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Updated on August 8, 2022

Dilaudid vs Morphine Comparison

Dilaudid vs. Morphine: What’s the Difference?

Dilaudid (hydromorphone) and morphine are both prescription drugs that treat moderate to severe chronic pain. They belong to a class of drugs called opioid analgesics.5 These prescription opioids affect the brain by changing how your body feels and reacts to pain.

While hydromorphone is often mistaken as the generic name for morphine, both are different.12

Sixty-two percent of the time these drugs are mixed up, morphine is prescribed but hydromorphone is given in error.12

Doctors are prescribing morphine less often, while hydromorphone is increasing in medical and surgical situations.4

The main difference is that hydromorphone is stronger, so people need less of it to achieve the same pain-relieving effects. But both drugs are potent opioids for pain management that should be consumed with caution.

Here’s what you should know about them.

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What is Dilaudid?

Dilaudid (hydromorphone) is a prescription medication made from morphine. 2 Doctors, especially in hospital settings, prescribe it to some people for pain relief.7

Dilaudid binds to opioid receptors in the central nervous system. It works by activating reward centers in the brain and releasing endorphins. This camouflages your perception of pain.11

The most common brand names of hydromorphone include Dilaudid and the following:7

  • Dilaudid-5
  • Exalgo
  • Palladone

There are different forms of hydromorphone. It comes in IV (injection) liquid form, tablets, and extended-release capsules.7

Generally, hydromorphone in liquid form is consumed every 3 to 6 hours. Tablets are usually taken every four to 6 hours. Extended-release capsules are typically taken once daily around the same time. Your doctor will prescribe the right dose for you.7 Never take it more often than prescribed.

What are the side effects of Dilaudid?

The side effects of Dilaudid vary from person to person. They may include, but aren’t limited to, the following:7

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Exhaustion
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Drowsiness
  • Sweating
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Back pain
  • Stomach pain
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Flushing
  • Itchiness
  • Rash or hives
  • Swelling of the eyes, face, mouth, or throat
  • Swelling of the arms, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs
  • Nausea with or without vomiting
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Changes in menstruation
  • Low libido
  • Fainting
  • Seizures
  • Sedation
  • Coma
  • Serious and potentially life-threatening breathing issues

Call your healthcare provider if you’re taking Dilaudid and experience trouble breathing. This includes slowed breathing, shortness of breath, and long pauses between breaths.

You should let your doctor know if you have or had asthma or a lung disease that can complicate breathing. You should notify your doctor about any of the following conditions before taking Dilaudid, as well as:7

  • Head injury (any injury that ups the pressure in the brain) 
  • Brain tumor
  • Kyphoscoliosis (a condition characterized by the curving of the spine, which can cause breathing problems)
  • Malnourishment
  • Low blood pressure

Certain medications can interact with Dilaudid. Talk to your doctor if you’re also taking any of the following:7

  • Benzodiazepines (Xanax)
  • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
  • Clonazepam (Klonopin)
  • Diazepam (Diastat or Valium)
  • Estazolam
  • Flurazepam
  • Lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Oxazepam
  • Temazepam (Restoril)
  • Triazolam (Halcion)
  • Medications for a mental illness
  • Medications for nausea
  • Other narcotic pain medications
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Sedatives or sleeping pills
  • Tranquilizers

You also shouldn’t drink alcohol while taking Dilaudid. Drinking alcohol while taking this prescription medication increases your risk of life-threatening side effects.7

You can report any other side effects you experience to the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) at 1-800-FDA-1088 or online at dailymed.nlm.nih.gov.1

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Can you get addicted to Dilaudid?

Dilaudid can become habit forming, particularly with prolonged use. It’s essential to only take Dilaudid as prescribed.7

Some signs of addiction to Dilaudid include the following:7

  • Taking Dilaudid more often than prescribed
  • Taking higher doses of the pain medication than prescribed
  • Drug cravings (other than for treating pain) 

What happens if you overdose on Dilaudid?

Call the poison control helpline at 1-800-222-1222 for medical help. You can also find information and resources online at https://www.poisonhelp.org/help.

Symptoms of an overdose include the following:7

  • Slow or shallow breathing
  • Slowed or stopped heartbeat
  • Sleepiness
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Cold or clammy skin
  • Narrowing or widening of the pupils
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting

If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, seek emergency medical attention by dialing 911.

What is Morphine? 

Morphine is a prescription medication that treats severe and long-lasting pain.9, 10

The most common brand names of morphine include the following:8

  • Avinza
  • Kadian
  • Kadian ER
  • Morphabond
  • MS Contin
  • Oramorph SR
  • Roxanol
  • Roxanol-T

Like Dilaudid, there are different types of morphine. It also comes in liquid form and extended-release tablets.10

In general, morphine as an oral solution is taken every four hours. Extended-release capsules are typically taken every 8 to 12 hours or 12 to 24 hours, depending on the brand.10

You should consult your healthcare provider about the right dose for you. Don’t take morphine in any form more often than prescribed.

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What are the side effects of Morphine?

The side effects of morphine range in severity. They may include, but aren’t limited to, the following:10

  • Drowsiness
  • Stomach pain
  • Cramps
  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth
  • Mood swings
  • Small pupils
  • Difficulty or pain when urinating
  • Chest pain
  • Low libido
  • Fainting
  • Rash or hives
  • Swelling of the eyes, face, mouth, or throat
  • Nausea with or without vomiting
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Changes to menstruation
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Sedation
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Serious and potentially life-threatening breathing issues 

Call your doctor if you’re taking morphine and experience any severe symptoms. 

Before taking morphine, let your doctor know if you have or had conditions that affect your breathing. You should notify your doctor about any of the following conditions:10

  • Head injury (any injury that ups the pressure in the brain) 
  • Brain tumor
  • Kyphoscoliosis (a condition characterized by the curving of the spine, which can cause breathing problems)
  • Malnourishment
  • Paralytic ileus (when digested food doesn’t move through your intestines)
  • Blockages in your stomach or intestines
  • Seizures
  • Prostatic hypertrophy (a male reproductive gland enlargement)
  • Urinary issues
  • Low blood pressure
  • Addison’s disease (when the adrenal gland doesn’t make enough of some natural substances)
  • Problems with the liver, kidneys, pancreas, thyroid, or gallbladder

Some medications can also have bad interactions with morphine. Tell your doctor if you’re taking any of the following:10

  • Benzodiazepines (Xanax)
  • Cimetidine (Tagamet)
  • Diazepam (Diastat or Valium)
  • Estazolam
  • Flurazepam
  • Lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Triazolam (Halcion)
  • Any medications for mental illness
  • Any medications for nausea
  • Other narcotic pain medications
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Sedatives or sleeping pills
  • Tranquilizers

Like Dilaudid, you shouldn’t consume alcohol if you’re taking morphine. Doing so increases your risk of experiencing dangerous side effects.10 You can report any other side effects you may experience to the FDA.

Can you get addicted to Morphine?

It’s possible to get addicted to morphine.3 The signs of morphine addiction are the same signs as a Dilaudid addiction.10 Because morphine can be a habit-forming drug, only take it as prescribed.

If you’re worried about addiction or have a history of addiction, consult your doctor about alternative treatment options.

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What happens if you overdose on Morphine?

Call the poison control helpline at 1-800-222-1222 to answer any medical questions about morphine overdose. You can also head to https://www.poisonhelp.org/help for more information.

Symptoms of a morphine overdose are the same as a Dilaudid overdose:

  • Slow or shallow breathing
  • Slowed or stopped heartbeat
  • Sleepiness
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Cold or clammy skin
  • Narrowing or widening of the pupils
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting

Again, if you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, call 911 for emergency medical help.

Which Drug is Stronger?

Dilaudid is two to eight times more potent than morphine. It has a shorter duration, but it causes greater sedation.6 Because both dilaudid and morphine are potent drugs, it’s important to only use them as prescribed.

Treatment Options for Addiction

Opioid analgesics can be addictive. These drugs activate powerful reward centers in the brain, which can feel good and cause cravings.

If you or someone you know is struggling with Dilaudid or morphine addiction, help is available. Drug addiction treatment options include:

  • Inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation centers
  • Support groups
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Holistic therapies
  • Drug detox treatment programs

You don’t need to go through drug addiction recovery alone.

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Resources

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  1. Dilaudid: Uses, Pain, Dosage, Side Effects, Interactions, Warnings.” RxList, RxList, 11 Aug. 2021.
  2. Drug and Chemical Information.” Deadversion.
  3. Drug Fact Sheet: Morphine.” Dea.gov.
  4. Gulur, Padma, et al. “Morphine versus Hydromorphone: Does Choice of Opioid Influence Outcomes?Pain Research and Treatment, Hindawi Publishing Corporation, 2015.
  5. Hydromorphone (Oral Route) Description and Brand Names.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 1 May 2022.
  6. Hydromorphone.” DEA.
  7. Hydromorphone: Medlineplus Drug Information.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  8. Morphine (Oral Route) Description and Brand Names.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 1 May 2022.
  9. Morphine.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Compound Database, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  10. Morphine: Medlineplus Drug Information.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  11. NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms.” National Cancer Institute.
  12. Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority. “Inadvertent Mix-up of Morphine and Hydromorphone: A Potent Error: Advisory.” Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority.

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