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Smoking or Snorting Dilaudid: Risks & Dangers Involved

Peter Manza, PhD profile image
Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD • Updated May 20, 2023 • 5 cited sources
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The risks and dangers of smoking or snorting Dilaudid include significant intoxication, lung damage, nasal damage and overdose, which can be fatal.

Dilaudid (hydromorphone) comes in multiple forms: pills, tablets and injections. None of these medications are designed to be smoked or snorted. But even so, some people try these methods. 

Smoking or snorting Dilaudid delivers all of the power of the drug to your system at once. Your risks of overdose increase accordingly. And since these drugs aren’t made to enter your body through your nose or lungs, you face other health risks due to contamination.

What Are the Dangers of Smoking or Snorting Dilaudid?

People who snort or smoke Dilaudid face very specific health risks and dangers due to how they use it. Opioid use disorder (OUD) forms much more quickly, and often more severely, when drugs are snorted or inhaled.

What Happens if You Smoke Dilaudid?

Many people with opioid use disorder (OUD) smoke their drugs. In studies of people with OUD, close to 70% of people smoked their drug of choice.[1]

People who smoke Dilaudid often crush tablets, mix the powder with tobacco, roll up the blend and smoke it. Any dangers you face from tobacco (including lung cancer) persist via this method.

Some people who smoke Dilaudid crush the pills, mix them with water, heat up the substance, and inhale the vapor. This isn’t a safer way to use drugs.

Specific health risks associated with smoking Dilaudid include the following:

  • Lung damage: Pills and liquids aren’t meant to enter your body via your lungs. Each whiff could irritate the delicate tissues deep inside your body and cause coughing and wheezing. If you already have a lung health issue (like asthma), your health could worsen. 
  • Deep intoxication: Opioids like Dilaudid often come with time-release coatings that break down in the digestive tract. Crushing the pills removes this attribute, making the drugs much more powerful than they might otherwise be. 
  • Contaminants: Your digestive tract can handle ingredients like powders and coatings, but your lungs can’t. When you inhale these ingredients, significant damage can occur.

What Happens if You Snort Dilaudid?

Tablets and pills aren’t made to enter your body via your nose. But some people crush their pills and tablets and use a straw or rolled-up paper to snort the powder into their nasal passages. 

Snorting is a response to taper-resistant coatings on extended-release tablets. While Dilaudid’s extended-release feature is made to deliver a small dose of opioids for a long period of time, snorting the powder means getting all of the drug at once. 

While the coatings are made to deter drug users, they don’t always work.[2] For some people, snorting is the preferred way to misuse Dilaudid. 

Specific risks associated with snorting Dilaudid include the following:

  • Tissue damage or death: Doctors have spotted tears or holes deep inside the nasal passages of people who misuse opioids via snorting.[2] Sometimes, this damage is permanent.
  • Contaminants: Coatings on the pills that wouldn’t cause problems in your digestive system can irritate or harm your nasal passages. You could develop a persistent runny nose or constant sneezing. 
  • Deep intoxication: Inactivating time-release coatings may deliver a large high, but it does a significant amount of damage that can make quitting drugs tough. 

Overdose Risks Associated With Snorting or Smoking Opioids

Dilaudid is a powerful opioid medication, and it’s capable of causing an overdose when taken independently. But snorting or smoking the drug makes an overdose more likely.

Dilaudid’s extended-release formulas are made for people who need pain medications for long periods.[4] Snorting or smoking delivers all of the power of the drug at once instead of over several hours. Your brain cells may be overwhelmed by so many signals coming all at once. 

If this happens, you’re experiencing an overdose. Opioid overdose can be fatal if it isn’t treated in time. Naloxone (Narcan) is an overdose-reversal drug that can be life-saving, but it must be administered quickly. Emergency medical assistance is still needed for opioid overdose even if you have naloxone on hand.

Withdrawal Risks of Snorting or Smoking

Taking large drug quantities at once does intense damage to brain cells. In time, they can’t function normally without the presence of Dilaudid. 

Typical withdrawal symptoms include the following:[5]

  • Body aches
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Sometimes, people feel so sick and uncomfortable during withdrawal that they relapse to drugs. If they repeat this pattern often, they may believe they’ll never get sober. 

Treatment for Dilaudid Misuse & OUD

Opioids can trick your brain into believing you can’t live without them. That’s not true. You can stop misusing Dilaudid if you have the right help and support.

In a Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT) program, doctors use medications like Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone) to correct chemical imbalances caused by OUD. With these medications, you can stop snorting or smoking drugs for good. 

Bicycle Health uses telemedicine techniques, so you can get better no matter where you live. Meet with a doctor online, and pick up your prescription at your local pharmacy. Contact us to find out if this treatment approach is right for you. You can get started on your journey to recovery and a better life right now.

Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD

Peter Manza, PhD received his BA in Psychology and Biology from the University of Rochester and his PhD in Integrative Neuroscience at Stony Brook University. He is currently working as a research scientist in Washington, DC. His research focuses on the role ... Read More

  1. Smoking Opioids. BC Centre for Disease Control. August 2021. Accessed April 2023.
  2. The Implications of Tamper-Resistance Formulations for Opioid Rotation. Postgraduate Medicine. March 2015. Accessed April 2023.
  3. Palatal Perforation Associated With Intranasal Prescription Narcotic Abuse. Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology, Oral Radiology, and Endodontology. May 2005. Accessed April 2023.
  4. Hydromorphone. U.S. National Library of Medicine. January 2021. Accessed April 2023.
  5. Seizure as a Primary Presentation in Opioid Withdrawal. Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences. 2018. Accessed April 2023.
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