Dilaudid (Hydromorphone) is a legal opiate (narcotic) analgesic prescribed by doctors to relieve pain. It functions by altering how the central nervous system responds to pain signals.
Dilaudid should only be prescribed to people who are experiencing severe pain, are expected to need pain-relief medication 24 hours a day for a long time, and who cannot be treated by other, milder analgesic medications.
Dilaudid can be habit-forming and must be taken exactly as directed by your doctor. Taking a larger dose, or taking dilaudid more frequently or for a longer period of time than prescribed, will lead to physical dependence and addiction.
Understanding Dilaudid Abuse
According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, Dilaudid “belongs to a class of drugs called ‘opioids,’ which includes morphine. It has an analgesic potency of two to eight times that of morphine, but has a shorter duration of action and greater sedative properties.” Dilaudid can also act as a cough suppressant.
Dilaudid is available in tablets, oral solutions, rectal suppositories, and injectable formulations. Individuals taking dilaudid recreationally may abuse the drug by taken them in these forms, or by crushing and dissolving the tablets in an injectable solution that can be used as a substitute for heroin.
When used without a doctor’s prescription, dilaudid is taken by people seeking relaxation, sedation, feelings of euphoria, and reduced stress and anxiety. Addiction develops from both physical and psychological dependence.
Dilaudid attaches to opioid receptors in the brain, blocking pain signals. Because opioid receptors are located in the brain’s reward center, this causes the brain to release more dopamine, commonly known as the “feel-good” chemical. Seeking to repeat this experience will lead to addiction, which the National Institute on Drug Abuse describes as “a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by inability to stop using a drug despite damaging consequences to a person’s life and health.”
Signs and Symptoms of Dilaudid Abuse
Some signs and symptoms of dilaudid addiction may include:
- Needing to refill a prescription earlier than scheduled
- Changes in appearance or hygiene
- Changes in eating habits
- Mental clouding
- Isolation from family and friends
- Nervousness and restlessness
- Changes in mood
- Lack of interest in activities the user previously enjoyed
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, dilaudid may cause side effects such as:
- difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- dry mouth
- heavy sweating
- muscle, back or joint pain
- stomach pain
Some, more serious side effects may also occur, such as:
- Rash or hives
- swelling of the eyes, face, lips, tongue, mouth, throat, arms, hands, feet, ankles, or legs
- difficulty breathing or swallowing
- agitation, hallucinations (seeing things or hearing voices that do not exist), fever, sweating, confusion, fast heartbeat, shivering, severe muscle stiffness or twitching, loss of coordination
- nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, or diarrhea
- weakness, or dizziness
- inability to get or keep an erection
- irregular menstruation
- decreased sexual desire
- chest pain
- extreme drowsiness
- lightheadedness when changing positions
Dangers of Dilaudid Abuse
Sustained use of dilaudid will create a tolerance for the drug, forcing addicts to increase their dosage to experience the same effects. Taking large amounts of dilaudid will increase the number and severity of side effects, and cause the user to run a much greater risk of fatality.
Drinking alcohol with dilaudid or taking it in combination with other drugs will increase the likelihood of adverse effects, including fatalities.
The Drug Enforcement Agency explains that “acute overdose of hydromorphone can produce: severe respiratory depression, drowsiness progressing to stupor or coma, lack of skeletal muscle tone, cold and clammy skin, constricted pupils, and reduction in blood pressure and heart rate. Severe overdose may result in death due to respiratory depression.”
Who Abuses Dilaudid?
A person of any age, gender, financial status, or ethnicity can become addicted to dilaudid. According to The National Institute on Drug Abuse, “regular use—even as prescribed by a doctor—can produce dependence, and when misused or abused, opioid pain relievers can lead to fatal overdose. The current epidemic of prescription opioid abuse has led to increased use of heroin, which presents similar dangers.”
Addicts may take dilaudid to combat feelings of anxiety, to self-medicate depression, or to enjoy feelings of euphoria, but eventually users require larger doses to simply avoid suffering withdrawal symptoms such as restlessness, sleep problems, muscle and bone pain, vomiting, diarrhea, cold flashes with goosebumps, involuntary leg movements, anxiety and depression.
When used legally, under a doctor’s instructions, dilaudid can improve a patient’s quality of life during illness or recovery from surgery or injury. But overuse and abuse will lead to addiction, and serious mental and physical consequences.
Because this medication is prescribed by doctors, some users mistakenly believe that dilaudid is harmless, and non-addictive. Dilaudid is only safe when taken in a dosage determined by a medical doctor, to treat a specific medical concern. When you use dilaudid to self-medicate or get high, addiction occurs.
Am I Addicted to Dilaudid?
If you fear that you are addicted to dilaudid, read and honestly answer the questions below:
- Do I abuse dilaudid every day?
- Do I abuse the drug in order to combat feelings of unhappiness, loneliness, depression, etc.?
- Have friends or family members mentioned more than once that they are worried about my drug use?
- Do I become hostile or angry when they do so?
- Do I ever experience side effects as listed above, or withdrawal symptoms such as: an inability to feel pleasure, feeling irritable or anxious, sweating, runny nose, yawning, muscle aches, fatigue and/or difficulty sleeping, thoughts of suicide, fast heartbeat, intense cravings, enlarged pupils, loss of appetite, chills, nausea, stomach pain or diarrhea?
- Do I feel like I can’t have fun, be normal, or complete everyday tasks without dilaudid?
- Am I secretive about my drug use, and/or do I lie about when I use or how much I take?
- Do I need more and more dilaudid each time I abuse the drug in order to feel its effects?
- Have I experienced any major problems in the last year, such as a breakup, job loss, car accident, family problems, financial problems, or getting arrested as a result of my drug use?
- Despite these problems, do I feel unable to stop using dilaudid on my own?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you may be addicted to dilaudid and in need of professional help.
Dilaudid Addiction Treatment
Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease. The NIDA explains that “repeated drug use changes the brain, including parts of the brain that enable you to exert self-control. These and other changes can be seen clearly in brain imaging studies of people with drug addictions.”
This is why addicts require professional help to break the cycle of addiction. The treatment specialists at a qualified drug and alcohol rehab are trained in how to manage substance abuse issues and lead addicts safely to recovery.
There are a wide variety of affordable treatment options available, but all of them begin with abstaining from drug use.
Detoxification is the first step to any recovery plan. A person needs clarity of mind and a body free from addictive substances before they can be effectively treated. Because withdrawing from dilaudid can be very unpleasant, detoxing in a rehab center under the care of medical professionals is ideal. A doctor will likely have you taper off of dilaudid gradually, to minimize withdrawal symptoms.
Whether addicts choose inpatient residential treatment, and/or outpatient treatment, all substance abuse recovery plans will include talk therapy.
Individual therapy allows patients to work intensively on issues specific only to them, while group therapy allows them to both support and experience support from other addicts who are struggling with similar challenges. Family therapy is a valuable tool to ensure individuals encounter the best possible environment at home, to prevent relapse.
Other treatment options include:
- Treatment for co-occurring conditions: most addicts suffer from undiagnosed mental health issues that underlie and fuel their substance abuse. These co-occurring disorders must be addressed as a part of recovery.
- 12-step meetings: Meetings based on the 12-step program that originated with Alcoholics Anonymous are an invaluable resource to support long term sobriety.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy: CBT teaches patients to retrain their brains with new methods of coping with stress and cravings, and avoiding trigger situations
- Nutrition, fitness and recreational therapy: a strong body is just as important as a strong mind when it comes to long-term recovery. The better a person feels, the more prepared they will be to handle life as it comes.