Dilaudid (Hydromorphone) IV Injection | Uses, Side Effects, & Warnings

Dilaudid injection can cause adverse reactions and side effects, ranging from mild to severe.

Dilaudid is the brand name for a hydromorphone injection.

Hydromorphone is an opioid that treats moderate to severe pain. It’s five to 10 times more potent than morphine, and one-tenth as potent as fentanyl. You can inject it into the skin, a vein, or a muscle every two to three hours if needed.

Dilaudid may cause mild to severe side effects, and you shouldn’t mix it with certain drugs. As an opioid agonist, it targets opioid receptors and can produce euphoria. Misusing Dilaudid can lead to addiction.

Uses For Dilaudid (Hydromorphone) Injection

Dilaudid is an opioid analgesic drug, which means it provides pain relief (analgesia) by changing how your brain responds to pain. It’s typically only given by injection if you aren’t able to take hydromorphone orally.

Five to 10 times more potent than morphine, Dilaudid reaches your brain faster and provides quicker pain relief. It may help decrease the length of a hospital stay by easing your pain to a manageable level.

If you’re in the hospital, a healthcare provider will administer your Dilaudid injection. You may be able to take it home if you don’t need constant medical care. A doctor or nurse will show you how to inject it safely.

Opioids like Dilaudid are usually prescribed for short-term pain management rather than chronic pain, especially when they’re in the form of an injection. Long-term use of hydromorphone increases the risk of abuse, dependence, and addiction.

Dilaudid (Hydromorphone) Injection Side Effects

Dilaudid (hydromorphone) injection can cause adverse reactions and side effects, ranging from mild to severe. People who abuse hydromorphone have an increased risk of side effects.

Common side effects of Dilaudid injection are:

  • dry mouth
  • lightheadedness
  • drowsiness
  • flushing
  • itching
  • changes in mood
  • constipation
  • nausea
  • vomiting

Serious side effects include:

  • difficult, slow, or stopped breathing
  • muscle stiffness or twitching
  • loss of coordination
  • loss of appetite
  • weakness or dizziness
  • decreased sex drive
  • fever, sweating, shivering
  • agitation
  • confusion
  • hallucinations
  • seizures
  • loss of consciousness

There are two types of Dilaudid: regular strength (1 mg/mL, 2 mg/mL, or 4 mg/mL) and high potency (10 mg/mL Dilaudid-HP).

The concentrated solution should only be given to someone who is opioid-tolerant. You build a tolerance to opioids after taking them for a week or so. If you take Dilaudid-HP without an opioid tolerance, you’re at risk for severe side effects.

Hives, difficulty breathing, and swelling of the eyes, face, mouth, or throat may indicate an allergic reaction to a Dilaudid injection.

Warnings About Dilaudid (Hydromorphone) Injection

While a Dilaudid injection can be an effective pain medication, it isn’t right for everyone or every situation. There are several warnings you should be aware of before intravenous Dilaudid use.

Withdrawal Symptoms

If you take Dilaudid for more than a few days, you’ll start to develop a physical dependence on it. If you stop taking it suddenly, you’re likely to have withdrawal symptoms.

Some Dilaudid (hydromorphone) withdrawal symptoms are:

  • irritability and anxiety
  • restlessness
  • insomnia
  • abdominal pain (cramps)
  • quickened breathing
  • fast heart rate
  • sweating, chills
  • watery eyes and runny nose
  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • vomiting

Opioid withdrawal isn’t usually life-threatening but can be very unpleasant. In some cases, people have died from opioid withdrawal due to severe untreated dehydration from diarrhea and vomiting.

Respiratory Depression

Dilaudid is a central nervous system depressant. It slows down breathing and heart rate and can cause severe respiratory depression if you combine it with certain other drugs, such as:

  • benzodiazepines
  • muscle relaxants
  • other opioid pain medications, like hydrocodone (Vicodin) or oxycodone (OxyContin)
  • monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
  • sedatives
  • tranquilizers
  • sleeping pills
  • alcohol


Respiratory depression can also result from hydromorphone overdose. Signs of overdose include slow or stopped breathing, slow heart rate, and loss of consciousness. Dilaudid overdose may be fatal.

Keeping naloxone on hand while you’re taking a Dilaudid injection is a good idea. Naloxone (Narcan) is an opioid antagonist that reverses overdose symptoms long enough for you to get medical help.

Pregnancy & Breastfeeding

Women who are pregnant risk causing an opioid dependence in their babies if they take a Dilaudid injection during pregnancy. Hydromorphone can also pass through breast milk, causing drowsiness and CNS depression. It may even be fatal to a baby if you take high doses.

Medical Complications

Always consult with a doctor before taking a Dilaudid injection and be honest about your health history. Hydromorphone can cause complications with some medical conditions, such as:

  • breathing problems, such as asthma
  • paralytic ileus (a bowel obstruction caused by temporary muscle paralysis)
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid)
  • hepatic (liver) disease


Dilaudid (hydromorphone) is an addictive drug. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies it as a schedule II controlled substance with a high potential for abuse and dependence.

Because opioids change the way your mind perceives pain, they make you feel good even when your body doesn’t. The relaxing and euphoric sensation that Dilaudid can produce often leads people to abuse it (take higher doses or take it for longer than prescribed).

Opioid abuse can quickly lead to addiction. When you regularly rely on hydromorphone for a mood boost, your brain starts to expect the reward from the drug. You start to crave it and may be unable to stop taking it even if the addiction controls your life.

Dilaudid (Hydromorphone) Injection Abuse

If you or a loved one have been abusing Dilaudid, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Opioid abuse and addiction can have devastating effects on your life, health, and relationships.

At Northeast Addictions Treatment Center, we offer personalized outpatient care for opioid addiction. Reach out to us today to learn more about Dilaudid injection abuse and treatment options.

Written by
Northeast Addition Editorial Team

©2024 Northeast Addition Center | All Rights Reserved

This page does not provide medical advice.

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