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Mixing Dilaudid And Alcohol: The Effects And Dangers

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

May 2, 2019

Dilaudid (hydromorphone) is a strong opioid commonly prescribed to relieve moderate to severe pain. Drinking alcohol while taking Dilaudid can lead to serious health consequences, including respiratory depression, coma, and death.

Mixing alcohol and Dilaudid (hydromorphone) can result in a negative reaction and have serious effects on health. Depending on the dosage taken and other factors, these effects can be life-threatening.

The danger of mixing alcohol and hydromorphone is not a new discovery. Palladone, an earlier form of hydromorphone, is a drug that was discontinued after experts found that it could be deadly when combined with alcohol.

While Dilaudid can still be safe when taken as prescribed, the dangers of mixing it with alcohol are still very serious. If you or a loved one is abusing Dilaudid and alcohol, treatment may be needed.

How Does Dilaudid Work?

Dilaudid is a semi-synthetic opioid that works by targeting areas of your brain that can alter how you perceive pain. The active ingredient in Dilaudid comes from the natural opioid, morphine, which is another strong pain reliever.

Dilaudid, however, is more potent than morphine — meaning it can cause more powerful effects in smaller doses. Dilaudid is most often prescribed to relieve intense pain following a medical or dental procedure. Use for chronic pain is typically limited for people who are tolerant to the effects of other pain medications.

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Several other side effects can occur while taking Dilaudid. If you’re experiencing extreme discomfort or stress from Dilaudid side effects, contact your doctor for alternative options.

Side effects of Dilaudid can include:

  • dizziness
  • headaches
  • anxiety
  • confusion
  • depression
  • itching

Like other opioids, Dilaudid can also cause a high, with feelings of relaxation and euphoria. Although this can feel good in the short-term, the euphoric effects of Dilaudid are short-lived and can be addictive.

What Happens When Mixing Dilaudid And Alcohol?

Many prescription drug labels warn against drinking while taking certain medications. This is because many drugs, including Dilaudid, can have a negative interaction with alcohol. This can cause more intense side effects.

Some of these side effects, including slowed heart and breathing rates, can be life-threatening. Mixing high doses of Dilaudid with alcohol, or drinking heavy amounts, may increase the risk of life-threatening symptoms.

Additional side effects of mixing Dilaudid and alcohol can include:

  • excessive drowsiness
  • nausea and vomiting
  • headache
  • impaired judgment
  • slowed or difficulty breathing
  • loss of consciousness

Mixing Dilaudid And Alcohol Dangers

Drinking alcohol while taking Dilaudid can pose several dangers beyond the side effects listed above. Depending on how much you drink and the drug dose, these dangers can vary in severity and pose short and long-term health risks.

Increased Overdose Risk

Overdose is one of the most serious dangers that can occur from taking too much Dilaudid in a short period of time. Mixing it with alcohol can cause overdose even faster and with smaller doses.

Mixing Dilaudid and alcohol can cause severe breathing troubles, and may lead to very slow or stopped breathing. It can also increase the risk of coma and fatal overdose.

Knowing the signs of an overdose can help you identify when someone is overdosing and allow you to seek help quickly.

Signs of overdose can include:

  • difficulty breathing
  • mental confusion
  • low body temperature
  • clammy, gray skin
  • irregular heartbeat
  • respiratory depression (dangerously slow or stopped breathing)
  • seizures
  • loss of consciousness

Long-Term Health Risks

Over time, chronic drug and alcohol abuse can cause moderate to severe organ damage. This prevents organs in the body from functioning as well as they should. In severe cases, this can lead to conditions such as kidney and liver disease.

People who have developed serious kidney and liver damage may require a transplant. Left untreated, this can lead to organ failure and can be fatal.

Other long-term health risks of alcohol and Dilaudid abuse include:

  • insomnia
  • irregular heartbeat
  • changes in mood and behavior
  • coordination problems
  • pancreatitis (disease of the pancreas)
  • weak immune system
  • increased risk for certain cancers
  • breathing problems
  • permanent brain damage
  • coma

Dependence And Addiction

Both alcohol and Dilaudid can have powerful effects on the brain which can make you want to continue using them. Over time, this can lead to dependence and addiction. Mixing alcohol and Dilaudid may cause the body to become dependent faster than when using one alone.

Dependence on alcohol and Dilaudid can result in withdrawal symptoms within hours of a person’s last drink or dose. This can make it difficult for most people to stop using these substances on their own.

Dilaudid And Alcohol Withdrawal

People who are addicted to alcohol and Dilaudid are likely to experience withdrawal symptoms with stopped use. These symptoms can range from mild to severe and be physical or psychological in nature.

The process of withdrawal can vary for each person, depending on how long they have been abusing one or more substances and other personal factors. Severe symptoms of Dilaudid and alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous without medical support.

Attempting detox alone is not recommended. The safest way to detox from alcohol and Dilaudid is to enter a medical detox program.

Medically Supervised Detox For Dilaudid And Alcohol Addiction

Medically assisted detox is the safest and most effective way to undergo alcohol and drug withdrawal. Within a detox program, people can receive medications for severe symptoms and be monitored for health concerns.

Medically supervised detox can reduce the risk of relapse. Detoxing without medical support can be dangerous and cause uncomfortable symptoms too difficult to manage alone.

Medical detox programs provide 24-hour supervision, which can provide the support and structure needed to keep a person safe and prevent relapse.

Getting Treatment For Polysubstance Abuse

Addiction can be difficult to face alone. Most people struggling with polysubstance abuse are recommended to enter an inpatient program. Inpatient treatment programs can provide a strong support system for patients and separate them from outside triggers.

Inpatient programs can last between 30 to 180 days, depending on the needs of each person. During this time, patients may attend counseling sessions, group therapy, and meet with other specialists like a medical doctor and psychiatrist. This intensive level of treatment is the most effective way to treat the physical, emotional, and mental sides of addiction.

If you or a loved one is struggling with polysubstance abuse, don’t wait to seek treatment. Call us today for more information about treatment options for polysubstance abuse.

U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Hydromorphone, Delirium tremens

National Institute on Drug Abuse - DrugFacts: Prescription Opioids

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Alcohol Facts and Statistics

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