Hydromorphone is the generic name of a powerful medication commonly used to treat pain, and because of how potent an opioid hydromorphone is, it is very easy for hydromorphone use to become abuse possibly leading to hydromorphone addiction. Unfortunately, people who try to stop taking hydromorphone on their own, without medical supervision, may be at risk for serious health consequences, and may end up caught in a dangerous cycle of detox, withdrawal cravings and relapse. If you or a loved one is struggling with hydromorphone abuse or addiction, learn about your treatment options at Behavioral Rehabilitation Services by calling our substance abuse recovery experts today.
What is Hydromorphone?
Hydromorphone is an opioid analgesic drug derived from morphine and commonly used under the brand names Dilaudid (immediate release) and Exalgo (extended release) to treat moderate to severe pain that isn’t controlled by other opioid drugs. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) classifies hydromorphone as a Schedule II opioid, which means it has an accepted medical purpose in some circumstances, but also carries a high risk of addiction and dependence. Some common street names for hydromorphone sold for recreational purposes include dillies, D, dust, footballs, lords, juice, smack, delaud and delats.
Why is Hydromorphone Prescribed?
Hydromorphone is a widely-used opioid and the drug is typically administered to treat severe pain related to cancer and serious injuries, such as burns. As an opioid analgesic, hydromorphone works by acting on the pleasure center of the brain and certain opioid receptors in the central nervous system, thereby reducing pain and producing feelings of relaxation and well-being. What the drug does is substitute its potent effects for the brain’s natural production of endorphins, but as the brain adapts to the presence of hydromorphone in the system, producing more endorphins to counter the drug’s effects, users have to continue increasing the drug dosage to stay ahead of the body’s adjustments.
Though hydromorphone is most commonly used intravenously in a hospital setting, the opioid is also available as an oral medication in tablet form, and doctors typically prescribe hydromorphone in 2mg or 4mg doses because of the drug’s high potency. Unfortunately, because of its potent nature, people who abuse hydromorphone may be at risk for serious medical complications, including respiratory distress and death. In fact, hydromorphone is one of the more powerful synthetic narcotics in the class of drugs called opioids, and continued use can quickly lead to a hydromorphone addiction. Even hydromorphone 2mg can be abused, and people abusing the drug typically inject the drug or crush up the tablets and snort them for a faster and more potent high than simply swallowing the pill.
Hydromorphone Abuse and Withdrawal
People who take hydromorphone regularly to relieve pain may build up a tolerance to the drug, which means they require larger and more frequent doses to get the same effects as before and this tolerance can occur within just two to three weeks. Even when administered under the supervision of a medical professional, suspending treatment can result in uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, including muscle pain, restlessness, insomnia and abdominal cramping, and these symptoms are what often results in continuous drug use resulting in tolerance, dependence and addiction. When the drug is abused, meaning it is taken recreationally without a prescription or valid medical reason, or in higher doses than prescribed by a medical professional, the consequences can be devastating and irreversible. Some behavioral signs of a hydromorphone addiction may include:
Becoming obsessed with taking the next dose
Increasing the drug dosage or taking it more frequently
Spending excessive amounts of money on obtaining the drug
Failing to keep up with responsibilities at home, work or school
Stealing the drug or forging prescriptions for it
Buying the drug on the street
Neglecting family and friends in favor of using the drug
Visiting multiple doctors to get several prescriptions
Experiencing unexpected anxiety, depression or panic
Withdrawing or isolating
People who abuse hydromorphone often want to reproduce the feelings of euphoria and relaxation they felt when they first started taking the drug, and may try to replicate this “rush” by taking higher or more frequent hydromorphone doses, which puts them at a high risk for a drug overdose and death. Taking a too-high dose of hydromorphone just once can slow breathing and lower blood pressure to the point of failure, requiring emergency medical attention. Signs of a hydromorphone overdose vary depending on the amount of drug injected, but may include:
Bluish tint to the lips
Drowsiness to the point of stupor
Cold, clammy skin
Reduced blood pressure
Slowed heart rate
Some people even mix hydromorphone with alcohol or other drugs, like benzodiazepines, to achieve a more potent or long-lasting high. Unfortunately, hydromorphone, alcohol and benzodiazepines are all central nervous system depressants, and taking them together may intensify their effects, but it can also dangerously slow breathing and heart rate, possible leading to a fatal overdose.
Possible Side Effects of Hydromorphone Abuse
Hydromorphone abuse can have a significant adverse impact on the brain and body, possibly causing psychological issues, like mood changes, mental impairment, restlessness and sleep disorders, or physical problems, like urinary retention, constipation, nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, breathing problems, rashes, dizziness, and changes in heart rate and blood pressure. There are also serious long-term health consequences associated with hydromorphone abuse, including seizures, infections (including HIV and Hepatitis B and C, when injected), and endocarditis. People who are addicted to hydromorphone may also be more likely to move on to harder drugs, like heroin, which may be cheaper and more accessible on the street, while offering similar effects. Unfortunately, these drugs pose a host of additional problems and increase the risk of overdose and death to an even higher degree.
Hydromorphone Addiction Treatment
The physical and psychological consequences of hydromorphone addiction and abuse are severe enough that it seems unlikely that people would intentionally abuse the medication. However, the speed with which the body becomes accustomed to having hydromorphone in the system often makes it nearly impossible for people abusing hydromorphone to quit on their own, due to physical and psychological dependence, and even those who successfully stop taking the drug often end up relapsing in response to intense withdrawal symptoms or unbearable cravings to use. With the support and medical assistance available at a professional treatment facility like Behavioral Rehabilitation Services, however, individuals struggling with an addiction to hydromorphone can get the help they need and break the destructive cycle of addiction for good.
Call Behavioral Rehabilitation Services Today
It’s easy to think that addiction is something that happens to other people, not to you, and even if you fit the profile of a hydromorphone addict, you’ve probably convinced yourself and the people around you that you aren’t really dependent on hydromorphone, that you can quit using the drug whenever you want. If you recognize the symptoms of hydromorphone addiction in yourself or a loved one, don’t hesitate to get professional help from a treatment facility that specializes in substance abuse recovery. At Behavioral Rehabilitation Services, our substance abuse counselors have experience helping individuals from all walks of life overcome their addictions to drugs like hydromorphone. With the help of BRS Rehab, you can finally quit using hydromorphone and get your life back on track.