Dilaudid is the brand name of hydromorphone – a prescription narcotic pain reliever that is generally used to treat moderate to intense pain. Examples of uses include to relieve pain from surgical procedures, organ infections, and childbirth. The Drug Enforcement Administration reports that 3.9 million prescriptions were written for Dilaudid in 2012. The drug is available as an IV liquid, an oral suspension liquid, and in tablet form.
Who Abuses It?
When used in hospital settings, which is common, Dilaudid is generally administered via an IV that is running saline solution into the body. This obviously isn’t a mainstream abuse practice. Rather, those who abuse the drug just inject the same solution. The pill form of Dilaudid is easily abused too, but it isn’t as potent.
Plenty of individuals who abuse Dilaudid aren’t buying it on the street. People who are at the highest risk for overdose are those who abuse Dilaudid and other prescription opiates more than 200 days a year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that 27 percent of them have their own prescription for the drugs.
There are specific demographics that seem to be more likely to abuse opioids like Dilaudid. The National Institute on Drug Abuse notes that young people abuse opioids the most. Still, overdose rates have continued to rise in the last couple decades across all races and ages. However, geographic location may be a determining factor. The CDC states that in 2012, prescriptions for opioid pain relievers varied across the country, with Alabama claiming the highest prescribing rate, which was 2.7 times higher than the lowest rate in Hawaii.
Another concern regarding Dilaudid abuse is the growing trend of opiate abuse in pregnant women. The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology stated that 1 percent of pregnant women surveyed reported using prescription opioid pain relievers in the 30 days prior without a medical reason to do so. Among a sample of pregnant women at an urban teaching hospital who were tested for drugs, 2.6 percent tested positive for opioids.
The side effects that stem from the abuse of prescription painkillers during pregnancy are numerous and not just to the mother. The developing baby may suffer from severe birth defects. WebMD reported on a survey of mothers, with children both with and without birth defects. Only 2 percent of those without birth defects reported using opiates while pregnant while 2.6 percent whose babies were born with defects had used opiates while pregnant.
The CDC notes a 300 percent rise in neonatal abstinence syndrome between 2000 and 2009 among American-born children. Neonatal abstinence syndrome is essentially a condition that affects infants who are born addicted to a substance. The effects of the substance aren’t the only concern; there is also concern over the effects of the newborn having to go through withdrawal.
Signs of Abuse and Addiction
The side effects of Dilaudid addiction are something to watch out for, as they can be serious and life-threatening. Some individuals who abuse this drug have ended up in a coma or died as a result. The American Society of Addiction Medicine states that 18,893 people died as a result of prescription opioid overdoses in 2014.
While few side effects may be seen in some cases, there is no way to predict who will have more severe reactions to the drug. In addition, overdose can happen to someone who has been abusing Dilaudid for years just as easily as it can to someone who is using it for the first time.
Some common warning signs of Dilaudid abuse include:
- Depressed breathing
- Dilated pupils
- Constricted blood vessels
- Agitated mood
- Stealing to restock drug supply
- Doctor shopping to get more prescriptions and refills
- Frequent trips to the emergency room with reports of undocumented pain
- Paranoid thoughts
- Abdominal pain
- Track marks on extremities
- Nausea and vomiting
- Trouble urinating
- Lying about how often or how much Dilaudid is being used
- Engaging in reckless behaviors that are out of character for the individual
If a loved one is exhibiting any of these warning signs, it may be time to evaluate their need for help. Waiting leaves room for more serious effects to take place, such as stroke, heart attack, and death. Certainly, substance abuse should never be ignored, but it’s good to know how severe someone’s issues are before deciding how to confront them about treatment. Substance abuse is habit-forming.
Addiction means substance abuse has gone on long enough or been severe enough that the body and mind can no longer function in a healthy and stable way without the drug. Signs of addiction include:
- Using even though only negative consequences have stemmed from abusing Dilaudid
- Loss of control over how much is used or how often
- Using to avoid going through withdrawal
- Preoccupation with using again
- Loss of interest in things the individual once enjoyed being a part of
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence notes that 44 percent of American people report knowing someone who has suffered from an addiction to prescription opioid painkillers. When addiction hits this close to home for so many people, it isn’t an understatement to assume it takes shape fairly easily. Tolerance simply means the individual’s body and brain are now so accustomed to the dose of Dilaudid they’re been exposed to that they require more of it to reach the same level of efficacy. For example, someone who has been abusing Dilaudid for a while by taking 2 mg will eventually need to increase that dose to 3-4 mg and then to 5-6 mg and so forth to get high. The initial dose will no longer do anything for them. An inability to scale back how much Dilaudid is being used is further confirmation that tolerance is present.
Individuals who have no control over how much they use and feel like they always use more than the limits they set for themselves are dependent on the drug. In many cases, people abuse Dilaudid when they’ve stopped for a number of hours and start to feel the uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal setting in. In many cases, it is this craving to use again to stave off withdrawal that fuels an obsession with when they’ll get to use again. Cravings also feed this desire. Most of the time, a lack of interest in taking part in family functions and social activities with friends stems from being high or trying to hide substance-abusing behaviors from loved ones.
Risks of Addiction
Since the primary method of abuse of Dilaudid involves injecting the drug, the same risks that come with any injection drug use practice are present with Dilaudid abuse in most cases. Sharing needles or using dirty supplies to prepare an injection can and often does lead to infection. In 2010, there were 47,500 new HIV infections in the United States, and 3,900 of them were attributed to injection drug use, per the CDC.
A lot of people who end up addicted to opiates like Dilaudid are suffering on the inside. They may feel chronically unhappy. They might feel incessant worry and paranoia every day of their lives. They may fight with family members and struggle to understand where their emotions are coming from. They might even think about suicide. Mental illness affects 42.5 million adults in America, per Newsweek. Many of them also struggle with drug and alcohol abuse.
Another large concern for people who abuse Dilaudid is the simultaneous abuse of alcohol – consumption of which is strongly warned against for anyone taking Dilaudid, even as prescribed. There are significant risks involved with this type of polysubstance abuse; adverse events can occur and can even result in death. The concurrent abuse of these substances while mental illness is present can cause the symptoms of the illness to worsen.
Treatment for Dilaudid Addiction
There are two primary medication treatment options to address an addiction to Dilaudid. Methadone maintenance involves taking a daily regulated dose of methadone – a full opioid agonist – to act as a replacement in the brain and body for Dilaudid. This effectively removes the risks involved with overdose or tainted supplies and allows the body to wean off opioids over a longer period of time. Generally, a minimum of 12 months is considered the standard for treatment in this type of program. When followed correctly, chances at success may be as high as 90 percent, per the California Society for Addiction Medicine, compared to just 5-10 percent success rates without it.
The other option is to take a buprenorphine-based medication for the same reason. The only differences between the two are how they are used. Methadone is highly regulated and needs to be given out daily by a clinic or doctor. That means clients in treatment have to show up at a doctor’s office, treatment center, or clinic daily to receive it. Buprenorphine is much easier to manage because it doesn’t require these daily visits. Clients simply take the medication on their own. The Fix reports an 88 percent efficacy rate for buprenorphine-based treatment programs.
Any use of medication is not sufficient on its own. It must be used as part of a comprehensive treatment program that includes therapy. Therapy is where the true work of addiction recovery takes place.