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Hydromorphone: Symptoms, Side Effects, & Treatment

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

March 25, 2024 (Originally Published)

March 25, 2024 (Last Updated)

Table of Contents

Hydromorphone is a potent opioid analgesic that’s indicated for the treatment of severe pain. Marketed as Dilaudid and available in tablet or injectable form, this medication works by intercepting pain signals traveling to the brain, effectively diminishing a person’s perception of pain.

What is Hydromorphone

Hydromorphone oral tablets are prescribed for the immediate relief of severe pain that other treatments cannot manage effectively. Hydromorphone tablets are available in generic and branded form (Dilaudid).

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For those requiring continuous pain management, an extended-release tablet is available for daily, around-the-clock use.

Hydromorphone is also offered as an oral liquid solution and in two injectable solutions — a standard and a high-potency version. The injectable solutions are administered exclusively by medical professionals.

Hydromorphone may also be part of combination therapy, meaning that it could be prescribed alongside other medications to effectively manage severe pain.

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Is Hydromorphone Addictive?

Like all Schedule II controlled substances, hydromorphone can trigger the development of tolerance, dependence, and addiction.

When tolerance forms, more of the medication is required to deliver the initial effects. Increasing consumption is likely to accelerate the formation of physical dependence. That said, individuals experiencing chronic pain should not be deterred by the possibility of dependence from utilizing narcotic pain relief. Addiction is less likely to happen when these medications are used specifically for pain management.

If physical dependence occurs, withdrawal symptoms manifest upon abrupt discontinuation. A tapered reduction in dosage can mitigate severe withdrawal symptoms, though.

Hydromorphone Addiction Symptoms

Hydromorphone addiction is clinically described as opioid use disorder. Mental health professionals use DSM-5-TR (the fifth revised edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) to diagnose hydromorphone addiction as follows:

  1. Consuming hydromorphone in larger amounts or for longer than intended.
  2. Repeated attempts to reduce or stop hydromorphone use without success.
  3. Spending excessive time using hydromorphone.
  4. Experiencing strong cravings for hydromorphone.
  5. Failing to meet responsibilities at work, home, or school due to hydromorphone use.
  6. Continuing to use hydromorphone despite it causing or worsening social or personal problems.
  7. Neglecting important activities in favor of hydromorphone use.
  8. Using hydromorphone in dangerous situations, such as while driving.
  9. Persisting in hydromorphone use even when aware of physical or psychological problems caused or made worse by drug use.
  10. Needing more hydromorphone to achieve the same effect or finding that the same amount has less effect (tolerance).
  11. Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not using hydromorphone or using it to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Addressing hydromorphone addiction involves recognizing these symptoms and seeking professional treatment, which may involve medication, therapy, and support to manage the addiction and its effects – read on to discover how you can achieve this.

Side Effects of Hydromorphone

Common hydromorphone side effects which you should report to your care team as soon as possible include:

  • Allergic reactions: Itching, skin rash, hives, swelling of lips, tongue, throat, or face.
  • CNS depression: Shortness of breath, slow and shallow breathing, faintness, dizziness, confusion, difficulty staying awake
  • Low adrenal gland function: Appetite loss, nausea, vomiting, fatigue or weakness, dizziness.
  • Low blood pressure: Dizziness, feeling lightheaded, blurry vision

Side effects which usually do not require medical attention and only need reporting to your care team if they persist or become aggravating include:

  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Consult your healthcare provider for medical advice about the side effects of hydromorphone. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

Hydromorphone Addiction Treatment

Treating addiction to opioids, including hydromorphone, involves a wide-ranging approach which addresses both the physical and psychological aspects of the disorder. Effective treatment plans are tailored to meet the individual needs of the person, combining medications, counseling, and support systems to facilitate recovery. Here’s an overview of the primary components involved in opioid addiction treatment:

  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment): MAT is a cornerstone of opioid addiction treatment, using medications to normalize brain chemistry, block the rewarding effects of opioids, mitigate cravings, and stabilize body functions without the negative effects of addictive substances like hydromorphone. Common medications used include methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone. Each plays a distinct role in helping reduce dependence and ease withdrawal symptoms.
  • Detoxification: Medically supervised detoxification provides a safe environment in which individuals can withdraw from opioids. While detox is a fundamental step in the recovery process, it signals the beginning of treatment and should be followed by ongoing therapy to address the underlying causes of addiction.
  • Behavioral therapies: Behavioral therapies help people in recovery understand the root causes of their addictions, develop new coping mechanisms, and rebuild healthy behavioral patterns. CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), contingency management, and motivational interviewing are among the effective strategies used to treat opioid addiction. These therapies can occur in individual, group, or family settings.
  • Support groups and peer support: Participation in support groups like NA (Narcotics Anonymous) and SMART Recovery can provide encouragement and peer support from those with lived experience of opioid addiction. These groups offer a sense of community and shared experiences that can be central to the recovery journey.
  • Holistic and alternative therapies: Incorporating holistic and alternative therapies such as acupuncture, meditation, yoga, and art therapy can complement more traditional treatment methods. These practices may help reduce stress, enhance emotional well-being, and promote overall healing.
  • Aftercare planning: Effective aftercare planning helps to prevent relapse. This includes ongoing therapy, support groups, and sometimes sober living environments to help maintain sobriety. Tailoring the aftercare plan to individual needs increases the likelihood of long-term recovery.
  • Education and family support: Educating the individual and their family about addiction and recovery helps build a supportive environment conducive to healing. Family therapy sessions can improve communication, resolve conflicts, and enable families to support their loved one’s recovery journey.

Recovery from opioid addiction requires time, commitment, and a comprehensive treatment plan. With the right support and resources, it’s possible for someone to overcome addiction and recalibrate their lives.

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Get Help Quitting Hydromorphone at Renaissance Recovery

If you or someone that you care about needs help addressing hydromorphone addiction, reach out to Renaissance Recovery in Southern California.

After detoxing from opioids, you can engage with outpatient treatment at our luxury rehab in Huntington Beach, California. By choosing an outpatient program at Renaissance, you can fulfill your everyday obligations while engaging with effective and evidence-based treatment.

All hydromorphone addictions are unique, so all Renaissance treatment programs provide a personalized blend of the following therapies:

Begin your recovery from hydromorphone addiction right away by calling 866.330.9449.



At Renaissance Recovery our goal is to provide evidence-based treatment to as many individuals as possible. Give us a call today to verify your insurance coverage or to learn more about paying for addiction treatment.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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