Updated on February 6, 2024
8 min read

How to Recognize and Treat Dilaudid Addiction

How Long Does Dilaudid Stay in Your System?

The amount of time Dilaudid stays in your system depends on several factors, including:

  • Age
  • Dosage taken
  • Gender
  • Kidney health
  • Liver health
  • Metabolism rate
  • Overall health
  • Chemical preparation of the drug
  • Weight

IV Dilaudid has a half-life of 2 hours. Oral forms (liquid or tablet) of the medication have 4 hours. 

Half-life is the time it takes for a drug's plasma concentration levels to reach half of its original value. The longer the half-life, the longer the drug stays in the body.   

Detection Times for Dilaudid in Drug Tests

Certain lab tests detect the presence of the substance in several parts of the body long after the last use. The kind of drug test administered can affect detection times. Here are some of these drug tests:

  • Blood drug test: Less than 24 hours 
  • Hair drug test: 3 to 6 months 
  • Saliva drug test: 2 to 3 days 
  • Urine drug test: 2 to 3 days

What Is Dilaudid?

Dilaudid, the brand name for hydromorphone, is a prescription drug that treats chronic and moderate to severe pain. It belongs to the drug class opioid analgesics.  

As an opioid, Dilaudid works by blocking pain signals going to the brain. This process decreases pain intensity and improves your emotional response to it.  

Physicians typically prescribe Dilaudid when other alternative medications have failed to relieve pain. These prescription drugs include non-opioid pain relievers and opioid combination drugs.


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What Is Dilaudid Prescribed For?

Various types of pain can benefit from Dilaudid. The following list expounds on the most common ones.

Back Pain

Doctors prescribe Dilaudid to manage chronic pain in the back, especially in severe cases. However, they will usually start with less intense opioid medications. If the pain persists or worsens, doctors may then use Dilaudid.

Cancer Pain

People suffering from cancer experience varying degrees of pain during treatment. Dilaudid provides immense relief for those with continuous and severe pain and helps make treatment more tolerable.

Post-Surgical Pain

Dilaudid may be prescribed after surgery to help manage pain while the body is healing. Some healthcare providers administer Dilaudid for stomach pain. But some opt not to because stomach pain is one of the drug's side effects.


Dilaudid may be prescribed to manage the pain after a traumatic injury, such as a broken bone.

What Are the Forms of Dilaudid?

Dilaudid (hydromorphone) is available as a liquid oral solution or tablet. The drug concentration of the liquid solution is 5 milligrams/milliliter (mg/ml). Dilaudid is also available as an injection for people who can’t take it orally. 

Immediate-release tablets are available in 2, 4, or 8 mg doses. Extended-release tablets offer prolonged pain relief over time.

Pay attention to the dosing of the oral liquid form to ensure you’re taking the correct amount. Don’t confuse mg and mL with each other to avoid accidental overdose or death. Additionally, use proper measuring equipment to avoid dosing inaccuracies.

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Is Dilaudid Addictive?

Yes, Dilaudid poses a high risk for abuse and addiction. As a potent synthetic narcotic in the opioid class of drugs, Dilaudid can lead to addiction with prolonged use.

Recurrent users may develop tolerance, requiring more frequent doses to achieve the desired effects. Unfortunately, tolerance can occur in as little as 2 to 3 weeks.

The developed tolerance leads Dilaudid users to exhaust their prescriptions prematurely. Even when they take it as their doctors prescribed, the regular dose may no longer be as effective as before.

Comparative Properties and Dangers

Dilaudid has similar properties to other opioid medications, including oxycodone, fentanyl, and hydrocodone.

These drugs are addictive and may eventually lead to:

  • Dilaudid addiction
  • Physical and psychological dependence
  • Abuse

The active ingredient hydromorphone binds to the opioid receptors in the brain and blocks pain sensation. This interaction induces euphoria (a high) and calmness, which can become addictive very quickly. 

What Are the Side Effects of Dilaudid?

The most commonly reported adverse side effects of Dilaudid include:

  • Increased pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Dry mouth
  • Sedation or sleepiness
  • Heavy sweating
  • Constipation
  • Itching
  • Flushing
  • Loss of appetite

Severe Side Effects of Dilaudid Use

Additionally, more serious side effects can include:

  • Hearing impairment or permanent loss
  • Skin rashes
  • Impairment of mental and physical performance
  • Anxiety or fear
  • Low blood pressure
  • Serotonin syndrome
  • Mood changes

Dilaudid passes through breast milk. If you’re pregnant or plan on becoming one, seek medical advice from your healthcare provider before breastfeeding.

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What Are the Risks of Dilaudid Use?

The Drug Enforcement Administration classifies Dilaudid as a Schedule II drug. Schedule II substances are “drugs with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence.”

Dilaudid drug misuse can lead to physical or psychological dependence. The brain builds up a tolerance to its effects, leading users to take more than prescribed amounts. Tolerance increases their risk of overdose, which can lead to death. 

Dilaudid Safety Precautions

Like other prescription opioids, Dilaudid can cause severe side effects. It can also harm persons with certain conditions or exacerbate existing ones.

Inform your doctor if you have the following conditions:

  • Pre-existing pulmonary issues: Can be fatal if you have respiratory problems, especially for acute or severe asthma
  • Pulmonary disease: Puts you at risk of experiencing a decrease in respiratory function and can also induce temporary cessation of breathing
  • Head injury: Can elevate cerebrospinal fluid pressure, which may be exaggerated with a head injury and can become dangerous.13
  • Allergies to sodium metabisulfite: Can trigger severe allergic reactions, including vomiting, rashes, or hives; swelling of the lips, face, or throat; and difficulty breathing or swallowing.

What Are Dilaudid Drug Interactions?

Dilaudid has several adverse drug interactions, including:14

  • Other opioid analgesics/opioid antagonists
  • Benzodiazepines, such as clonazepam, lorazepam, and diazepam
  • Butorphanol
  • Gabapentinoids
  • Buprenorphine
  • Nalbuphine
  • Sleep drugs/tranquilizers
  • Antipsychotics such as phenothiazine
  • Sodium oxybate
  • MAO inhibitors

How Do Users Misuse Dilaudid?

The most common forms of Dilaudid misuse include:

  • Using more of the opioid than is prescribed (intentionally or accidentally)
  • Mixing opioids with other drugs (illicit or prescribed, including CNS depressant medications) or alcohol
  • Taking an opioid to get high
  • Taking unprescribed opioid 

What Are Dilaudid Addiction Symptoms?

Addiction revolves around specific behaviors associated with drug use. Those addicted may experience cravings when they refrain from using it, find it difficult to quit, or persist despite being aware of its harmful effects.

Signs and symptoms of Dilaudid addiction and abuse include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Lack of hygiene
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Frequent flu-like symptoms
  • Isolation from family or friends
  • Taking their next dose of hydromorphone before the prescribed time
  • Changes in exercise habits
  • Weight loss
  • Decreased libido
  • Money problems
  • Associating with people who encourage addiction
  • Stealing from family, friends, or businesses

What Are Dilaudid Withdrawal Symptoms?

The symptoms of Dilaudid withdrawal include:

  • Increased pain
  • Irritability or agitation
  • Anxiety or restlessness
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Muscle cramps/aches
  • Watery eyes, runny nose
  • Yawning
  • Chills, sweating, or goosebumps
  • Stomach cramps
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Rapid heart rate

How To Safely Discontinue Dilaudid Use

Attempting to withdraw from Dilaudid without supervision is risky, as it can lead to seizures. In severe cases, it causes death due to abrupt changes in opioid use.

A supervised method for safely stopping Dilaudid use involves gradually reducing the dosage. This tapering process helps minimize the shock to the body's systems over time.

With medication, tapering off Dilaudid will make withdrawal symptoms much less severe and manageable. To ensure safety, medical professionals should direct tapering.

What Are Dilaudid Overdose Symptoms?

The most dangerous consequence of opioid use is respiratory depression, characterized by inadequate and slowed breathing. In high doses, Dilaudid targets the brainstem that regulates breathing rate and rhythm.

Alcohol, benzodiazepines, and other drugs that impact the central nervous system can worsen respiratory depression. This condition is most common during opioid overdose or when users consume the drug excessively at once.

Signs of Dilaudid overdose to look out for include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Severe drowsiness
  • Inability to speak
  • Limp body
  • Vomiting
  • Pale and clammy skin
  • Purple/blue lips and fingernails

If you or someone you know exhibits these symptoms, call 911 immediately. Naloxone can also be administered for immediate yet short-lived reversal of the overdose effects.

How Do You Treat Dilaudid Addiction?

The most effective way to treat Dilaudid addiction is a combination of medication and therapy. Behavioral therapies can help people learn new behaviors that replace drug use, skills for dealing with stressful situations, and ways to manage cravings.

Medications like methadone, buprenorphine, naltrexone, and Suboxone are also effective treatments for opioid addiction. They work by blocking the effects of opioids in the brain and reducing cravings. 

Seek medical help from a qualified doctor or rehabilitation center if you're addicted or dependent on Dilaudid. Support groups like Narcotics Anonymous can help you stay committed to your recovery plan. 


Dilaudid is an opioid drug that treats moderate to severe pain. It can be highly addictive and should only be taken as a doctor prescribes.

People addicted to Dilaudid may experience withdrawal symptoms when they suddenly attempt to stop using it. To avoid this, they should seek help from a doctor or rehabilitation center to safely discontinue use.

If you or someone you know is dealing with Dilaudid addiction, seek medical help from a qualified medical professional or treatment center. Treatment options usually involve medication and therapies to reduce cravings and replace drug use with healthy behaviors.

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Updated on February 6, 2024
14 sources cited
Updated on February 6, 2024
  1. Halo Pharmaceutical, Inc. "HIGHLIGHTS OF PRESCRIBING INFORMATION," U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2016.
  2. U.S. Department of Justice. “Drug Scheduling.” Drug Enforcement Administration, n.d.
  3. Feldmeyer et al. “Acute Generalized Exanthematous Pustulosis: Pathogenesis, Genetic Background, Clinical Variants and Therapy,” International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 2016.
  4. U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Stevens-Johnson syndrome/toxic epidermal necrolysis.” MedlinePlus, 2020.
  5. Signs of Opioid Abuse.” Johns Hopkins Medicine, n.d.
  6. Mayo Clinic Staff. “Tapering off opioids: When and how.” Mayo Clinic, 2021.
  7. U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Hydromorphone.” MedlinePlus, 2023.
  8. U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) Treatment.” MedlinePlus, 2023.
  9. U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Opioid Overdose.” MedlinePlus, 2023.
  10. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Effective Treatments for Opioid Addiction.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2016.
  11. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Prescription Opioids DrugFacts.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2021.
  12. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health Annual National Report,” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2019.
  13. Hydromorphone (Oral Route).” Mayo Clinic, 2023.
  14. Hydromorphone (Oral Route).” Mayo Clinic, 2023.

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