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Dilaudid Addiction & Abuse

Written by Erica Weiman

& Medically Reviewed by Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD

Medically Reviewed

Up to Date

This article was reviewed by a medical professional to guarantee the delivery of accurate and up-to- date information. View our research policy.

Last Updated - 6/17/2022

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Dilaudid is a prescription brand name for the opioid hydromorphone. It’s prescribed as a pain-reliever, typically for moderate to severe pain caused by broken bones, cancer, surgery or other conditions that cause pain.

Dilaudid is like all other opioids in that it comes with a risk for dependence, abuse and addiction despite its benefits for pain relief. Even if you take it as prescribed by a doctor, Dilaudid use can still lead to abuse and addiction.

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What Is Dilaudid Used For?

Dilaudid is FDA-approved to treat pain that is severe enough to require an opioid and pain that can’t be adequately treated with non-opioids. This can include cancer pain and post-surgical pain.

Dilaudid Dosage

Dilaudid is the brand name for a fast-acting form of hydromorphone. It is usually prescribed every 4–6 hours as needed, but may be prescribed more frequently in cases of severe breakthrough pain that is not adequately controlled.

Dilaudid is available in several different doses and dosage forms:

 TabletOral LiquidInjection
Available in health care facilities only  
Available for outpatient use 
Doses available2, 4, 8 mg5 mg/5 mL0.1, 1, 2 mg/mL

Hydromorphone is available in other long-acting opioids sold as generic drugs, or under other brand names like Exalgo. In general, the long-acting forms are taken either once or twice a day.

How Long Does Dilaudid Stay in Your System?

The effects of Dilaudid can last 4–5 hours after a dose. However, the drug can be detected in your system for much longer, depending on what is being tested:

  • Urine: Dilaudid can be found in urine for up to three days after the most recent dose.
  • Blood: Dilaudid is detectable in urine for almost four hours after a dose.
  • Hair: A 1.5-inch hair sample can contain traces of Dilaudid for 90 days.
  • Saliva: Dilaudid can show up in saliva for up to two days.

Is Dilaudid Addictive?

Dilaudid is a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning that it carries a high risk of abuse, addiction and dependence. For this reason, the FDA strongly recommends limiting Dilaudid to the lowest dose for the shortest period of time. Typically, after surgery, this should be three days or fewer.

Dilaudid vs. Morphine

Although Dilaudid and morphine are both opioids prescribed for moderate to severe pain, there are important differences between the two drugs. Morphine is a natural opioid derived from the opium poppy. In contrast, Dilaudid is a semi-synthetic opioid, meaning it is partially derived from the opium poppy, and partially made in a lab.

Dilaudid is four times more potent than morphine, but its effects don’t last as long. However, because both drugs are Schedule II controlled substances, the DEA considers them equally risky for addiction potential.

Overall, morphine is prescribed more often than Dilaudid. In 2019, American doctors wrote more than 3.7 million morphine prescriptions and two million hydromorphone prescriptions.

Side Effects of Dilaudid

Dilaudid’s side effects are similar to those of other opioids:

  • Constipation
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Sedation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Flushing
  • Mood changes
  • Dry mouth
  • Itching

Dilaudid Overdose

As a potent opioid, Dilaudid carries a significant overdose risk. For this reason, it is important to only take Dilaudid that has been prescribed for you, and to not take a higher dose than prescribed or take it more often than prescribed. Doing so can put you at risk of an overdose. A Dilaudid overdose is a medical emergency that can be fatal. Overdose symptoms include:

  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Severe drowsiness
  • Small pupils
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Slow breathing

If you suspect someone is overdosing on Dilaudid, give them naloxone (Narcan) if available and call 911 immediately. 

Dilaudid Withdrawal

If you take Dilaudid on a regular basis, it is possible for your body to adapt to the presence of the drug and expect its presence. This is known as physical dependence. If you suddenly stop taking Dilaudid, you will likely experience withdrawal symptoms.

Dilaudid withdrawal can start anywhere from 8–24 hours after the last dose of the drug and can last up to 10 days.

Dilaudid Withdrawal Symptoms

Dilaudid withdrawal symptoms are similar to other opioids and can be very unpleasant, making the withdrawal process difficult if you don’t have help. Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep problems
  • Hot and cold flashes
  • Sweating
  • Muscle cramps
  • Runny eyes and nose
  • Diarrhea

Dilaudid Detox

Quitting Dilaudid on your own can be uncomfortable, and withdrawal symptoms and cravings can make it difficult to stay sober and avoid relapse. For this reason, if you or a loved one want to quit Dilaudid, a medical detox program can help.

In Dilaudid detox, you are admitted to a detox facility with round-the-clock care from doctors and nurses who can treat your withdrawal symptoms as soon as they arise. Medication-assisted treatment with methadone or buprenorphine is often available to help you recover from Dilaudid use.

At the Recovery Village Ridgefield, our 16-bed detox center outside Portland, Oregon can help you undergo detox in a comfortable setting. Our team of dedicated medical staff helps you heal as soon as you are admitted. We also provide counseling and treatment for co-occurring disorders like depression.

We are here when you are ready.

Speak with a Recovery Advocate today to talk about your treatment options.

Dilaudid Addiction Treatment

If you have a Dilaudid use disorder, it’s essential that you receive treatment as soon as you possibly can. The Recovery Village Ridgefield offers medically-supervised detoxresidential treatmentpartial hospitalizationoutpatient treatment and aftercare programs as part of our Dilaudid treatment approach. Effective aftercare is essential, and we make sure that you are prepared to transition back into your normal life with the help of groups like SMART Recovery or Narcotics Anonymous.

Located in the Cascade Mountains, near Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington, The Recovery Village Ridgefield provides the perfect serene backdrop for patients to focus on their healing and find their way to recovery. Contact us today to speak with one of our compassionate addiction specialists about your recovery.


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