Dilaudid and oxycodone are two opioid medications that have similar uses, side effects, and risks. They are also highly addictive when abused. This article outlines each medication and the differences between Dilaudid, the brand name for hydromorphone, and oxycodone, a generic pain medication that is widely known as OxyContin.

What is Dilaudid?

Dilaudid is the brand name for hydromorphone, an opioid pain reliever used to treat moderate to severe pain. It is used for short-term management of acute pain. Dilaudid comes in tablet form, but generic hydromorphone can be prescribed as a tablet, liquid, capsule, or injection.

Dilaudid (hydromorphone) is approximately two to eight times stronger than morphine, one of the original opioid painkillers.

What is Oyxocodne?

Oxycodone is an opioid medication that is prescribed to treat acute moderate to severe pain following injury or operation. It may also be used to treat cancer pain. Oxycodone comes in tablets, capsules, and a liquid.

Oxycodone is the generic name for the medication. It is also sold under various brand names. Brand names containing oxycodone include:

  • OxyContin (oxycodone)
  • Percocet (oxycodone/paracetamol)
  • Roxicodone (oxycodone)
  • Xtampza ER (oxycodone)
  • Endocet (oxycodone/acetaminophen)
  • Combunox (oxycodone/ibuprofen)
  • Percodan (oxycodone/aspirin)

Oxycodone is estimated to be twice as strong as morphine. It is one of the most common prescription painkillers found in opioid overdose deaths. From 2019 to 2022, prescription opioid overdose deaths increased by 17%.

Side Effects

Dilaudid (hydromorphone) and oxycodone both work by binding to opioid receptors in the brain and activating them to disrupt pain signals. Due to a shared mechanism of action, the side effects are the same. However, Dilaudid is more potent, so its side effects can be stronger.

Common side effects of hydromorphone and oxycodone are:

  • Drowsiness
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Shallow breathing
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Mood changes
  • Lethargy
  • Dry mouth
  • Itching
  • Impaired motor skills

In high doses, prescription opioids can cause respiratory depression, overdose, and death. Symptoms of an opioid overdose include:

  • Difficulty breathing or shallow breathing
  • Extreme sleepiness or inability to wake up
  • Loss of consciousness or unresponsiveness
  • Pinpoint pupils (pupils constricted to small size)
  • Bluish tint to the lips or fingernails
  • Slow or irregular heartbeat
  • Limpness or loss of muscle tone
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Vomiting or gurgling noises
  • Coma

Abuse and Addiction

Both Dilaudid and oxycodone are effective pain medications, but they have the potential for abuse and are both addictive when used long-term. The recreational abuse of oxycodone is more rampant than that of hydromorphone, but that’s simply due to availability as both drugs have similar effects.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that up to 25% of people who use opioids for long-term chronic pain management end up developing an addiction. Due to the addictive potential of opioids like these, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released warnings about the safe usage of opioid painkillers. They state that these medications should not be taken longer than needed or in greater doses than is necessary for adequate treatment.

Opioids are both physically and mentally addictive. People who abuse them develop withdrawal symptoms if they suddenly stop taking them or reduce their dosage. They also experience intense psychological cravings and mood-related symptoms.

Common symptoms of hydromorphone or oxycodone withdrawal include:

  • Runny nose
  • Yawning
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Insomnia
  • Watery eyes
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Cravings
  • Irritability

These symptoms are not life-threatening but can be severe and uncomfortable. Many people need the help of a medical detox program to successfully overcome withdrawal.

If you or someone you love are struggling with a substance use disorder, please reach out to the team at First Step Behavioral Health to learn about your treatment options.

Key Differences Between Dilaudid and Oxycodone

The main difference between oxycodone and Dilaudid is that Dilaudid (hydromorphone) is stronger than oxycodone. Hydromorphone is more closely related to morphine, but oxycodone is very similar and was synthesized to mimic the effects of morphine. These two medications are sold under different brand names and doses.

The other difference is that Dilaudid is faster-acting than oxycodone. It can produce pain relief in a shorter amount of time.

Finally, hydromorphone stays in the body longer than oxycodone does, so it will stay in the system longer.

The medications share the same indications and uses, side effects, and dosing instructions. Doses given are dependent on the patient and can be increased if a person develops a tolerance or pain severity increases.

Is Dilaudid or Oxycodone Better at Treating Pain?

When it comes to pain management, both medications are highly effective at treating pain. Since Dilaudid is stronger than oxycodone, it may be more effective for people who have a tolerance to opioid drugs. Dilaudid also has a rapid onset of action, so it can provide fast pain relief for those who need it quickly. Extended-release versions of hydromorphone are available.

Oxycodone is generally prescribed to those who are tolerant of lesser opioids, like hydrocodone. Doctors start patients on low doses of oxycodone and move up as needed. Oxycodone’s effects are usually felt within about an hour. Additionally, some oxycodone tablets are extended-release, so their effects can last for 12 hours.

It’s always best to have a discussion with your doctor before taking medication. They can help you determine which one is right for your situation.

Find Help for Opioid Abuse and Addiction Today

At First Step Behavioral Health, we’ve seen just how devastating the opioid epidemic can be on individuals, their families, and communities as a whole. Our treatment programs are designed to care for individuals in every aspect of their recovery; from medically-assisted detox to residential treatment and aftercare.

Our opioid detox and treatment program is tailored to meet the unique needs of every patient and represents the initial phase of your journey toward recovery. During the initial detoxification process, we are committed to guiding you through the challenges of withdrawal while prioritizing your safety. Following successful detox, a seamless transition awaits you at our drug treatment center, where you will gain the tools and knowledge necessary to embark on a sober and healthier life.

If you are struggling with opioid use disorder and ready to take the first step toward recovery, please contact us today. Our team is available 24 hours a day to verify your insurance, assess your needs, and help you get started with the right treatment program for you. Call now to get started with a confidential, risk-free assessment.

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