Hydromorphone is a highly addictive opioid painkiller. Successful hydromorphone addiction treatment usually requires a slow, medically-assisted recovery process.
What Is Hydromorphone Addiction?
Hydromorphone is a semi-synthetic opioid derived from morphine. As morphine is a potent opioid, hydromorphone is an even more potent synthetic opioid. Hydromorphone extended-release tablets are prescribed to help people with chronic pain. As extended-release tablets last for twelve hours, they only need to be taken twice a day.
Addiction to hydromorphone can develop quickly, and this medication is not typically prescribed unless an individual is already taking another opioid. In this case, hydromorphone is a pain management replacement. Doctors tend to prescribe hydromorphone to people with cancer or other serious, chronic conditions.
Hydromorphone is a schedule II controlled substance, meaning its use is heavily monitored by the U.S. government due to its intense and addictive nature. Brand names for hydromorphone include Dilaudid, Dilaudid-hp, Palladone, and Exalgo. Some street names for hydromorphone may include; Dillies, Big D and Peaches.
Hydromorphone works by binding to the pain and pleasure receptors in the central nervous system. This chemical reaction changes the way the body perceives pain and causes a feeling of extreme relaxation.
A tolerance to hydromorphone can develop in as little as two weeks of continually taking the medication. This can cause people to go through their prescriptions at a faster than normal rate because their brain is calling for larger doses of the drug.
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Signs And Symptoms Of Hydromorphone Abuse
When someone abuses hydromorphone, they can develop an addiction. Addiction occurs when an individual wants to quit hydromorphone but is physically or mentally not capable of doing so.
When hydromorphone addiction forms people can become obsessed with finding their next dose, may do anything to get more of the drug even if it is not in their best interest, and neglect family, friends and other social obligations.
Hydromorphone abuse is often detectable by many signs and symptoms.
Signs of hydromorphone abuse also include side effects of the drug, such as:
- problems falling and staying asleep
- dry mouth
- excessive sweating
- muscle, back or joint pain
- stomach pain
- flushed skin
These side effects may develop into more serious conditions, such as:
- swelling of the eyes, face, lips, tongue, mouth, throat, arms, hands, feet, ankles or lower legs
- difficulty breathing or swallowing
- agitation, hallucinations or confusion
- nausea and/or vomiting
- sexual dysfunction in men
- irregular menstrual cycles in women
- decreased sex drive
- chest pain
- extreme drowsiness or fainting
- lightheadedness when changing positions, i.e. sitting to standing
If individual experiences any of these side effects, it is important to seek medical attention immediately, as some of these conditions are life-threatening. It is also common for individuals abusing opioids, like hydromorphone, to “doctor shop,” or visiting several different doctors with complaints about chronic pain to get a new prescription.
Dangers Of Hydromorphone Abuse
One of the greatest dangers of hydromorphone abuse is the potential for overdose. Hydromorphone is very potent. Fatal overdose is common in situations where someone has detoxed from hydromorphone a little but not completely.
When they relapse they usually take the dose they were used to taking before detoxing and this can cause the body to be flooded with chemicals. This chemical imbalance can cause life-threatening side effects.
Mixing hydromorphone with other substances, like alcohol, is another dangerous habit among people who abuse the drug illicitly. Combining the two is dangerous because both hydromorphone and alcohol are depressants that work to slow the body’s central nervous system. When this happens, it can make it difficult to impossible to breathe.
Mixing hydromorphone with other substances can result in:
- trouble breathing
- nausea and vomiting
- stomach pain
- collapsed veins
- heart problems
Individuals who abuse hydromorphone by injection are also at an increased risk of receiving and transmitting HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. It is also possible for people who suffer from hydromorphone addiction to become financially devastated due to the high cost of the drug.
Experiencing trouble with family and significant relationships is also a risk involved with abusing hydromorphone. Individuals who abuse this drug are more likely to go to prison for theft related to the drug or producing fake prescriptions. Lastly, addiction to hydromorphone can result in developing an addiction to less costly drugs, but still potent drugs, like heroin.
Hydromorphone withdrawal, like other opioid withdrawals, often appear in the form of flu-like symptoms. People suffering from hydromorphone withdrawal often seem cold, clammy and achy. Like all opioid withdrawal, hydromorphone withdrawal comes in two stages: acute withdrawal and prolonged withdrawal.
Acute hydromorphone withdrawal symptoms can include:
- anxiety and agitation
- increased tear production
- muscle aches
- runny nose
Prolonged hydromorphone withdrawal symptoms can include:
- abdominal cramping
- dilated pupils
The number of time individuals experiences withdrawal depends on the severity of their addiction. In most cases, withdrawing from hydromorphone lasts about two weeks. Duration of withdrawal depends on how much hydromorphone was abused, frequency of abuse, and duration of abuse.
People who abused large amounts of the drug for extended periods of time are more likely to have longer withdrawal periods compared to those who abused smaller doses. Mixing hydromorphone with other substances can also increase withdrawal time depending on the type of substance it is mixed with.
Medically-Supervised Hydromorphone Detoxification
Due to the potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, it is never advised to stop taking hydromorphone without medical supervision. Trouble breathing and potentially getting vomit lodged in the lungs, risking potential infection, make medically-supervised detox a safer option.
Though the withdrawal process will be different from person to person, medically-supervised detox allows individuals to utilize a tapering program. These programs let individuals slowly wean off of hydromorphone, giving them a smoother transition to being opioid-free.
The medications typically seen in medically-assisted hydromorphone detox include methadone and buprenorphine. Hydromorphone is a short-acting opioid, meaning that its effects are quickly felt and do not last more than four to six hours at a time. This can make hydromorphone more difficult to quit because a dose is needed more frequently to stay stable.
Medications like methadone and buprenorphine help replace the cravings for hydromorphone while also decreasing uncomfortable withdrawal side effects. In addition to methadone and buprenorphine, other medications can also be prescribed to help combat some of the more psychological withdrawal symptoms, like anxiety and depression.
Treatment Options For Hydromorphone Addiction
Treating hydromorphone addiction may be difficult, but finding a treatment center shouldn’t be. The best chance at a successful and full recovery from hydromorphone involves a comprehensive look at the person suffering from the addiction.
Receiving professional treatment at an inpatient detox and then moving to an outpatient program like a support group has been shown to increase the odds of a positive recovery. Inpatient treatment ensures the highest level of care, and places individuals struggling with addiction into a positive environment where recovery is more likely.
For more information on Hydromorphone addiction and treatment options contact us today.