Dilaudid: Prescription Opioids and Addiction

Dilaudid is a prescription opiate that has contributed to America’s opioid crisis. More than 17,000 people in the United States died from a prescription opioid overdose in 2017.Opioids are typically made in a lab. This class of drugs includes illegal ones, such as heroin, and prescription medications used to relieve pain.

The number of deaths related to opioid use has increased dramatically over the years. Of the estimated 47,000+ deaths from opioid-related overdoses in the United States in 2019, over 32,000 of those deaths involved the use of an opiate. Opioid use disorder frequently requires treatment at a detox facility. Many people have found a life free from opioids after detox support  and complete treatment from medical professionals.

What is Dilaudid?

Dilaudid is a brand-name prescription drug given to patients to relieve moderate to severe pain. The drug’s generic name is hydromorphone. It is a narcotic pain reliever that is stronger than morphine. Other hydromorphone brand names that are similar are Exalgo and Palladone. Hydromorphone is a controlled substance regulated by the US government. A doctor who prescribes opiates must closely supervise for signs of addiction. If you are taking opiates, it’s important to be aware of symptoms and possible risks.

This opioid, like others in its class, has a high potential for addiction, especially when used over a long period of time. Aside from its habit-forming potential, Dilaudid can cause serious breathing issues that may become life-threatening. This is dangerous for those who may already suffer from breathing issues like asthma or lung disease, or those who take higher doses of the drug than prescribed. Mixing alcohol or certain other drugs with Dilaudid can cause lung problems, coma, and even death.


The brand name, Dilaudid, comes from the word laudanum, an opium product from the 16th century that was used to relieve pain. Morphine was first removed from opium early in the 19th century when it was used during the Civil War to help soldiers with their pain, many of which became addicted to the drug.

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This drug was first developed in Germany in 1921, patented as Dilaudid in 1923, and had begun being used by doctors in 1926. It is made in a way that is similar in structure to morphine.

FDA Approval and Modern Use

The FDA approved Dilaudid for use in the United States in 1984. By 2019, hydromorphone, with over 2.5 million prescriptions written, ranked as the 212th most prescribed medicine in America.3

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Forms and Dosages

Dilaudid comes in liquid and tablet form.

Similar to other opiates, it works by changing the way your mind and body react to pain. The drug works on the nervous system’s opioid receptors to change a person’s response to pain for the better.

Street Names

It is known by a few different names on the street when being sold illegally. These names include:

  • Dillies
  • Dust
  • Juice
  • D
  • Footballs
  • Smack

Dilaudid Abuse

Who Misuses Dilaudid?

About 11.5 million people (4.3% of the population) above the age of 12 misused prescription pain relievers such as Dilaudid, in 2016 4.3%
881,000 people aged 12-17 represent 3.5% of teens misusing opioids. 3.5%
2.5 million or 7% of 18- to 25-year-olds abused prescription pain relievers. 7%
8.2 million adults over the age of 26 (3.6% of this age group) misused opioids in 2016. 3.6%

Recreational Use

An opiate like Dilaudid causes feelings of elation, lessens anxiety, and promotes deep relaxation aside from its pain-relieving effects. Levels of dopamine, the brain’s feel-good hormone, increase when it is taken. More than four million people over the age of 12 have taken prescription painkillers for these reasons. 6

When prescription Dilaudid is taken over a time, the brain lessens its release of natural dopamine since the opiate is now doing the job instead. At that point, a person will find it extremely difficult to experience normal, pleasurable feelings without taking the drug.

Taking the opiate recreationally in larger dosages than prescribed, puts you at a greater risk for addiction.

Ways in Which Dilaudid is Abused

The pleasurable and pain-relieving effects of Dilaudid are felt quickly, making it a drug commonly sought out by recreational users looking for a quick high.

Those misusing this drug can take pills in different ways:

  • Swallow the tablets
  • Chew them for even quicker effects
  • Crush them for snorting or smoking
  • Inject the drug intravenously or muscularly by crushing the pill and mixing with a liquid

Health Risks and Dilaudid Addiction

A person abusing Dilaudid over a period of just one week can become physically addicted. It can take just a few days to become dependent on this opioid when misusing it.

Regular abuse and addiction can cause the following health issues:




Stomach pain

Sleep problems

Liver disease

Overdose, often leading to coma or death

Dilaudid Withdrawal

Someone with an addiction to Dilaudid will experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the drug.

Withdrawing from this drug requires medical supervision to avoid serious complications. Some of the symptoms that go along with withdrawal are:

  • Clammy and cold skin
  • Diarrhea
  • Tremors
  • Body cramps
  • Sweats
  • Heightened blood pressure
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Muscle and/or bone pain
  • Feeling restless
  • Intense cravings for the drug
  • Vomiting

The period of withdrawal can take up to two weeks. In a rehab treatment facility or hospital, medications can be given to help manage withdrawal.

A different, longer-acting opioid that doesn’t have the same euphoric effects may be used to reduce cravings and discomfort. These medications include methadone and buprenorphine. Other medicines that treat withdrawal symptoms are clonidine and suboxone.


Although this drug can be highly addictive, not everyone who takes it for pain will misuse it. Some people are at a higher risk for abuse and addiction than others.

Sometimes a dosage increase is needed to help with pain management. It doesn’t always lead to addiction. The body can develop a tolerance, making a certain dosage less effective over time.

Most patients who take Dilaudid feel withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the drug. This is normal and isn’t addiction. These feelings are why we reduce the dose of the drug slowly when you are done with it.

It may be used short-term for pain that someone might experience after surgery or suffering a broken bone.

Only about 4 percent of people who misuse opioids go on to use heroin. But, nearly 80 percent of heroin users start by misusing prescription opioids.

Dilaudid is Helpful for Relieving Pain But Can Be Addictive

When taken correctly, prescription Dilaudid is helpful in relieving moderate to severe pain. If you or someone you love are struggling with Diluadid use, substance abuse treatment may be helpful.
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