Opioids are effective medications that are used in pain relief and pain management. However, the recent opioid crisis is a testament to the risk of narcotic medications. Though taking these drugs as prescribed is relatively safe, long-term use or abuse can lead to dependence and addiction. It’s important to understand the difference between opioid medications and their effects. Fentanyl and Dilaudid are two common opioid pain relievers. What are they and how do they compare?
What Is Dilaudid?
Dilaudid is the trade name for a drug called hydromorphone, which is an opioid medication. Hydromorphone is used to treat moderate-to-severe pain symptoms, and it’s usually reserved for short-term therapeutic use. In some cases, it can be used to treat long-term pain symptoms that cancer causes.
Dilaudid can cause euphoria and sedation, especially when it’s taken in high doses. If it’s abused, the drug can lead to chemical dependence and addiction. In very high doses, it can cause a loss of consciousness, slowed heart rate, and respiratory depression.
Abusing prescriptions like Dilaudid can lead to the use of illicit substances like heroin. When prescription opioids become too hard to obtain, people with severe opioid use disorders often turn to illicit sources. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, nearly 80 percent of heroin users report starting their substance abuse with prescription opioids.
What Is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that’s used to treat moderate-to-severe pain symptoms. As a synthetic opioid, it’s made in a lab without the use of naturally occurring opioids like morphine or codeine. Fentanyl is typically used in medical settings and in battlefield settings to treat severe pain. It can also be prescribed as a transdermal patch. Fentanyl begins to work quickly, even compared to other opioids. For that reason, it’s an effective painkiller to use in response to acute pain like a severe injury.
Fentanyl is also produced by secret laboratories that are involved in the illegal drug trade. The drug is cheap and easy to produce and transport. Because it’s so powerful, it can be moved in smaller packages that may be as profitable as larger packages of other illicit opioids like heroin. This can make it difficult for law enforcement to detect fentanyl that’s being smuggled in shipments.
As a recreational drug, fentanyl causes effects that are similar to other opioids like heroin. It can cause intense physical and cognitive euphoria, sedation, relaxation, and pain relief. However, it’s more powerful than other illicit opioids, so it’s also more likely to cause adverse effects like respiratory depression.
How Do They Compare?
Both Dilaudid and fentanyl are used for similar purposes. They can both be used to treat pain and encourage restfulness in recovery. Dilaudid can take up to a half-hour to begin working before it lasts for several hours. Fentanyl works faster, sometimes within a minute, depending on the route of administration. However, fentanyl’s pain-relieving effects will start to diminish within 90 minutes. For that reason, Dilaudid is more often used in pain management, while fentanyl is more useful in emergency situations.
One of the clearest differences between the two drugs is their relative strength. An oral tablet of Dilaudid is about 2 to 4 milligrams. The same dose of fentanyl could cause a deadly overdose. Fentanyl is effective at the microgram level, and a 100-microgram dose of the drug is equal to an average dose of morphine (10 mg). So, it’s about 100 times stronger than morphine, while Dilaudid is not quite twice as strong as morphine.