Dilaudid is the brand name for a drug containing hydromorphone hydrochloride. Hydromorphone is an opioid medication that doctors typically prescribe to treat moderate to severe pain. According to the US National Library of Medicine, hydromorphone works by changing the way the brain perceives and responds to painful stimuli.
Like other opioids, hydromorphone is incredibly addictive; however, abusing Dilaudid can be more dangerous than abusing other prescription painkillers because of its potency. It is more powerful than morphine. A report originally published in Pharmacy & Therapeutics discusses the high number of mix-ups that occur between morphine and hydromorphone in clinical settings, which often lead to devastating consequences. For example, a 69-year-old male who was prescribed 10 mg of morphine and received 10 mg of hydromorphone — equivalent to about 65 mg of morphine — died from cardiac arrest later that night.
Who Abuses Dilaudid?
Dilaudid is one of the most powerful synthetic opioids available, and even people who take it as directed by a doctor can build up a tolerance to it in a matter of weeks. When individuals have a tolerance for hydromorphone, they have to take more of it to experience the same initial effects, which can quickly lead to dependence, abuse, and addiction. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in 20 people in the United States reported using prescription painkiller medication for nonmedical reasons at some point in 2010. There are a variety of psychological, biological, and sociological factors that increase an individual’s risk of developing an addiction, but at the end of the day, anyone can suffer from hydromorphone addiction.
Psychological factors that can lead to substance abuse and addiction include past abuse, underlying trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety. According to a study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, individuals suffering from bipolar disorder and panic disorder may also be more likely to abuse opioids. In addition, opioid addiction can incite or worsen psychological conditions like depression, as a review originally published in Biological Psychiatry points out.
Biological risk factors of hydromorphone abuse include a genetic predisposition to addiction. Sociological factors include accessibility to the substance and maintaining relationships with peers who abuse it.
When doctors prescribe Dilaudid, they monitor their patients closely for signs of abuse, but that does not mean they can always identify it or prevent it from morphing into an addiction. In addition, not everyone who takes Dilaudid has a prescription for it. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that in 2011, 54 percent of people who abused prescription drugs obtained them for free from a friend or relative.
Risks of Dilaudid Abuse
Dilaudid is available as a regular tablet, an extended-release tablet, and an intravenous liquid. Individuals can chew, inject, swallow, or snort Dilaudid to get high. Regardless of the delivery method, there are serious risks to abusing hydromorphone for any period of time. Individuals who abuse Dilaudid are at risk of:
- Addiction: Addiction is characterized by the inability to stop using a substance despite any negative effects that occur. It is typically preceded by physical dependence and can develop in a matter of weeks, but a psychological addiction to hydromorphone can develop even sooner than that.
- Overdose: If an individual takes too much Dilaudid or mixes it with the wrong substances, it can be fatal. According to the CDC, there were nearly 19,000 deaths that involved prescription opioids in 2014, which represents a significant increase from 16,000 deaths in 2013.
- Accident: Dilaudid can lower inhibitions and response time, which could cause devastating accidents. Individuals who are under the influence of hydromorphone should not drive or operate heavy machinery. Even just completing simple tasks around the house can result in serious injuries while on Dilaudid.
- Financial issues: Maintaining an addiction to Dilaudid is expensive, and the side effects make it hard to keep a job, which means financial issues often arise.
- Relationship issues: Addiction is a disease, and those who are suffering from it need all the support they can get; however, it can be hard on loved ones, and some relationships struggle under the strain of substance abuse.
- Loss of motivation or passion: When individuals are suffering from addiction, their sole focus is acquiring more of the substance they are addicted to. That means they may lose the motivation to pursue their goals, and they will no longer have passion for things they once loved.
Abusing Dilaudid is dangerous, and the consequences can be severe, but it is never too late to seek help. The first step to entering recovery is identifying and acknowledging that the problem exists in the first place.
Signs of Dilaudid Abuse
The most dangerous side effects of Dilaudid are respiratory depression and apnea. Less common but still potentially dangerous side effects include shock, cardiac arrest, and circulatory depression. Other negative side effects of hydromorphone are dizziness, sedation, lightheadedness, nausea, vomiting, and dry mouth. Individuals who abuse Dilaudid by taking it more frequently and in larger-than-safe doses increase their risk of experiencing these negative side effects every time they use.
Loved ones can protect those who abuse hydromorphone by identifying their struggle as early as possible and encouraging them to attend treatment. Individuals who are abusing hydromorphone may exhibit certain symptoms, including:
- Constricted pupils
- Nausea and vomiting
There are also signs of addiction in general that loved ones can look out for. These include:
- Doctor shopping
- Failing to keep up with responsibilities at home or work
- Neglecting friends and family
- Spending excessive amounts of money on Dilaudid
If a loved one exhibits signs of Dilaudid abuse or addiction, it is important to remember that there is always hope. There are a variety of ways to treat hydromorphone addiction, and there are typically three main phases of doing so: detox, a treatment program, and aftercare.
Because hydromorphone is an opioid, withdrawal can be painful, but it is rarely life-threatening. Regardless, individuals should not attempt to quit Dilaudid on their own. In an ambulatory detox program, clients have access to medical professionals who will monitor them for complications and ease the worst withdrawal symptoms.
Following an effective detox period, many clients find success in a treatment program that offers various types of therapy. In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, individuals gain the tools they need to identify and change negative behavior patterns that contributed to their addiction in the first place. In Motivational Interviewing, clients take a proactive approach to their treatment by overcoming ambivalence. Other forms of therapy that may help include family therapy and group therapy.
A critical component of any treatment program is establishing an aftercare plan. A good aftercare plan identifies the support structure that the client has in place and contains steps for avoiding triggers that might prompt the individual to relapse in the future. Overcoming Dilaudid addiction may be challenging, but friends and family members can make it easier for loved ones by offering their support and encouragement every step of the way.