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Dilaudid Side Effects | Short-Term & Long-Term Health Effects

Published on December 2, 2020
pill bottle of small round yellow pills Dilaudid side effects

Dilaudid is a powerful opioid analgesic, which contains the active ingredient hydromorphone hydrochloride. It is given to individuals who need continuous relief for severe pain. Dilaudid is only used if other treatments have not been sufficient enough to relieve pain. 

Hydromorphone is up to eight times as potent as morphine, which makes it one of the more powerful pain medications. Due to its potency, there is a higher risk of harmful side effects than with milder opioid pain medications.

How Does Dilaudid Work?

Dilaudid is an opioid agonist that binds to opioid receptors in the central nervous system. This blocks pain and increases the production of dopamine. Along with pain relief, you may experience sedation, euphoria, and relaxation. 

Dilaudid comes in several forms:

  • extended-release tablet
  • immediate-release tablet
  • injectable solution
  • oral solution 

Short-Term Effects Of Dilaudid

The number of side-effects you experience may depend on your dose of hydromorphone and how often you take it. These side-effects may be uncomfortable but should subside as the medication wears off. 

Common side effects may include:

  • drowsiness
  • pruritus (itchiness)
  • nausea
  • lightheadedness
  • dry mouth

Serious Side Effects Of Dilaudid

Although most people only experience mild side effects when taking hydromorphone, you may experience serious side effects if drug interactions occur or if you take high doses.

Adverse effects of hydromorphone may include:

  • temporary loss of consciousness
  • low blood pressure
  • sleep apnea 
  • breathing problems
  • overdose
  • urinary retention

Please contact a healthcare provider if you experience any of these side effects and are prescribed hydromorphone. 

Side effects can become severe or life-threatening if you have any of the following conditions:

  • paralytic ileus
  • gallbladder or thyroid problems
  • head injury
  • sulfite allergy

Opioid Antagonists

If you take a prescription pain medication that has characteristics of opioid antagonists, it may prevent Dilaudid from working and you may experience sudden withdrawal symptoms. 

These medications include:

  • nalbuphine
  • pentazocine
  • butorphanol
  • buprenorphine

Serotonin Syndrome

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), serious drug interactions can occur if you take other prescription drugs, such as antidepressant inhibitors or migraine medications.

Serotonin, a hormone that affects mood, is an important chemical that is involved with several functions in your body. 

Serotonin Syndrome happens when your body produces a toxic amount, and it can be fatal if left untreated. There are important symptoms to be aware of that range from mild to severe. 

Symptoms of Serotonin Syndrome include:

  • high fever
  • rapid heart rate
  • high blood pressure
  • shivering
  • loss of consciousness

Let a healthcare professional know all of the medications you are taking if you are prescribed hydromorphone. 

Long-Term Effects of Dilaudid

Long-term use of hydromorphone can affect several areas of your body including the respiratory and digestive system. Opioid pain medications can also cause dependence and addiction which can result in overdose.

Adrenal Insufficiency

Chronic use of opioids such as Dilaudid can result in adrenal insufficiency. Your adrenal glands produce cortisol, the hormone responsible for controlling stress. 

Symptoms of adrenal insufficiency may include:

  • nausea
  • loss of appetite
  • tiredness
  • dizziness
  • low blood pressure

If your prescribing doctor suspects adrenal insufficiency, treatment may include tapering off Dilaudid. 

Opioid Induced Constipation (OIC)

Constipation may be a short-term side effect of taking hydromorphone but it can become a persistent problem. The psychological distress associated with OIC can cause the individual to suddenly stop their medication, which is a problem if they need it for chronic, severe pain.

Symptoms associated with OIC may include:

  • bloating
  • abdominal pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting

Severe cases of OIC can lead to a bowel blockage, which requires hospitalization and can be fatal if left untreated.

Tolerance & Dependence

Over time, you may require higher doses of hydromorphone to maintain its pain relieving effects, which is drug tolerance. Tolerance is dangerous because it increases your risk of overdosing.  

As you become more tolerant of higher doses, your body becomes physically dependent. When you are dependent on a drug, your body needs it to function or you will experience opioid withdrawal.

Dilaudid Withdrawal

When you suddenly stop taking hydromorphone or lower your dose too quickly, you will experience withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal is not life-threatening but detox can provide medications to ease the symptoms.

Symptoms of opioid withdrawal include:

  • runny nose
  • restlessness
  • chills
  • diarrhea 
  • vomiting

Dilaudid Overdose

Hydromorphone suppresses your respiratory system and too much can slow your breathing, lower blood pressure, and eventually cause coma or respiratory depression.

Symptoms of hydromorphone overdose:

  • clammy skin
  • bluish skin
  • unconsciousness
  • breathing problems
  • gurgling

You increase your risk of a life-threatening overdose when you combine hydromorphone with other central nervous depressants. 

The following substances can increase the risk of overdose and other serious side effects if combined with hydromorphone:

  • alcohol
  • benzodiazepines (lorazepam, diazepam, and alprazolam)
  • sleep-aids
  • illicit drugs

If you think you or a loved one is experiencing an overdose, provide naloxone if available and call for medical help immediately.

Dilaudid Addiction

If you take Dilaudid for a long time and become dependent on it, you may eventually become addicted. Addiction is a treatable disease that may require long-term care such as behavioral therapy, outpatient care, or support groups. 

Please contact an addiction treatment specialist at Ark Behavioral Health for more information on treatment options.

Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.

DailyMed - DILAUDID- hydromorphone hydrochloride
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) - FDA Drug Safety Communication: FDA warns about several safety issues with opioid pain medicines; requires label changes
National Center for Biotechnology Information - Hydromorphone
U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Hydromorphone

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