Hydromorphone Addiction and Abuse

What is Hydromorphone?

Hydromorphone is an analgesic opioid, most notable for its sedation properties and short lifespan. Its lifespan refers to the short action that takes place within the body and is the reason why a Hydromorphone addict will need to take doses of the drug repeatedly (between short intervals) in order to maintain its effect, as well as avoid the onset of withdrawal symptoms. Studies have shown that hydromorphone’s analgesic capability is far more potent than that of morphine, which makes the drug a potent painkiller.

Hydromorphone can be obtained legally via prescription, or illegally purchased on the streets. However, because of its highly addictive nature, the drug’s sale and purchase is closely controlled by government regulations.

What is hydromorphone used for?

Hydromorphone is frequently marketed under the brand name Dilaudid. It’s typically used in clinical medicine as a prescription for alleviating pain caused by surgery, cancer, broken bones or other medical conditions. It works by influencing neurotransmitters and chemical reactions in your brain.

Your use of hydromorphone or Dilaudid might have started safely under prescription, but because the drug is a highly addictive opioid, you may after a period of time develop a tolerance to it, which might progress to physical addiction. Hydromorphone dependence is a tricky condition that should be reported to your doctor as soon as it is noticed, so that treatment can be provided to save you from any complications.

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Other names for hydromorphone

On the street, hydromorphone or Dilaudid is commonly referred to by a variety of names. Some of the more common street names include juice, dust, smack, D, footballs, dillies, dilly, dill, Big D, Hydro, M-2. Super 8, M-80s, Moose, Hospital Heroin and White Triangles.

Causes of hydromorphone addiction

Due to its opioid nature, when hydromorphone is ingested, it affects the body by altering how your brain responds to pain. The drug is capable of easing discomfort and mitigating pain. It can also trigger euphoric sensations or a state of being ‘high’.

While the drug might be effective for medical use, it’s also dangerous because of how easy it is to develop an addiction to it. Substance dependence can be caused by using hydromorphone irresponsibly for a long period of time, especially if you are using it in doses that exceed your prescription.

To use hydromorphone safely, it’s best to only use it when prescribed and according to the prescription of a licensed and responsible medical professional.

If your body has developed a physical dependence on hydromorphone, it might find it difficult to readjust to functioning without the influence of the drug and this will lead to the manifestation of withdrawal symptoms. Commonly seen hydromorphone withdrawal symptoms include restlessness, shaking, sweating, insomnia, involuntary muscle movements, cold flashes and irritability.

Methods of use of hydromorphone

Hydromorphone is typically found in tablet form, for oral ingestion. Addicts often also crush the pill to snort or inject it to heighten its effects. Some other individuals use the drug by taking it as a suppository. Hydromorphone or Dilaudid suppositories are usually available in an oblong shape.

Common drug combinations

Polydrug use – or combining medication with the aim of increasing its potency – is a very dangerous act. This is because the chemical components of certain substances can interact in unexpected (and at times fatal) ways. If you are prescribed hydromorphone by a doctor, it’s important to honestly state if you are using any other medication, so that the doctor can inform you if using Hydromorphone is still safe.

If you frequently consume alcohol, taking hydromorphone can lead to adverse substance interactions and dangerous health complications. This is because alcohol is a depressant that, when combined with opioids like hydromorphone,can lead to an increased risk of accidental overdose and even death. There can also be a variety of unpleasant short-term side effects.

A mix of alcohol and hydromorphone will impact your nervous system and lead to drowsiness, light-headedness, dizziness and impaired judgement. Other complications can include fainting, low blood pressure, difficulty breathing and possible coma. Due to the fact that both substances can impair cognition, taking more than intended is wholly possible and can lead to a fatal overdose.

Therefore, it’s best to not combine hydromorphone with alcohol or other similar substances. Combining opioids with other substances can also worsen addiction and lead to more severe withdrawal symptoms, in the event you choose to quit.

The risks of hydromorphone abuse

You can develop a physical dependence on opiates like hydromorphone without actually becoming addicted. This can also happen to people who are using the drug as prescribed, showing just how potent it is.

If you develop a physical dependence on the drug, your body will be tricked into thinking that it cannot function properly without it and will begin to exhibit withdrawal symptoms. This is a clear sign of addiction, which can negatively alter the course of your life.

For proof that hydromorphone can wreak havoc on your life and general health, take a look at the following statistics:

  • In 2014, opioid abuse led to 19,000 deaths in the U.S alone
  • In 2011, according to the DEA, hydromorphone was the cause for more than 18,000 emergency room visits

This clearly shows that hydromorphone isn’t a substance that should be taken lightly or abused for recreational purposes

What does it mean to be addicted to hydromorphone?

Addiction to hydromorphone can be brought about by prolonged use of the drug. Addiction will become apparent as you develop compulsive drug-seeking habits, without regard for the consequences of your actions or how they affect those around you.

Clear signs that you have developed a hydromorphone addiction include:

  • Using false pretences to obtain more hydromorphone or more money to source the drug
  • Inability to focus or cope with activities at work, school or other social settings
  • Having trouble fulfilling financial obligations, as buying more drugs becomes sole priority
  • Isolating yourself from loved ones or spending more time with other addicts
  • Development of new, risky behaviours

Hydromorphone activates opioid receptors and thus triggers a dopamine release in your brain. This will lead to experiencing the pleasurable sensations of euphoria and ease. Because of these sensations, you may continue to take hydromorphone with the aim of recreating such feelings. If you stop using the drug after you’ve developed dependence, withdrawal symptoms will set in and you’ll need to use more of the drug to make them go away.

Spotting hydromorphone abuse

If you or a loved one have been abusing hydromorphone or Dilaudid, you will likely have noticed the following symptoms of abuse:

  • Blood pressure changes
  • Dizziness and balance problems
  • Drowsiness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Lethargy
  • Nausea
  • Problems with digestion
  • Slowed breathing
  • Tremors

These symptoms will be most apparent after a person has just finished using Dilaudid, and they will likely dissipate within a few hours. If you’re witnessing the symptoms frequently, then the person in question is more than likely abusing hydromorphone regularly.

Hydromorphone Abuse: Signs and symptoms

Despite the apparent health risks, several people still abuse hydromorphone, with the aim of enjoying its intoxicating effects. Some of the effects of the drug you can see being exhibited include:

  • Decreased anxiety and worry
  • Drowsiness
  • Intense pleasure
  • Physical relaxation and decreased tension

Not all symptoms of hydromorphone abuse are pleasant however, as you can also exhibit the following side effects:

  • Anxiety
  • Constipation
  • Decreased appetite
  • Feeling light-headed or dizzy
  • Headache
  • Hyperalgesia or worsening pain
  • Increased sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Vomiting
  • Major depressive disorder

Many of these effects could occur even if using the drug according to prescription. However, abusing the drug will more than likely lead to an acceleration of these effects.

Health risks from hydromorphone addiction

Because of its short lifespan, one of the greatest health risks of abusing hydromorphone is an overdose. Hydromorphone overdose can be life threatening. The best response in such a scenario is to seek immediate emergency care.

Other health complications that abusing Hydromorphone can give rise to include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Chest pain
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Fainting
  • Seizures
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness/light-headedness
  • Insomnia
  • Gastrointestinal problems (nausea, vomiting and constipation)
  • Pain in muscles or joints
  • Irregular menstruation
  • Decreased libido

Aside from physical complications, abusing Hydromorphone can also give rise to mental and behavioural disorders. For instance, you can experience:

  • Increased anxiety
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Auditory or visual hallucinations
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Short-term effects of hydromorphone

Hydromorphone is known to cause a variety of unwanted and potentially life-threatening side effects. These effects are more pronounced or dangerous in instances where the drug is taken alongside other substances, such as depressants.

Because using hydromorphone triggers a large release of dopamine in the brain, you can easily become addicted to the sensation brought on by the drug and use it repeatedly to enjoy the pleasurable sensation. However, the pleasures of using Hydromorphone come at a high cost, as the drug also causes a variety of side effects.

Injecting or consuming hydromorphone orally will lead to the drug’s effects being felt within 30 minutes or less, depending on your physiology. The effects can last for up to five hours or more, depending on the dose. Some of the short-term effects include:

  • Decreased feelings of pain
  • Decreased stress and anxiety
  • Drowsiness
  • Euphoric high
  • Increased physical relaxation

For the duration of the drug’s effects, you will likely appear subdued and exhibit slowed speech and movements.

Long-term effects of hydromorphone

As earlier stated, the enjoyable short-term effects of abusing hydromorphone come at a cost. Using the drug over time can result in a variety of intense side effects. For instance, symptoms of anxiety will likely only worsen with time if drug usage is continued, and self-medicating will only conceal underlying mental health concerns.

Abusing hydromorphone in high doses can lead to respiratory depression, with less oxygen getting to the brain. The periods of oxygen shortage to the brain can over time lead to lasting brain damage or even a coma.

Hydromorphone abuse can also potentially lead to long-term impairment of:

  • Decision-making skills
  • Behaviour regulation
  • Response to stress
  • Ability to naturally feel pleasure

These symptoms might be reversed with time after quitting the drug.

The most dangerous long-term effect is the possibility of death, brought on by an overdose.

How to help a loved one with a hydromorphone addiction

If you suspect a loved one is abusing or addicted to hydromorphone, the best thing to do is to take immediate action by orchestrating an intervention. An intervention involves confronting the addict and showing them how their drug habit is affecting them and all those around them. It’s important to do this as soon as possible and to commit to it until the addict agrees to receive help.

If you’re unsure how to go about staging an intervention, you can contact an addiction helpline to arrange expert help.

Co-occurring disorders

Most individuals who suffer from a hydromorphone addiction also battle with some form of undiagnosed mental illness. Examples of mental or behavioural disorders that exist alongside hydromorphone addiction include:

  • Alcoholism
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depressive disorders
  • Other substance abuse disorders
  • Schizophrenia
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Cost of hydromorphone addiction

Hydromorphone addiction is a costly habit to maintain – not just financially, but also in the way affects relationships in the home and at work. Addiction can take over your entire life and lead to you being unable to function properly as a member of society.

Your family relationships and friendships will likely suffer due to your addiction, as you start to avoid friends and family and become more distant. Your education or professional career will also suffer, as you are unable to pay attention to what’s at hand, with your mind constantly focused on how to obtain more drugs andwhere your next dose is coming from.

Instead of paying the high cost of addiction and letting it consume you, it’s best to seek a wholesome recovery that will let you repair any damage and move on to a happy and healthy life that’s not influenced by drugs.

Hydromorphone withdrawal

If you’ve been taking increased doses of hydromorphone during your period of abuse, you’re likely to have developed substance dependence. This means you experience a need to use the drug in order to feel like you can function normally. This can happen to anyone who has used hydromorphone over an extended period, including someone using the drug according to prescription, but it is a more common occurrence amongst substance abusers.

If you’ve become hydromorphone dependent, you will experience withdrawal symptoms whenever you stop using the drug or even if you try decreasing your dosage or frequency of use. Because of the severe discomfort that can be experienced during withdrawal, most addicts just keep on using the drug in order to stave off withdrawal symptoms.

Symptoms of withdrawal

Signs of hydromorphone withdrawal are similar to those experienced during withdrawal from other opioids. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Chills
  • Cramps
  • Diarrhoea
  • Elevated blood pressure and heart rate
  • High levels of pain
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Rapid breathing
  • Restlessness
  • Sweating
  • Teary eyes and runny nose
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness

The above symptoms can begin to manifest within a few hours (or days) after your last hydromorphone dose. They could occur sooner, depending on how you typically abuse the drug.

How to quit hydromorphone

To ensure withdrawal symptoms are not too intense during the detox process, it’s best to go through a medically assisted detox. Medication to help ease your withdrawal symptoms will be provided by medical professionals to ensure your detoxification process isn’t unbearable.

Also, instead of having to quit hydromorphone ‘cold turkey’, a schedule for gradually weaning you off the drug can be provided. That is, instead of you having to suddenly quit taking the drug, your doses will be gradually tapered off over a number of days, until you’renot taking the drug at all. With this approach to slowly weaning you off the drug, it is possible you may experience little to almost no withdrawal symptoms.

Hydromorphone withdrawal timeline

The effects of hydromorphone can be felt in as little as 15 minutes if taken orally. Withdrawal symptoms can begin to manifest soon as the drug has been processed out of the body and this can take as little as six hours after the last dose. However, there are cases where individuals don’t begin to experience withdrawal symptoms until a few days after quitting the drug. Others experience restlessness and anxiety within hours after their last dose.

By the second day after symptoms begin to manifest, physical withdrawal symptoms tend to peak. Some might experience a decrease in symptoms by the third or fourth day, but symptoms may continue for up to a week or two. Severity of symptoms and duration of withdrawal is often dependent on a number of factors, especially severity of the addiction before quitting, physiology of the abuser and whether Hydromorphone was being combined with other drugs.

Hydromorphone addiction treatment

Withdrawal symptoms from quitting hydromorphone aren’t usually dangerous, but they can be very uncomfortable. If you’re going through withdrawal without medical assistance or supervision, you’re more likely to suffer a relapse in an attempt to escape opioid withdrawal symptoms.

A medically assisted detoxification can help reduce the discomfort of withdrawal, as well as minimise the risks and avoid any health or mental complications. Upon completion of detoxification, you can receive further treatment via the following:

  • Inpatient treatment: This is intensive short-term care that focuses on stabilising a recovering addict medically and psychiatrically.
  • Outpatient therapy: Different types of treatment are used to help you recover. You can leave the drug rehabilitation centre each day after receiving treatment.
  • Residential recovery assistance: This is a longer-term form of treatment that’s delivered in a safe and comfortable environment.
  • Recovery housing: An example is a sober living house, where rules are less rigid and you can easily make the transition back to independent living whilst recovering.
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When to contact a medical professional

If you’ve been abusing hydromorphone and intend on quitting, it’s best to consult a medical professional before you begin. This way, you can go through a medically assisted detox, which isn’t only safer but also a more effective approach to overcoming substance dependence.

Medical detox for hydromorphone

A medically assisted detox programme can help effectively manage and ease withdrawal symptoms with the aid of a variety of medication, including:

  • Clonidine: This can be used to reduce some withdrawal symptoms without producing any intoxicating effects.
  • Methadone: This is an opioid agonist that’s capable of mitigating withdrawal symptoms without producing a ‘high’.
  • Buprenorphine: This a partial opioid agonist with the capability of relieving withdrawal discomfort and reducing cravings.
  • Probuphine: This is a buprenorphine implant that releases the drug gradually over the course of six months.
  • Naltrexone: This is best administered after detox and is capable of blocking the effects of opioids. If administered too soon after the last dose of Hydromorphone, it may intensify withdrawal symptoms.


What is hydromorphone?

Hydromorphone is an analgesic opioid drug with sedative properties. It is highly addictive and has a short half-life. The drug can be obtained legally (via prescription) or can be illegally purchased on the street.

How is hydromorphone used?

Hydromorphone can be ingested orally as a pill or in liquid form. Some people crush the pill into powder form to snort it or choose to mix it with liquid in order to inject it. It’s also available as a suppository in an oblong shape.

What does hydromorphone look like?

Hydromorphone is available in pill form. The pill can be found as small, three-sided white tablets or round, coloured tablets. In its liquid form, the drug is a colourless solution that’s slightly viscous or pale yellow in appearance.

Is hydromorphone addictive?

As an opioid, hydromorphone is highly addictive. This is apparent in how a physical dependence can be easily developed after using the drug for a long period of time, even iftaken according to your prescription. If you try quitting hydromorphone after an addiction has developed, you’ll experience a variety of withdrawal symptoms that can range from mild to severe.

Who abuses hydromorphone?

Hydromorphone is usually prescribed to people suffering from chronic pain. Such people are usually at most risk of abusing the drug – especially if they use it in a manner that exceeds the prescription. Studies have also shown that a significant number of adolescents as young as 12 – as well as adults – have abused hydromorphone or another type of opioid drug at some point in their lives.

How can I spot hydromorphone addiction?

These are the symptoms of hydromorphone addiction:

  • Declining interpersonal relationships
  • Inability to quit the drug successfully, even though aware it is causing harm
  • Lower levels of happiness in life
  • Mental and physical health complaints that are worsening
  • Problems attending to typical priorities
  • Problems with law enforcement
  • Reduced ability to perform or focus at work and school

Is hydromorphone harmful?

Because of its short lifespan, one of the greatest health risks of abusing hydromorphone is the risk of an overdose. Hydromorphone overdose can be life-threatening and the best response in such a scenario is to seek immediate emergency care.

Other health complications that abusing hydromorphone can lead to include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Chest pain
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Fainting
  • Seizures
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Gastrointestinal problems (nausea, vomiting, constipation)
  • Pain in muscles or joints
  • Irregular menstruation
  • Decreased libido

Where else can I find help?

Hydromorphone addiction shouldn’t be taken lightly and it isn’t something you should try overcoming on your own. If you believe you’ve developed a physical addiction to the substance, then contact your doctor, an addiction helpline or rehabilitation centre.

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