuse

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “Approximately 1.9 million Americans met criteria for prescription painkillers use disorder based on their use of prescription painkillers in 2016.” Hydromorphone, or Dilaudid, attaches to opioid receptors in the brain, producing feelings of euphoria or elation. The user begins to want more and more of the same pleasure-producing effects, which results in dependency or addiction.

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Common signs of Dilaudid abuse include:

  • Tolerance—the need to take more of the medication for the same pain relief
  • Physical dependence—symptoms of withdrawal occur when the medication is stopped
  • Constipation
  • Nausea, vomiting, and dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Low levels of testosterone that can result in lower sex drive, energy, and strength
  • Itching and sweating
  • Weight loss
  • Suppressed breathing

How Is Dilaudid Abused?

According to the Center on Disease Control, “In 2013, on the basis of DSM-IV diagnosis criteria, an estimated 1.9 million persons abused or were dependent on prescription opioid pain medication.” Dilaudid is prescribed primarily for people with moderate to severe pain after a surgery, cancer, trauma/brain injuries, or burns. Some people initially start taking Dilaudid as prescribed but may eventually become addicted when the drug is taken for an extended period of time.

Certain brain processes occur when using Dilaudid that may result in dependency or addiction. One of the main regions activated by opioids is the mesolimbic reward center. This system is in charge of the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for experiencing pleasure. This pleasurable feeling causes a desire to continue taking Dilaudid. Long-term use leads to chronic changes in the brain that constitute a full-fledged addiction.

Street names for dilaudid and dilaudid combination drugs include:

  • D
  • Dillies
  • Footballs
  • Juice
  • Smack

One of the biggest risks of Dilaudid is abusing pills bought on the street. These street forms are being bought and sold to naïve buyers with little knowledge of the dangers of the drug. From 1999-2014, more than 165,000 persons died from opioid medication-related overdoses in the U.S.

What Are The Different Types of Dilaudid?

Dialudid is available in a couple of different forms, with strict directions on how it is to be administered. Failure to take the medications prescribed may have fatal consequences.

The following types of hydromorphone are available on the market:

  • Oral Dilaudid (Hydromorphone pill): comes as a prescription from a medical professional with specific instructions on use. According to the CDC, “In 2012, health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid pain medication, enough for every adult in the United States to have a bottle of pills.”
  • Intravenous Hydromorphone (Sublimaze): typically used in hospitals after surgery, injecting dilaudid puts the drug directly into the bloodstream for faster results. Abuse of any drug by injection is dangerous because of the quick reaction time.

People who end up abusing Dialudid often start with oral use (pills) and then move to faster routes of intake, such as injecting, as tolerance increases and more potent forms of are needed to maintain abuse patterns. It is rare to find injectable forms of Dilaudid sold on the street; pills are the most commonly abused form of Dilaudid.

Side Effects of Dilaudid Abuse

Hydromorphone abuse produces and immediate feeling of euphoria or elation also referred to as a “high.”

Physical side effects of hydromorphone abuse may include:

  • Muscle aches
  • Fever
  • Sweating.
  • Chills
  • Constipation and/or diarrhea
  • Slowing of breathing
  • Confusion
  • Dependence
  • Addiction

In cases of overdose, Dilaudid can cause cardiac arrest, respiratory arrest, coma, and death.

Mental and emotional side effects of Dialudid abuse may include:

  • Negative consequences in a person’s life and health
  • Lack of interest in social activities
  • Depression and suicidal thoughts
  • Preoccupation with taking the drug
  • Financial hardship and stress

What Are The Risks of Dilaudid Addiction?

Hydromorphone is a Schedule II narcotic and can lead to physical dependence or addiction. Powerful and highly addictive opioids like Dilaudid can be extremely uncomfortable to come off of. The user may relapse due to extreme cravings while trying to detox or experiencing withdrawal.

People who have grown dependent or addicted to Dilaudid will experience painful withdrawal symptoms, which may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness.
  • Muscle aches or twitching
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • A runny nose
  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • Hot/cold flashes
  • Yawning
  • Shaking
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia

Opioid overdose is life-threatening and may result in death. Call 911 immediately if a person displays any of the following signs:

  • Their face is extremely pale and/or feels clammy to the touch
  • Their body goes limp
  • Their fingernails or lips have a purple or blue color
  • They start vomiting or making gurgling noises
  • They cannot be awakened or are unable to speak
  • Their breathing or heartbeat slows or stops.

What Treatments Are Available For Dilaudid Addiction?

Dilaudid is highly addictive but options for treatment are available. The first step in recovery from Dilaudid addiction is detox, followed by more long-term inpatient or outpatient treatment. Detox may or may not include medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Each person is assessed individually before a particular treatment is given. After completing detox, individuals may choose to seek an inpatient drug rehab, which ranges from 30–90 days or longer, or to a short-term outpatient program.

Opioid addiction affects not only the body but other aspects as well, such as decision-making, emotions, relationships, and finances. This may require an extended stay in a drug rehab inpatient facility where a person has access to professional help.

Drug rehab may offer a range of care with specific treatments tailored to the individual, which is most effective in treating addiction. Counseling and other forms of behavioral therapy are the most commonly used interventions and treatment plans are often modified according to the patient’s needs.

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Addiction treatment may offer a variety of clinical and therapeutic services including:

  • Individual counseling– Counselors employ different modalities such as, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR), and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT).
  • Family counseling and education– Family members are often encouraged to engage in the patient’s treatment by attending family and educational sessions.
  • Recreational activities– Fitness workouts, outdoor excursions, movies, games, and sober activities can be a component of treatment.
  • Adventure therapy– Physical activities enhance such as challenge courses build resilience.
  • Mindfulness– Yoga, meditation, acupuncture, and other holistic practices may be offered in some facilities.
  • Nutritional education– Groups related to improving diet habits nutrition.
  • 12-step meetings– AA, NA, and other 12-step meetings may be attended while in treatment.
  • Relapse prevention– Recovery maintenance groups are generally offered to help clients stay sober after leaving treatment.
  • After-care planning– Treatment team members and medical staff work together to assess clients’ needs and develop an ongoing treatment plan upon discharge from the program.

Dilaudid addiction is a problem no one should have to face on his or her own–risk of overdose is life-threatening. With the right treatment program, you can overcome opioid addiction and dependence, and build a drug-free life. Recovery is possible.

Contact one of our treatment specialists today to find a treatment program that best suits your needs.

National Institutes of Health - Hydromorphone

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration - Rx Pain Medications

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