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What is hydromorphone?

Hydromorphone (also known as Dilaudid®) is an opioid pain medicine. It is available as 2 mg tablets, 4 mg tablets and a 1 mg/ml liquid taken by mouth. It is also available as a clear liquid given by vein (IV).

Possible side effects of hydromorphone


  • Feeling drowsy
  • Nausea
  • Slower than normal rates of breathing
  • Low blood pressure

Later (usually more than a day after treatment starts)

  • Constipation
  • Itching and hives
  • Feeling drowsy; sedation
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Mood changes (feeling sadder or happier than usual)
  • Dry mouth
  • Fainting
  • Problems urinating

These are the most common side effects, but there may be others. Please report all side effects to the doctor or nurse.

In case of a severe side effect or reaction, call the doctor, nurse, or pharmacist at 901- 595-3300. If you are outside the Memphis area, dial toll-free 1-866-2STJUDE (1-866-278-5833), and press 0 once the call is connected.

How to take hydromorphone

  • Keep a record of the number of tablets that you take each day. Take this record to the clinic. The record will help your doctor give you the best possible pain control.
  • Store the tablets and liquid at room temperature and in a dry place.
  • Keep hydromorphone out of the reach of children and pets.
  • If stomach upset occurs, you may take hydromorphone with food.

Special instructions for hydromorphone

  • If you have any of the side effects listed above, most should decrease after you have taken hydromorphone for a couple of days. Tell your doctor if the side effects increase while you are taking this medicine. It may mean you need less hydromorphone.
  • If you are taking this medicine regularly, do not stop taking it until your doctor tells you to do so. Stopping hydromorphone without slowly decreasing the dose can lead to a restless feeling, diarrhea, headache, sweating, muscle cramps, sleep problems, nausea, or vomiting.
  • This medicine may cause you to feel dizzy and drowsy. Do not operate heavy equipment or drive a car until you see how this medicine affects you.
  • If you have not slept well because of your pain, you may sleep more during the first few days of taking this medicine to “catch up” on missed sleep.
  • If you are taking this medicine regularly, you should increase your fluid and fiber intake to help prevent constipation. Tell your doctor or nurse if you have not had a bowel movement in 3 to 5 days. You may need to take a stool softener or laxative to relieve your constipation.
  • If you have taken this medicine for a long time, your doctor may slowly decrease your dose to wean you off hydromorphone. During this time, watch for a sudden onset of diarrhea, headache, sweating, muscle cramps, sleep problems, nausea, vomiting, or feeling restless. If any of these symptoms occur, call your doctor right away. It could mean that your dose is being decreased too fast.
  • You may receive hydromorphone by vein (IV) using a pump. This pump (known as a PCA pump) may have a button that you can push to give yourself medicine when you have pain. The pump will count the number of times you push the button and will count how much medicine you receive each day. See “Do you know… About patient controlled analgesia (PCA).”
  • Other medicines can increase the drowsy feeling caused by hydromorphone. These medicines include:
    • Alcohol (found in many over-thecounter cough and cold medicines)
    • Diphenhydramine (over-thecounter Benadryl®)
    • Promethazine
    • Diazepam
    • Lorazepam
    • Antidepressants (such as amitriptyline)
    • Medicines used to treat seizures (such as carbamazepine, phenytoin, gabapentin, phenobarbital, and valproic acid)
  • Always tell your doctor if you are taking any of these medicines, or if you start taking any new medicine while you are taking hydromorphone.
  • This medicine can increase the risk of falls.


This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

ATTENTION: If you speak another language, assistance services, free of charge, are available to you. Call 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

ATENCIÓN: si habla español, tiene a su disposición servicios gratuitos de asistencia lingüística. Llame al 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

تنبيه: إذا كنت تتحدث باللغة العربية فيمكنك الاستعانة بخدمات المساعدة اللغوية المتوفرة لك مجانا. .يرجى الاتصال بالرقم. 5833-278-866-1  (الهاتف النصي: 1040-595-901-1).