Although millions of Americans can access various pain relief options, it is challenging to determine which pain reliever is most appropriate for their medical conditions. Depending on whether your doctor is considering or prescribing opioid medication for pain control, you may be wondering if hydromorphone or hydrocodone would be more effective for you. 

Even though these medications both contain opioid properties, there is a difference between them. It is crucial to take into account how each drug treats pain before deciding whether you need it.

Dilaudid, the brand name for hydromorphone, can treat moderate-to-severe acute pain after surgery. Hydrocodone can be used long-term to treat moderate-to-severe chronic pain. 

If the patient is in the hospital, they may be given Dilaudid, whereas if the patient is outside the hospital, they may be given hydrocodone, a less powerful opioid pain reliever. Your primary care physician will determine which one is appropriate for your condition. You will receive treatment based on several factors unique to your case, including:

  • Diagnosis
  • Medical condition
  • Variables such as your age and gender
  • Your medication’s form
  • Substance use disorders in your family history

In this article, we will examine how both medications affect pain. Whenever you take medications, consult your doctor to see if it is working. If you experience uncomfortable side effects, please inform your doctor as soon as possible.

How Does Hydromorphone Work?

As an opioid pain reliever, Dilaudid is a trade name for hydromorphone. It is used for acute moderate-to-severe pain symptoms. As well as managing cancer symptoms and other chronic illnesses causing severe pain, Dilaudid may also be prescribed for those suffering from long-term cancer treatment.

Oral forms of hydromorphone are available. Patients can also take extended-release tablets of hydromorphone. Hydromorphone binds to mu-opioid receptors in the brain and stomach, making it a powerful pain reliever. Since hydromorphone is nearly five times stronger than hydrocodone, it is a much stronger pain reliever. 

The drug is available in pill form for treating post-operative pain as well as intravenous (IV) and intramuscular injections since its potency makes it suitable for treating short-term pain.

Hydromorphone misuse and abuse can cause physical and psychological problems if used too long or misused. Misused and abused hydromorphone can cause unstable moods, anxiety disorders, depression, and reckless behavior.

How Does Hydrocodone Work?

The opioid medication hydromorphone belongs to the same family as hydrocodone. Hydromorphone and morphine are both prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain and coughing. It is a drug in the same class as hydrocodone and hydromorphone. 

This drug is similar to morphine but has a shorter half-life, which makes it more likely to cause sedation as a side effect. The body eliminates half of a drug when it’s half-exhausted from the bloodstream, which reduces the effectiveness of the drug.

For some people, hydrocodone can cause feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and general well-being. These sensations can lead to misuse of the drug, leading individuals to become addicted and develop substance abuse disorders.

As a pain reliever, hydrocodone binds to opioid receptors throughout the body, especially in the brain and spinal cord. By preventing pain signals from being sent and received, patients suffering from moderate-to-severe pain symptoms get relief. Pain and discomfort are perceived differently by users, but the underlying causes are the same. There is a possibility that the pain can return after the drug has worn off.

Combination Medicines Containing hydrocodone

In the form of an extended-release capsule, hydrocodone is available under the brand name Zohydro ER. This version provides long-lasting pain relief.

Doctors frequently prescribe Vicodin because of its combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen, which is also used to treat fevers. It is also referred to by the trade names Norco, Lorcet, and Lortab.

The use of hydrocodone on a frequent basis can cause liver damage, as well as acetaminophen toxicity, among other health problems.

How Strong Is Hydrocodone Versus Dilaudid?

hydrocodone vs dilaudid

A prescription is required to obtain either hydromorphone or hydrocodone, two opioid medications that treat pain. Clinical trials are ongoing to determine how and if hydromorphone and hydrocodone should be prescribed for pain relief. 

In terms of strength, opioids are frequently compared to natural opiates morphine, hydromorphone, and hydrocodone, which are weaker. Morphine has been used to treat pain for over a century, while hydrocodone is less potent.

Since opioids are highly addictive and habit-forming, even people who take them for health reasons should be cautious when using them. Most opioid medications treat moderate-to-severe pain over the short term. Hydrocodone or hydromorphone may be prescribed for a short period of time if you experience pain symptoms. Each case is unique, depending on the individual being treated.

It is relatively safe to use drugs in this class as part of short-term therapeutic treatment when used as directed by a doctor. The problem is if they fall into the wrong hands, they can become highly addictive.

Side Effects of Hydrocodone and Hydromorphone

Before using hydromorphone or hydrocodone for pain management, users should carefully consider their side effects, which are similar to those of any other drug. If you compare their side effects, you may be able to determine which one would be best for you, but you should always consult your doctor before taking anything new.

Hydromorphone Side Effects

Many side effects are associated with hydromorphone use, including:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Flushed skin
  • Itching
  • Nausea
  • Red eyes
  • Dry mouth
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation

Since hydromorphone is stronger than morphine and causes sedation, avoid driving or operating heavy machinery while taking it. If side effects are mild, they may only last a short time. If they last for longer, consult your doctor.

If you experience any other serious side effects of hydromorphone, contact your doctor immediately. These side effects can also affect other parts of the body, including:

  • Racing pulse
  • Chest pain
  • Headache
  • Blood pressure changes
  • Muscle weakness
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Double or blurry vision
  • Tremors 
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Bowel blockage
  • Stomach pain
  • Constipation
  • Confused state (disorientation)
  • Anxiety, depression
  • Mood or behavior changes
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations

Hydrocodone Side Effects

Many side effects are associated with hydrocodone use, including:

  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Cold symptoms
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Constipation
  • Appetite changes
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Difficult, frequent, or painful urination
  • Ear ringing
  • Back pain
  • Muscle tension or tightening
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Stomach pain
  • Swollen feet, legs, or ankles
  • Tremors (uncontrollable shaking)

In some cases, hydrocodone use can cause more severe side effects. Symptoms such as the following should be reported to a doctor if you experience any of them:

  • Stiffness
  • Twitching
  • Sweating 
  • Shivering
  • Agitation
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Slowed or irregular heartbeat
  • Coordination loss
  • Hallucinations
  • Having trouble urinating
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea

In case you notice changes in your breathing after stopping hydrocodone, such as noisy breathing, or shallow breathing, or if you stop breathing while sleeping, please contact your doctor. Symptoms such as fainting, a slow heart rate, or a weak pulse indicate that you should stop taking hydrocodone. You should stop taking the medication immediately if you develop hives or rashes due to an allergic reaction.

If you notice any of the warning signs, you should stop taking hydrocodone:

  • Confusion 
  • Severe sleepiness
  • Worsening tiredness 
  • Muscle weakness

The side effects of hydromorphone and hydrocodone may not be the same for everyone. There is a chance that some users will not experience any side effects at all. However, you still need to keep an eye out for side effects by checking the label and talking to your doctor.

Any symptoms or signs you are concerned about should be discussed with your doctor. Your doctor may adjust the dosage or switch you to another medication, as well as provide you with advice regarding how to deal with side effects.

The Risk of Opioid Pain Relievers 

Despite having prescriptions for opioids, people are still at risk of becoming addicted to them, even with proper prescriptions. Drugs like hydromorphone and hydrocodone are habit-forming and high in the potential for addiction. 

As a result of abusing hydrocodone and hydromorphone, the following consequences can occur:

  • Having no valid prescription for the medication
  • Taking more medication than prescribed
  • Taking the medication taken too often
  • Combining them with alcohol and opioids 
  • Using them to achieve a high

When your pain medication does not work as well as it once did or does not work at all, contact your doctor right away. You may experience withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking your medication abruptly, but if you take more medication than prescribed, you might become dependent on it or develop an addiction to it.

If you abuse or misuse pain medications and have trouble quitting, you should consider drug rehabilitation programs that address opioid addiction with evidence-based treatments.

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