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Side Effects of Dilaudid: Common & Rare Risks to Look For

Peter Manza, PhD profile image
Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD • Updated Aug 14, 2023 • 4 cited sources

Dilaudid side effects include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, itchiness, lightheadedness, dry mouth and euphoria.

Rarer side effects of Dilaudid include gastrointestinal problems, respiratory issues, cardiovascular changes and cognitive problems, among others. Overdose, which can be fatal, is a significant risk of Dilaudid misuse.

Dilaudid is a brand-name prescription pain medication containing hydromorphone. When pharmacists fill your prescription, they bundle your pills with a packet of information approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.[1] This document contains plenty of information about Dilaudid side effects, but if you don’t actually read it, you’re not alone.

Understanding Dilaudid side effects is one of the best ways to use your medication safely. When you know how the drug can harm you — and what to avoid while using it — you can make smart choices. If you can’t understand the document that came with your drugs, this article can help.

And if you’re using Dilaudid you bought from dealers, you may have no side effect documents to refer to. This article can help you too.

What Are the Common Dilaudid Side Effects?

Like all painkillers containing opioids, Dilaudid sedates the central nervous system, causing sedation and relaxation. Hydromorphone is particularly sedating, and some people notice a change in their breathing rates immediately.

Other common side effects include the following:[1]

  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth 
  • Euphoria 
  • Flushing
  • Itching
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting

What Are the Rare Dilaudid Side Effects?

Some people have unusual reactions to hydromorphone, developing symptoms researchers didn’t expect.

Rare side effects can include the following:[1]

  • Appetite changes: Anorexia may occur, especially if your stomach hurts.
  • Breathing problems: You may feel like your throat is tight or closing. Your breathing may slow, and you may struggle to breathe.
  • Eye problems: Your vision may be blurred, doubled or impaired.
  • Gastrointestinal problems: You may develop abdominal pain or constipation. 
  • Heart changes: Your heart may beat too fast, too slow or at an irregular rate.
  • Mental health challenges: You may feel agitated, nervous, anxious or depressed. You may also experience disorientation or hallucinations. 
  • Musculoskeletal changes: Your muscles may be rigid and tight. 
  • Nervous system changes: You may develop shaking hands, twitchy eyes, an altered sense of taste or a headache.
  • Urinary problems: You may struggle to empty your bladder fully. This may result in feeling like you continually have to urinate.

What About Dangerous Interactions?

Since Dilaudid slows your nervous system, combining it with any other kind of sedating medication is dangerous. Adding benzodiazepines, tranquilizers, muscle relaxants or alcohol could make you feel even more sedated while using Dilaudid. 

Other drugs doctors say you should avoid while using Dilaudid include diuretics (as hydromorphone already causes urinary problems) and anticholinergic drugs (as they can also be sedating).[1]

Potential Risks & Warnings for Dilaudid 

Hydromorphone is powerful, capable of changing almost every organ or critical system inside your body. Sometimes, those alterations can be dangerous. 

These are known risks associated with Dilaudid:


Even people using Dilaudid as prescribed by their doctors can develop a physical dependence that transitions into opioid use disorder (OUD).[1] Brain cells become accustomed to Dilaudid, and without it, they can spark deep-set cravings that are hard to ignore. Some people start using Dilaudid for pain, and they lose control over when and how much of the drug they use over time. 

Researchers say about 80% of new heroin users were introduced to opioids through prescription painkillers.[2] A medication that seems safe could change your life in ways you couldn’t predict. 


Taking too much of any opioid, including Dilaudid, can overwhelm your nervous system and produce a life-threatening overdose episode. You stop breathing and your heart slows and stops. Without quick treatment, you can die due to Dilaudid misuse. 

More than 98,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2021, and opioids were the most common cause.[3] Medications like Dilaudid are incredibly dangerous, and they’re capable of ending a life in minutes. 

If you combine other substances, like benzodiazepines or alcohol, with Dilaudid, overdose is more likely. But Dilaudid can also trigger overdose when used alone.

Serotonin Syndrome

Dilaudid misuse is associated with life-threatening serotonin syndrome. This medical emergency is often associated with antidepressants, and mixing them with Dilaudid can raise your risk of health problems.[4] But you could develop serotonin syndrome when Dilaudid is used on its own. 

When your body produces too much serotonin, your heart can race and you may feel uncoordinated and hot. Treatment typically involves removing the drug from your body.

Painful Withdrawal 

People who quit Dilaudid abruptly can develop uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, including the following:[1]

  • Chills 
  • Diarrhea
  • Irritability
  • Muscle pain
  • Perspiration
  • Restlessness
  • Vomiting
  • Watery eyes
  • Yawning

Intense withdrawal symptoms make it more likely that you will simply return to Dilaudid misuse rather than completing the withdrawal process.

Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome

If you use Dilaudid while pregnant, your baby can be born with life-threatening withdrawal symptoms very similar to those you might feel if you abruptly quit opioid use. Prompt treatment could save your baby’s life. 

Get Help for Your Opioid Use Disorder 

It’s hard to quit using Dilaudid without help. Your brain tells you the drug is required for a healthy life, and it’s hard to ignore the internal drive to use drugs again. Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT) programs can help. They might even save your life.

In MAT programs, doctors use medications like Suboxone to ease withdrawal symptoms and alleviate cravings. These medications can help you both get sober and stay that way for a lifetime. 

If you’ve tried to quit Dilaudid and couldn’t, MAT could make all the difference. Ask your doctor if a program like this is right for you, or reach out to us here at Bicycle Health to learn more.

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. Dilaudid Prescribing Information. U.S. Food and Drug Administration.,019892s029lbl.pdf. December 2016. Accessed March 2023.
  2. Opioid Addiction. StatPearls. January 2023. Accessed March 2023.
  3. Drug Overdoses. National Safety Council. Accessed March 2023.
  4. Serotonin Syndrome. U.S. National Library of Medicine. April 2022. Accessed March 2023.

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