Hydromorphone is a Schedule II drug and a narcotic painkiller that is prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain. It is made from morphine and often sold under the brand name Dilaudid. As a central nervous system depressant, hydromorphone changes how the body feels and responds to pain, creating euphoric, relaxing, and pleasurable feelings.
Hydromorphone is manufactured in several different forms including tablets, oral solutions, and injectable formulations. Frequently referred to by its brand name, hydromorphone is a commonly abused opioid drug and is often abused alongside other opioids such as:
Hydromorphone is a very valuable drug when used in a hospital setting or to treat patients with severe pain, but it’s also a very popular street drug. A fast-acting opioid, abusers feel the effects within 15 to 30 minutes and often get addicted to the drug after long-term use. Stopping hydromorphone use suddenly can result in uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, which drives many people to continue abusing it.
Not everyone who abuses hydromorphone or becomes addicted to it does so intentionally. Some people may even become addicted after taking this narcotic as directed by a doctor. Taking hydromorphone for any period of time can be habit-forming and dangerous, especially if it is taken with other drugs or alcohol. Unfortunately, painkillers like hydromorphone are the most abused drugs in the United States after marijuana and hashish.
According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 18.7 million people abused prescription drugs like hydromorphone in the past year. Many of these people may have abused drugs by doing one or more of the following things:
- Taking someone else’s prescription
- Taking larger doses than was prescribed
- Taking more frequent doses of a prescription medication
- Taking a prescription medication purely for the purpose of getting high
- Taking a prescription in any way other than directed by a doctor
Abusing hydromorphone, or any other prescription opioid is extremely dangerous and can lead to life-threatening or deadly physical effects.
The physical effects of hydromorphone are similar to those of heroin, morphine, and fentanyl. Short-term effects of hydromorphone abuse may include:
- Reduced anxiety
- Difficulty thinking clearly
- Mood swings
- Increased drowsiness
- Respiratory depression
- Impaired coordination
- Slow or rapid heartbeat
- Changes in blood pressure
Long-term abuse of hydromorphone can result in more frequent or severe forms of the side effects listed above. It may also cause:
- Impaired decision-making skills
- Impaired behavior regulation
- Impaired ability to handle stress
- Brain damage
With long-term abuse of hydromorphone, a person will begin to develop a tolerance. This means they will require larger and more frequent doses of the drug to achieve the same effects. Without the drug, they will be thrown into an uncomfortable state of withdrawal.
To avoid these uncomfortable symptoms, many addicts will do just about anything to obtain more drugs. A person who is addicted to hydromorphone or other prescription opioid painkillers may display some of the following signs and symptoms:
- Faking symptoms to get a prescription from the doctor
- “Doctor shopping” or going to multiple doctors to get prescriptions
- Frequently getting refills
- Stealing money or other valuables to buy prescription drugs from dealers
- Stealing prescription drugs from friends, family members, pharmacies, or doctor’s offices
- Forging prescriptions
An addiction to prescription painkillers like hydromorphone typically doesn’t go unnoticed because it produces significant changes in the addict’s life. A person suffering from drug addiction will likely experience:
- Legal problems
- Problems with relationships
- Declining performance at work and school
- Neglecting important obligations to family, friends, and bosses
- Mental and physical health problems
- Decreased sense of happiness and satisfaction with life
If a person stops using hydromorphone suddenly, he or she may experience uncomfortable and severe withdrawal symptoms, including:
- Cold flashes
- Muscle spasms
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
Medically assisted detox programs can help addicted individuals achieve a stable state of sobriety by treating the physical symptoms of withdrawal and providing a full team of medical and therapeutic professionals to meet their other needs. It’s also much safer than detoxing at home. Hydromorphone detox can be unpredictable, especially if the addict has been abusing multiple substances simultaneously.
A medical detox program should always begin with a comprehensive personal assessment. This assessment will give the treatment team valuable information that will enable them to create a treatment plan that will address all of the client’s physical, mental, and emotional needs. It also allows them to provide individualized recommendations for continued care after detox, which greatly reduces the client’s likelihood of relapse.
Hydromorphone withdrawal can last anywhere from one to two weeks, depending on the severity of a person’s addiction.
A few hours after the last dose: Individuals may begin experiencing the first symptoms of withdrawal, which are typically restlessness and anxiety.
1-2 days after the last dose: Withdrawal symptoms usually peak during this time and most people will begin to have muscle aches and chills. They may also experience some nausea, sweating, and shakiness. The intensity of these symptoms will vary based on the person’s circumstances.
3-4 days after the last dose: Individuals may experience lingering nausea and muscle aches, but the worst of the symptoms should be over by this time.
5-15 days after the last dose: Some withdrawal symptoms may last up to 15 days or longer and may include insomnia, depression, anxiety, and irritability.
Upon completion of a detox program, clients may choose to continue their addiction treatment with long-term rehab for hydromorphone addiction. Long-term rehab is defined by the NIDA as at least 90 days of treatment. Research shows that this amount of time provides more positive treatment results than programs that only last 30 or 60 days.
While drug detox addresses physical addiction, drug rehab is designed to address the addiction of the mind. While in rehab for hydromorphone addiction, clients will work with therapists, licensed counselors, and peers in recovery to unearth the root causes of their addiction. They will also spend time addressing the destructive behaviors that contributed to their addiction and developing healthier behaviors and attitudes about substance abuse and life in general.
Long-term drug rehab plays an important role in the recovery process, as it provides clients with time to:
- Learn about the disease of addiction
- Adopt valuable life skills
- Spend time away from environmental triggers, drugs, and alcohol
- Work through each step of the 12-step program
- Learn about relapse prevention
All of these things will help clients overcome hydromorphone addiction for good and learn how to live life sober with ongoing peer support.
Inpatient Drug Rehab vs. Outpatient Drug Rehab
When choosing a drug rehab, there are two main options to consider: inpatient and outpatient rehab. Every recovering addict will have different needs and choosing the right type of rehab program is essential to long-term success in sobriety.
At an inpatient rehab center, clients are required to live at the facility throughout the duration of their treatment program. Inpatient facilities often provide highly structured schedules for clients to follow each day. Throughout the program, clients will attend individual and group therapy sessions, participate in 12-step meetings and/or other types of specialized therapies, and engage in a physical fitness program designed for people of all fitness levels.
Outpatient rehab programs typically provide less structure but consist of several group meetings each week. Groups meet in a safe, secure, and clinical location and clients cover the same type of materials and information that is covered in inpatient rehab. The main benefit of outpatient rehab is that it provides more flexibility for those who cannot commit to living at an inpatient facility for 90 days.
The cost of inpatient and outpatient drug rehab will vary depending on the duration of the program, the amenities offered, the location of the facility, and the recovery support services offered. Clients have several different payments options and may choose to use their medical insurance to supplement the cost of treatment. Other payment options may include private loans, Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), and out-of-pocket payments.
Addiction recovery is an ongoing process that will continue for the remainder of a person’s life. It’s not something that can be overcome in a matter of weeks or months. For that reason, continued care is essential to long-term and lasting recovery.
Addicts in recovery may choose to continue their care with a variety of services, such as a sober living program or an aftercare program. Both of these types of addiction treatment programs are designed to support individuals in recovery who have already completed drug detox and rehab.
Sober Living Programs
Sober living programs provide transitional living situations for individuals who have recently completed drug rehab or who need additional support maintaining their sobriety after a recent lapse or relapse. Sober living homes provide structured, safe, and sober living environments where men and women can thrive in sobriety alongside their peers.
Residents are required to uphold the rules and standards set forth by their sober living community and they may be required to attend individual or group therapy sessions, 12-step meetings, and other house group activities as outlined by their recovery program. Many sober living homes also provide regular drug and alcohol testing, personal monitoring programs, and education/career assistance for residents.
The cost of a sober living home will vary depending on the type of home/rooms offered, the location, the recovery support services offered, and the client’s needs. Payment for most sober living homes is collected on a monthly basis, similar to rent.
Aftercare programs are designed to support alumni of drug rehab and sober living programs. Upon completion of these treatment programs, many individuals enroll in Aftercare in an effort to continue their own personal growth, connect with other individuals in recovery, and stay accountable to their recovery goals.
Aftercare programs consist of a series of weekly group meetings facilitated by a counselor or recovery specialist. Discussion can be used as a weekly check-in or as an opportunity to ask for or provide verbal support to others in recovery. Aftercare programs are perfect for individuals in all stages of recovery and provide many benefits for people who are seeking to maintain their sobriety long-term.
- Gender-specific treatment
- Evidenced-based treatment
- 12-Step immersion
- 90-day residential treatment
- Family program
- Full continuum of care
- Insurance and private pay
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