Dilaudid Addiction and Treatment

HealthDay reports around seven million American citizens are prescription drug abusers. Dilaudid — a brand name for hydromorphone — is a prescription opioid pain reliever used in the treatment of chronic and severe pain, including post-surgical pain, migraines and discomfort felt by cancer patients. It is classified as a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes 259 million prescriptions were written for opioid pain relievers in 2012. Thus, the potential for abuse and addiction to Dilaudid is quite high. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported 23.1 million people needed treatment for a substance abuse problem in 2012 in America alone, and only 2.5 million of those people actually received treatment.

Who Uses It

Dilaudid usersThe most likely individual to end up addicted to Dilaudid is actually someone with their own prescription for it. According to a Journal of Internal Medicine study, prescriptions for opioid pain relievers have increased over the years, jumping from 76 million in 1991 to 207 million in 2013. Sometimes, these people have the medication for a legitimate reason, while other times they seek prescriptions solely to self-medicate other issues, like mental illness. Many with mental health disorders engage in substance abuse. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 53 percent of drug addicts are suffering from at least one serious mental illness.

Otherwise healthy individuals have fallen prey to the clutches of prescription drug abuse and addiction, too — people of all ages. According to TeensHealth, 24 percent of surveyed teenagers admitted to using a prescription drug non-medically in 2012. Dilaudid may also be purchased from street dealers. Generally, the people who buy these drugs have run out of their own home-based supply or switched from another drug — often another opioid painkiller like OxyContin — to this one. The New Yorker reported in 2010 that Americans made up only five percent of the global population, but they were consuming 65 percent of the worldwide supply of Dilaudid. More than two million people have substance use disorders that involve the abuse of opioid painkillers, per the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

There is also a growing concern surrounding pregnant mothers using opioid painkillers and the effects this may have on their unborn children. Further, there seems to be a higher correlation between women enrolled in government-assisted health insurance programs and those who use prescription pain relievers. Drugs.com notes that 39 percent of females aged 15 to 44 who were enrolled in Medicaid programs between 2008 and 2012 filled a narcotic pain reliever prescription each year, in comparison to only 28 percent among females with private health insurance.

How Is Dilaudid Abused?

The novice drug user may not be aware of how Dilaudid works. Swallowing the drug or snorting it seems like an effective method, but some abusers try to achieve a more intense high from Dilaudid by injecting. The drug is available in an oral liquid or tablet as well as a rectal suppository and an injectable solution.

Signs of Abuse

The signs of Dilaudid abuse are fairly prominent. They include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting spells
  • Trouble urinating
  • Euphoric feelings
  • Constipation
  • Nausea with or without vomiting
  • Trouble breathing
  • Mood swings
  • The development of sleep apnea

Track marks on the arms and legs may also point toward abuse of Dilaudid since injection is the most likely form of abuse. If you have any of these symptoms in conjunction with a growing tolerance for the drug, an inability to stop using or cut back on use, or are using it to avoid withdrawal or because you feel you can’t function properly anymore without it, addiction is highly likely.

Dangers of Dilaudid

One of the biggest potential side effects of Dilaudid abuse is respiratory depression that decreases breathing and can lead to coma and even death. The risk of overdose on Dilaudid is hefty. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states 38,329 people died as a result of drug overdose in 2010 with 22,134 of those deaths stemming from prescription drug abuse and 16,651 of that portion being due to opioid analgesics like Dilaudid. The number of patients treated in American emergency departments for Dilaudid misuse rose by 259 percent from 2004-2008, HealthDay reports.

There is evidence that emergency care physicians may even be perpetuating the issues of opioid painkiller abuse. PBS notes a 668.2 percent increase in the number of prescriptions written for Dilaudid to emergency room patients from 2001-2010. Another growing concern among prescription drug misusers and abusers is their likelihood to view use of the drug as being safer than illegal substances like heroin and cocaine because it is a prescription medication. This is a vast misunderstanding. Prescription opioid painkillers are intense drugs that can cause side effects even in patients who take them as directed.

In recent years, drugs have frequently been found to be involved in driving accidents, often in conjunction with alcohol. The White House attests that 38 percent of drivers who were killed in motor vehicle accidents and tested for drugs with credible results tested positive for one or more medications or illicit drugs.

Treatment for You

The Oaks Treatment Center Back PatioThe first step in any substance abuse treatment process is the intake interview. In this stage of the game, it’s highly important that you are honest and fully disclose any and all suspected reasons for your substance abuse and all drugs or alcohol that you are using. Remember that everything you say is confidential. Doctors and therapists will want to review your medical history and screen you for potential mental health issues. With around 50 percent of the severely mentally ill population abusing substances, per Helpguide, it is necessary that all possible diagnoses of underlying disorders are brought to the surface and dealt with. Some illnesses known to commonly co-occur with Dilaudid abuse include bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety disorders.

The detox experience varies from one opioid addict to the next. Withdrawing from opioid painkillers is much the same as quitting heroin and can be painful. You can expect any of the following when enduring withdrawal from Dilaudid:

  • Depression
  • Runny nose
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Vomiting
  • Trembling
  • Drowsiness
  • Goose bumps
  • Agitation
  • Shakiness
  • Diarrhea
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Body cramps

A common course of treatment for addictions to opioids like Dilaudid is methadone, an opioid agonist that fills opioid receptors to inhibit them from craving drugs like Dilaudid while sparing the addict from the full effects of withdrawal. Patients can enroll in medication maintenance programs via treatment facilities, clinics or under the care of their primary care physician, and then receive regular doses of the drug. The purpose of a long-term program allows the opiate addict to be weaned off their drug of choice slowly, making withdrawal symptoms more bearable. According to the California Society of Addiction Medicine, methadone has steadily held a 60-90 percent success rate.

Another medication that may help with Dilaudid recovery is buprenorphine, a partial opioid agonist that acts in the same manner as methadone. However, this drug — commonly recognized under its brand name of Suboxone, which includes a naloxone component — imposes a limitation that makes it more safe in the eyes of many. No matter how much of the drug is taken, a high cannot be achieved. Thus, the potential for abuse is lower than it is for methadone. Success rates for buprenorphine reached 88 percent in initial studies, as reported by The Fix, but later research proved to be contradictory. A study of 600 Suboxone treatment patients showed that 49 percent reduced their opioid prescription pain reliever abuse during the 12-plus-week treatment period, but only 8.6 percent did after the drug therapy ended, per the National Institutes of Health.

Learn More

Naloxone is an opioid antagonist used to counteract the effects of an opioid overdose. A review published in the Journal of Clinical Interventions in Aging notes the drug is not recommended for use until the intended patient’s breathing rate is fewer than eight breaths per minute or their oxygen saturation level is below 90 percent.

You might have seen promotions for rapid detox during your search for treatment options. The claims made by some that this is an effective method of treatment are only partially true, and those that claim it is a safe method of detox are completely false. Rapid detox consists of sedating the addict and administering antagonists like naltrexone and naloxone that flush opioids from the body.

One Medpage report on a New York facility providing the treatment stated patients were sedated for an average of 8.3 hours and given an average dose of 80 mg of naloxone and 133 mg of naltrexone for a median of 3.9 hours. Patients are then awakened and fully detoxed without having to endure the symptoms of withdrawal. This sounds promising and very intriguing to most opioid addicts who may be all too aware of the pains of withdrawal and desperate to avoid it, but rapid detox isn’t without serious risks. In addition to putting you in harm’s way for potential health complications, including death, it comes at a high price of around $10,000, USA Today reports.

Getting Dilaudid out of your system is merely the first step in the process of healing your addiction. To maintain lasting recovery, you’ll need to examine the reasons you started using in the first place. Underlying issues like mental health disorders or traumas haunting you from the past must be tended to. You would be doing yourself a great disservice leaving detox without a plan for the future. Most patients who do this end up right back where they started.

One of the biggest perks of residential treatment is the added time in group and individual therapy. That being said, outpatient therapy offers the same extensive therapy options, often in a less intensive manner. This may be a better option for those who are trying to maintain employment or care for children while undergoing treatment. Family members and partners are also invited for separate group therapy sessions where they can learn how to be supportive. If you happen to be looking for drug abuse treatment options for your relative, keep in mind that 75 percent of addicts in treatment programs report that their family was a major reason they entered treatment, a Journal of Psychiatry review states.


When it’s time to head home, you’ll go with the support of one of the nation’s leaders in substance abuse treatment. We’ll have your back, even when you aren’t at our facility anymore. Our door is always open. Support groups and therapy remain available to you even after you’ve completed your treatment program with us. Reach out to La Paloma today for help. Call now.