How Long Hydromorphone Stays in Your System

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If you're taking hydromorphone, you may be wondering how long it stays in your body, especially if you're having a drug test. Hydromorphone is an opiate (narcotic) analgesic, also known as an opioid, that's used to relieve pain. It's prescribed for people who need relief for severe pain for an extended period of time and who are already used to how opioids affect them. Hydromorphone is available in liquid form, as a tablet, or as an extended-release tablet that only needs to be taken once a day. Like all opioids, hydromorphone can lead to addiction, especially if you use it long-term. Other names for hydromorphone are dihydromorphinone, Dilaudid, Exalgo, Hydrostat, Palladone, hospital heroin, and hydro.

Reasons for Drug Testing

You may have a drug test as part of a screening for a new job or as part of a mandatory workplace requirement for your current job. Drug tests are also used when you have signs of an overdose, to make sure you're only taking the dose of medication you've been prescribed, to monitor someone with an opioid use disorder who is in recovery, to screen athletes, and to check for substances that could have influenced a car or workplace accident.

Detection Variables

The amount of time that hydromorphone is detectable in your body depends on a number of variables, including which kind of drug test is being used, your metabolism, body mass, age, hydration level, physical activity, health conditions, the length of time you've been taking the medication, how frequently you take it, and the strength of the dose you take. All of these factors make it nearly impossible to determine an exact time hydromorphone will show up on a drug test since it may be different for everyone.

Detection Windows

Here is an estimated range of times, or detection windows, during which hydromorphone can be detected by various testing methods:

  • Urine: 3 to 4 days
  • Blood: Up to 24 hours
  • Saliva: Up to 2 days
  • Hair: Up to 90 days

Side Effects

Common side effects of hydromorphone include:

  • Headache
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Sweating
  • Dry mouth
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Sleepiness
  • Pain in your muscles, joints, or back
  • Itching
  • Abdominal pain
  • Depression

If you have any of these side effects and they don't go away or they're bothersome, let your doctor know.

Avoiding Overdose

The extended-release form of hydromorphone is used to relieve severe pain around the clock in people who need continuous pain relief. In order to avoid a possible accidental overdose, make sure you take your medication at the same time every day.

As a form of morphine, too much hydromorphone of any dosage can cause deep sleep and can slow your respiration. If more of the drug is taken before it's completely metabolized out of your system, an overdose can occur. Follow your doctor's instructions carefully.

Even when taken as directed, hydromorphone can cause serious or life-threatening breathing problems, especially during the first 24 to 72 hours after you begin taking the medication or after an increase in dosage.

Certain medications can interact with hydromorphone as well and cause serious or life-threatening breathing problems and coma. Check with your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking any other medications before you start hydromorphone to make sure they're safe to take together.

You shouldn't drink alcohol, use any medications that contain alcohol, or use illegal drugs while taking hydromorphone because these all increase your risk of serious side effects or a fatal overdose.

If you take the extended-release tablet, be sure to swallow it whole. Crushing, chewing, or dissolving the tablet causes the medication to be released quickly in your body instead of slowly over 24 hours, which can cause breathing difficulties or even lead to death.

Symptoms of Overdose

Some of the symptoms of a hydromorphone overdose include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Slowed or stopped breathing
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Limp or weak muscles
  • Narrowing or widening of the pupils
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Slow or stopped heartbeat
  • Blue color of skin, fingernails, lips
  • Loss of consciousness or coma

If you believe a loved one has overdosed on hydromorphone, call for emergency help immediately. First responders will likely be able to revive your loved one with Narcan, a drug that treats opioid overdoses, but the success of this depends on how quickly you get help.

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View Article Sources
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  • Lab Tests Online. Opioid Testing. American Association for Clinical Chemistry. https://labtestsonline.org/tests/opioid-testing
  • MedlinePlus. Hydromorphone. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Updated March 15, 2018. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682013.html