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  • Dilaudid is a brand name medication that contains the opiate analgesic drug hydromorphone hydrochloride

    Like other opioid analgesics (including hydrocodone, oxycodone, oxymorphone, and fentanyl), hydromorphone stimulates opioid receptors in the body to suppress the central nervous system and change the way the brain and body feel pain.

    However, Dilaudid is particularly potent—2 to 8 times more potent than morphine—and by FDA approval is generally only prescribed by healthcare providers if other medications aren’t able to control your pain or if you need round-the-clock treatment for chronic pain.

    How Long Does It Take To Feel The Effects of Dilaudid?

    Hydromorphone is fast-acting no matter how it’s taken, and it works quickly to reduce severe pain in the body:

    • intravenous injections of hydromorphone will fully take effect within minutes
    • oral pills or tablets should take effect within 15 minutes, with peak effectiveness between 30 and 60 minutes
    • extended release oral formulations (Exalgo brand) will begin to work around six hours, with peak effectiveness at nine hours
    • hydromorphone suppositories will take effect within 30 minutes of administration

    How Long Do The Effects Of Dilaudid Last?

    Hydromorphone’s half-life (the time it takes for one half of one dose to be eliminated from the body) ranges between two and four hours. It generally takes four to five half-lives for any drug to be effectively eliminated from the body, or between eight and 20 hours in the case of Dilaudid.

    Because of this short half-life, hydromorphone’s effects and side effects (including constipation, dry mouth, lightheadedness, mood changes, and drowsiness) wear off somewhat quickly, with a single dose providing pain relief for up to 3 to 4 hours, or 13 hours for extended-release formulations.

    Dilaudid Drug Testing & Detection Times

    The relatively short half-life limits the window in which hydromorphone use can be detected by various drug tests. If you have taken an extended release version of Dilaudid, the values below may increase accordingly.

    Urine Tests

    Urine tests are a common go-to option for drug testing in workplace and medical settings. Hydromorphone may be detected in urine drug screens for two to four days after ingestion.

    Hair Tests

    Hair follicle tests, though not as reliable as other tests, are able to detect hydromorphone drug use for the longest amount of time, at up to 90 days after the last dose.

    Saliva Tests

    Saliva tests will reveal the use of hydromorphone for up to four days after use.

    Blood Tests

    Blood tests are an invasive and limiting method of drug-testing, as they will only reveal the use of hydromorphone for—at most—two days.

    Factors That Affect Detections Times

    Hydromorphone is sometimes detected as a metabolite formed in the body following the use of morphine and codeine.

    Other factors that may impact the detection period after hydromorphone use include:

    • metabolism
    • kidney and liver function
    • age
    • weight
    • body fat composition
    • combination use of other drugs
    • frequency of hydromorphone use
    • the dosage of hydromorphone taken

    Dilaudid Overdose 

    Hydromorphone is classified as a Schedule II drug in the United States, which means that while the drug serves an important role when prescribed by medical professionals, it has a high potential for drug abuse.

    Individuals taking hydromorphone without a prescription, or in higher doses than prescribed, risk harmful or fatal overdose. 

    This danger increases dramatically when hydromorphone is used in combination with other prescription or illicit drugs including alcohol, opioids, benzodiazepines, and antidepressants.

    If an overdose does occur it can be treated with naloxone or brand name Narcan. Contact emergency services immediately if you suspect an overdose.

    Dilaudid Addiction Treatment

    Abusing Dilaudid puts you at risk of developing a severe physical dependence on hydromorphone, leading to painful and or even life-threatening opiate withdrawal symptoms when you stop using.

    If you or a loved one is abusing Dilaudid or have formed a dependence, medical detox and therapy can help. Treatments may include methadone replacement therapy, medical detox, behavioral or cognitive therapy, and other supportive programs and therapies.

    To learn more about these substance use disorder treatment options, please contact an Ark Behavioral Health specialist today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) - Hydromorphone
    U.S. National Library of Medicine: Journal of Medical Toxicology - Laboratory Testing for Prescription Opioids
    U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Hydromorphone

    Medically Reviewed by
    Kimberly Langdon M.D.
    on March 23, 2022
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