The biggest risk of Dilaudid use is addiction. Due to its powerful nature, Dilaudid can quickly lead to tolerance and dependence even with legitimate use. Once tolerance forms, abuse is more likely.

Even when taken properly, Dilaudid can cause serious breathing problems, and this risk is amplified when abused.

What are the hydromorphone side effects and what happens after a period of dilaudid abuse?

What Is Dilaudid?

Dilaudid is a popular brand name for the drug hydromorphone. Hydromorphone is an opioid analgesic (painkiller). Its primary intended purpose is to treat severe pain.

While there are extended-release forms of hydromorphone, Dilaudid specifically comes either in an immediate-release solution or immediate-release tablets. This means that its effects last for a few hours.

The risks associated with opioids, and Dilaudid specifically, are many. It is a serious drug that should only be taken as necessary and as prescribed. While it certainly has a place in medicine, its place is highly specific, and it should be used with caution.

The Danger Of Opioids

Much has been said about the dangers of opioids as a whole. Doctors generally try to be very careful when prescribing them. Only patients who truly need them should ever be taking them.

This caution has been continually proven justified. Regarding Dilaudid, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) notes that before the rise of hydrocodone and oxycodone abuse (two other powerful opioid analgesics), hydromorphone was the leading opioid being used illicitly.

Opioids are prone to abuse. They numb pain and can give users a rush of euphoria. This rush is amplified by higher doses, but the drug loses strength with continual use, as tolerance forms. This drives people who abuse opioids to use more and more for the same effect, thereby increasing the chances of overdose.

Legitimate medical use can lead to physical dependency. A person will then go through withdrawal if they suddenly stop taking Dilaudid.

If a person abuses Dilaudid or other opioids, they are very likely to grow addicted and much more dependent on the drugs than if they had used them as prescribed. For this reason, be sure to discuss any history of drug abuse with your doctor if you are prescribed painkillers.

But what are the side effects of Dilaudid?

Short-Term Effects Of Dilaudid

Hydromorphone can cause severe breathing problems, especially within 24 to 72 hours of first use or if abused. It is imperative you report any prior breathing or lung problems to your doctor before taking Dilaudid. This includes conditions like asthma.

Call 911 Immediately If You Or Someone You Are With Experiences Any Of The Following Symptoms After Taking Dilaudid:

  • Slowed or stopped breathing
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Coma
  • Muscle weakness
  • Clammy skin
  • Narrowing or widening of the pupils
  • Slowed or stopped heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting

The above can be signs of an overdose or dangerous breathing irregularities.

More common side effects of Dilaudid use include the following:

  • Joint problems
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty having a bowel movement
  • Anxiety or feelings of discouragement
  • Clumsiness
  • Drowsiness
  • Itching
  • Heavy sweating
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Dry mouth

Report any severe or long-lasting symptoms to your doctor immediately, as they may be cause for concern. This includes any thoughts of suicide or severe depression, as those should be dealt with immediately and in a healthy manner.

Report Any Of The Following Symptoms To A Doctor Immediately:

  • Rash or hives
  • Swelling
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Breathing problems
  • Hoarseness
  • Hallucinations
  • Fever
  • Confusion
  • Inability to get or keep an erection
  • Irregular menstruation
  • Decreased sexual desire
  • Seizures
  • Chest pain
  • Lightheadedness when changing positions

Long-Term Effects Of Dilaudid

Hydromorphone can have some effects over time that need to be considered.

Some of the side effects described above could be long-lasting. They may persist or become worse over time. Report any significant change for the worse to a doctor as soon as possible, or call 911 if you feel in immediate danger.

Other long-term effects of Dilaudid include:


Over time, you will build a tolerance to Dilaudid and may require a higher dose to achieve the same level of pain relief. Never self-prescribe more medication just because your medicine doesn’t have the same effect. Discuss your concerns with your doctor about needing a higher dose. They may switch you to a different medication or prescribe alternative pain management options.

Chronic constipation

Using hydromorphone or other opioids for a long time can lead to severe constipation. You may need to take laxatives or consume more fiber to mitigate this issue. Report severe constipation to your doctor. Consult a professional, even if the solution is an OTC medication or relatively safe dietary supplement. Severe constipation can be dangerous over time, even resulting in permanent damage to the gastrointestinal tract.


Once you’ve been on Dilaudid for a few weeks, it is likely your body has grown dependent on it. This means you will experience physically uncomfortable and potentially even dangerous withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking it suddenly.

When it is time to stop taking Dilaudid, discuss this with your doctor. They will help you gradually reduce your dose.

Withdrawal From Dilaudid May Trigger The Following Symptoms:

  • Stomach and bowel problems
  • Fast breathing
  • Fast or irregular heart rate
  • Teary eyes and runny nose
  • Restlessness and difficulty sleeping
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Chills and excessive sweating

Opioid withdrawal is notoriously difficult. Stopping use cold turkey after a period of sustained use is not recommended. Doctors will prescribe a gradual reduction in dosage to taper you off the medication.

Dilaudid Overdose Symptoms

One of the most dangerous Dilaudid side effects is overdose. Your doctor may prescribe Dilaudid (hydromorphone) to reduce the risk of overdosing. A high dose can be taken accidentally, but the risk is greatly reduced compared to abusing the drug. You are more likely to experience this side effect if you combine Dilaudid with other central nervous system depressants like alcohol or benzodiazepines.

Before taking Dilaudid, you should let your doctor know if you are taking any other drugs. It is important to take Dilaudid according to the prescription. Your tolerance may increase if you take opioids for several weeks or in high doses. Overdose and dependency can occur when taking excessive doses of Dilaudid.

Dilaudid overdose can be a serious medical emergency. If you experience any of the following symptoms, seek medical attention right away:

  • Drowsiness
  • Sedation
  • Slow pulse
  • Stomach pains
  • Slow breathing
  • Stopped breathing
  • Passing out
  • Coma
  • Seizures
  • Muscle weakness
  • Vomiting

You should call 911 immediately if you notice or experience any of these signs. An operator will guide you to what you should do until help arrives.

How Much Dilaudid Can Cause an Overdose?

Hydromorphone (Dilaudid) is an effective pain reliever. There are currently three strengths of Dilaudid available on the market: 2 milligrams, 4 milligrams, and 8 milligrams. The strength of Dilaudid is between two and eight times greater than that of morphine. Taking Dilaudid at a concentration above 75 ng/ml can be lethal. The usual dosage of Dilaudid is 2 mg to 4 mg (milligrams).

Another factor to consider is how long you have been taking Dilaudid or other opioids. The drug will be more tolerable for those experienced with hydromorphone than those who have never used it before, making an overdose less likely. The likelihood of your doctor prescribing Dilaudid is low if you have never taken opioids before.

Dilaudid is often prescribed in cases when patients have become tolerant to oxycodone, morphine, or hydrocodone. Dilaudid most commonly causes overdoses by taking higher doses than prescribed by a doctor or mixing it with drugs like benzodiazepines or alcohol.

What Are the Risk Factors of a Dilaudid Overdose?

The risk of overdosing with Dilaudid is low if you take it as directed by a doctor. Even so, knowing who is at risk of overdosing on Dilaudid is important. Several factors may increase your risk of overdosing on opioids:

  • Opioid use disorders
  • Taking the drug with other substances like alcohol
  • Taking the drug in high doses
  • Relapsing into opioid use after a period of abstinence
  • Getting Dilaudid from an illegal source

Discuss any medications you are taking and any concerns you may have with your doctor before taking Dilaudid. If you become dependent on this medication or addicted to it, help is available.

Serious Drug, Serious Caution

Dilaudid should only be used as prescribed. It should not be used when it is no longer needed. If you feel your pain has lessened significantly or that you otherwise no longer need to take Dilaudid (even if a milder painkiller might still be helpful), discuss this with your doctor. Do not stop taking Dilaudid on your own without first discussing your concerns with your physician.

Dilaudid is a drug that can wear on the body with long-term use. It can potentially be dangerous, and it can draw legitimate users to abuse it if they are not careful.

Even so, it has legitimate medical uses, and it is an essential medication for those who need it. It should be used with caution under medical supervision only.

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