Pain management is an important area of medicine that many people will need at some point in their lives. There are a wide variety of pain-relief medications available. Opioids are just one form of analgesic medication, and there are several different options. Morphine and Dilaudid are two similar opioid options to consider. How do they compare, and which one is stronger? Learn more about opioids and how these medications compare.

What is Morphine?

Morphine is an opioid that can be found in opium poppy plants, alongside codeine and other alkaloids. Morphine has been used as a pain reliever for more than a century. It was first isolated in 1803, and it has been used in medical and battlefield settings since the 1850s. Morphine is an opiate, which means it’s an opioid that can be found in nature. It’s also chemically similar to endorphins that are found in the human body. Endorphins bind to opioid receptors and help to regulate pain symptoms. Endorphins get their name from a combination of the phrase “endogenous morphine.”

Morphine mimics endorphins in the brain by binding to opioid receptors and activating them. Like many other prescription opioids, morphine is a federally controlled substance that’s classified as a Schedule II drug. That’s the Drug Enforcement Administration’s classification for a drug with accepted medical uses that also has significant abuse potential. Long term or heavy use of morphine can lead to chemical dependency and addiction

What is Dilaudid?

A prescription for morphine

Dilaudid is the brand name for an opioid pain reliever called hydromorphone. It’s a semisynthetic opioid that’s made from morphine. It works in a way that’s similar to other opioids. It binds to opioid receptors in the brain and activates them, causing analgesic effects. In addition to pain relief, the drug can also cause sedation and side effects like itchiness, nausea, and constipation. Dilaudid is also a Schedule II drug and may lead to chemical dependency and addiction when it’s abused.

The Similarities Between Dilaudid and Morphine

Dilaudid and morphine come with several similarities. They work in very similar ways in the brain. Dilaudid is made by altering morphine, so they share several properties. Both drugs are controlled and come with similar levels of legal scrutiny. Both are obtained as a prescription, but they can cause euphoric effects, so they may be abused illicitly. If you take either drug regularly for a long time, you may become chemically dependent, which can lead to uncomfortable flu-like withdrawal symptoms. In high doses, both drugs can cause a potentially dangerous side effect called respiratory depression, which slows or stops your breathing. Both Dilaudid and morphine overdose can be reversed with the timely administration of the opioid antagonist naloxone.

The Differences Between Dilaudid and Morphine

Though these drugs are fairly similar, they do have a few differences to consider. Both drugs come in immediate and extended-release oral tablets, and they can also be taken via intramuscular and intravenous injection.  Only hydromorphone is available in subcutaneous injection, and only morphine is available in an extended-release oral capsule. Dilaudid is slightly more potent than morphine and may be more effective in smaller doses.

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