Dilaudid and fentanyl are opioids used to treat pain symptoms, especially in hospital settings. Different types of opioids can be used to treat pain symptoms; however, they may vary in strength, duration, the onset of action, and other factors. When you experience pain symptoms, a doctor will work out the best treatment approach for your needs. However, it may be helpful to learn the difference between your opioid pain reliever options.
What is Dilaudid?
Dilaudid is the brand name for a prescription opioid called hydromorphone. It’s a semisynthetic opioid that’s made by altering morphine. Dilaudid is used to treat moderate-to-severe pain symptoms, and it may be administered by injection or by mouth. Long-term use of Dilaudid is generally avoided except in patients with cancer.
Like other opioids, Dilaudid can cause a chemical dependence and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when it’s abused or used for too long. If the drug is used recreationally, it can lead to a severe opioid use disorder. In many cases, prescription drugs like Dilaudid lead to the use of illicit opioids like heroin.
What is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a powerful, fast-acting opioid that’s used in hospital settings and in battlefield medicine. Unlike many prescription opioids, fentanyl is fully synthetic, which means it’s created without the use of a naturally occurring opiate such as morphine. It can also be used in epidurals for women in labor. It’s useful as a prescription that treats severe pain, and it can begin working faster than other opioids. Depending on the route of administration, it can begin working within 60 seconds.
Fentanyl is a useful medication, but it’s also commonly used on the street as a recreational drug. In fact, it’s one of the catalysts for the recent spike in opioid overdose deaths. It’s often mixed into other drugs like heroin and even cocaine to increase their recreational effects.
How are they Different?
In their effects, most opioids are fairly similar, but they can differ in their strength and effectiveness. Fentanyl is a fast-acting opioid and can begin working within minutes. Immediate release Dilaudid can take up to 30 minutes to start working. Fentanyl is also effective in smaller doses because it’s much stronger. The initial dose of fentanyl buccal (tablet form) is 100 micrograms (mcg). The initial dose of Dilaudid is between 2 milligrams (mg) or 2,000 micrograms.
Which is More Dangerous?
Abusing fentanyl and Dilaudid can both be very dangerous. Both opioids have a high addiction liability, which means they can cause you to develop a substance use disorder. As opioids, they affect the body in similar ways. They mimic your body’s pain-relieving endorphins and slow down your nervous system. In high enough doses, both drugs can cause respiratory depression, coma, and death.
However, fentanyl is much more powerful, which means it can lead to overdose symptoms after a much smaller dose. For instance, a Dilaudid tablet can be anywhere between 2 and 8 milligrams. Extended-release tablets can contain as much as 32 mg. On the other hand, 2 milligrams of fentanyl is enough to be fatal for the average person. The drug is 80 to 100 times more powerful than morphine.