Dilaudid (hydromorphone hydrochloride) is a full opioid agonist that operates similarly to heroin and morphine, but it is many times more potent than those drugs.
All opiate drugs readily attach to the receptor sites in the brain that are specialized for neurotransmitters, such as endorphins, that are naturally involved in the control of pain, exertion, and stress. Opiate drugs are primarily designed to treat postoperative pain and pain associated with injury or some other chronic condition.
Dilaudid is most often used for postoperative pain because it has a quick onset of action and a rather short half-life. Thus, it works quickly and does not remain in the system very long.
Individuals are typically prescribed some other pain-relieving medication upon discharge from the hospital. Therefore, individuals who are receiving the drug for medicinal reasons often do not use it frequently enough to develop the symptoms of physical dependence. Thus, in medical practice, the development of physical dependence on Dilaudid is most likely relatively infrequent due to the acute uses of the drug.
injected or snorted typically produce more severe and longer withdrawal symptoms), individual differences in metabolism, and numerous other factors.
Even though the withdrawal symptoms from opioid drugs like Dilaudid are not generally considered to be potentially fatal or even serious physical consequences, there are several issues that can occur during withdrawal that can result in serious ramifications. For example, an individual who is vomiting or has significant diarrhea may become dehydrated, and this can be a serious condition. Individuals who become extremely emotionally distraught during the withdrawal process are at risk for poor decision-making and may overdose during a relapse attempt, or they may be involved in accidents or be the victims of crimes.
Individuals who become extremely distraught during withdrawal could also become suicidal.
During this process, individuals who have developed opiate use disorders are often administered an opioid replacement medication by an addiction medicine physician. Medications like methadone or Suboxone (buprenorphine and naloxone) are often preferred. The addiction medicine physician will establish an initial dosage of the drug that is sufficient to result in the recovering individual not experiencing any significant withdrawal symptoms. Over time, the physician will slowly taper the dosage of the drug and allow the individual to wean off it at a pace where they will not experience any significant withdrawal symptoms.
During withdrawal, if there are complications or other symptoms that surface, the physician can address them with other medicines or interventions. This includes addressing any co-occurring mental health disorders or medical conditions that also need treatment.
The withdrawal management process often lasts significantly longer than cold-turkey withdrawal; however, the potential for relapse and serious complications is drastically reduced.
Eventually, the opioid replacement medication can be totally discontinued.
Whether one chooses to withdraw from Dilaudid without assistance or to become involved in a physician-assisted withdrawal management program, simply going through the process of withdrawal is not a sufficient approach to recovery. Individuals who do not become involved in some form of long-term treatment program will relapse at rates that approach 100 percent even if they successfully complete the withdrawal process without relapsing.