What Is Dilaudid Used to Treat?

Dilaudid — the brand name for hydromorphone — is an opioid pain reliever that is legally available only by prescription. In 2012, American doctors wrote 3.9 million prescriptions for Dilaudid, per the Drug Enforcement Administration Office of Diversion Control.

Dilaudid entered the American drug market way back in 1926, two years after its development by German scientists. At the time, it was hoped Dilaudid would be more effective at relieving pain than morphine while bringing fewer side effects in tow with it. It has been long held as an effective pain reliever for surgical patients and chronic pain sufferers.

Dilaudid and all other prescription opioid pain relievers were added to the list of drugs included on the Controlled Substances Act when it was passed in 1970. Despite the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors noting that 9.7 percent of treatment admissions in 2012 cited prescription opioid painkillers as their primary substance of abuse, the Food and Drug Administration approved stronger doses of Dilaudid in 2012 for pain sufferers. Per Medscape, the 32 mg XR tablets were designed to be even more tamper-resistant.

Who Needs It?

Dilaudid is typically prescribed for the treatment of moderate to intense pain. It is often given to surgical patients in recovery and those who are trying to cope with persistent pain from injury or another disorder.

One of the biggest downsides of using Dilaudid, especially long-term, is its ability to interfere with pain receptors down the

road. How much you use and for how long have a strong impact on how your central nervous system manages pain. While the drug can alleviate this pain in the interim, coming off Dilaudid can bring serious side effects during withdrawal that persist for years on end. In essence, the mind can actually forget how to effectively manage pain without the drug if you’re on it for too long or abusing it in large doses.

Who Is Abusing It?

Unfortunately, many who suffer from injuries or persistent pain may be prescribed Dilaudid again and again. It doesn’t take long for dependency to take hold. In fact, tolerance can develop in as short as a few weeks. Thus, many who are addicted to Dilaudid ended up that way after taking it for real pain they were experiencing. Some will go on to misuse these drugs, and they aren’t always doing it intentionally. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration notes that in a 2013 survey 4.5 million Americans reported past-month misuse of prescription pain relievers.

The elderly population is a demographic that frequently misuses prescription medications. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence notes prescriptions for opioid painkillers were dispensed to some 8.5 million elderly Americans in 2012. Oftentimes, doctors are quick to refill prescriptions for months and years on end, especially to someone who is older and viewed as less likely to fit the stereotype of a drug addict.

Those who suffer from mental illness are also more likely to abuse medications. The majority of the 29 percent of people with mental illness who engage in substance abuse — per the Helpguide — do it as a way of self-medicating to cope with symptoms. Many are often oblivious to their underlying health problems and assume symptoms like anxiety and depression are just a natural part of their personality that they can do nothing about.

Among treatment admissions for opioid painkiller abuse, individuals aged 25 to 34 make up the largest demographic, followed by 18 to 24 year olds and 35 to 44 year olds, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


If you suspect someone you love may be hooked on Dilaudid or you may be, look for the following warning signs of addiction:

  • Tolerance
  • Inability to cut back
  • Failure to quit when attempting to do so
  • Using to avoid withdrawal
  • Opting to use Dilaudid instead of spending time with family and peers
  • Persistent drug use even though it’s causing harm to you and those you love

Many who abuse Dilaudid end up suffering serious side effects, such as respiratory depression and coma. Those who crush and subsequently snort or inject the extended-release version of Dilaudid are often predisposed to the worst of potential adverse events. Even when you take Dilaudid as it is prescribed for you, using it over a lengthy period of time can allow dependency to occur.

Overdose-related deaths are a real consequence, too. In 2010, 16,651 people died as a result of opioid overdose, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes. There are steps you can take to safeguard you and your loved ones from this kind of fate.

Ditching Dilaudid

Treating an opioid addiction is fairly straightforward for most addicts. The most common method of treatment involves placing the recovering party on a safer opioid medication that permits the person to slowly withdraw from Dilaudid over a lengthy period of time. Methadone is often the first in line for medicated treatment among prescribing physicians. Success rates have been reported to be as high as 60 to 90 percent, per the California Society of Addiction Medicine.

Buprenorphine-based drugs like Suboxone and Subutex work in the same fashion as methadone. Daily doses of these drugs are administered, but they aren’t as controlled and don’t require regular trips to clinics. Last but not least, naloxone has been growing in popularity among treatment professions who recognize it for its ability to reduce the effects of an overdose by essentially overturning it. In one study of 99 addicts treated with both buprenorphine and naloxone, 45 percent of the sample population was clean at the six-month mark, per the Annals of Family Medicine.

Detox from opioids can take a year or longer. During that time, you should not just assume that you can go on with life as though nothing happened. Whether you stay on a medicated treatment plan long-term or not, you need reinforcements to back you up and deter you from relapse — which is still very possible even while on methadone or buprenorphine. Comprehensive treatment, via one-on-one therapy and group therapy, is needed to address the reasons behind the Dilaudid abuse.

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You can recover from Dilaudid abuse and addiction. You just need to reach out for help. Call us today for a more in-depth analysis of what we can do to help you get on a path to sobriety.

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