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How Effective Is Hydromorphone for Pain?

By S. Berger
Updated May 17, 2024
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Hydromorphone is an opioid medication that is often used for its analgesic, or painkilling, properties. For many people, taking hydromorphone for pain can be quite effective at achieving analgesia. Individual differences, including tolerance to opioids, may sometimes limit the ability of this drug to relieve pain, however. Individuals with certain medical conditions may also find that this substance could pose risks that would outweigh its efficacy.

Many pain relieving medications are opioids, and the use of hydromorphone for pain has been compared to the effectiveness of other drugs. A study funded by the United States government tested the ability of this drug to relieve pain when compared to morphine in emergency room situations. On average, people that received hydromorphone tended to report a greater reduction in pain levels than those that received the morphine. Additionally, the drug did not present a larger amount of side effects, making it an effective alternative.

Some people take pain relievers on a daily basis for chronic pain, including hydromorphone. Studies in the United States and Canada that investigated extended release preparations of hydromorphone for pain found that around 72 percent of patients felt that it was good, or excellent, at controlling their pain. Many of the participants in these studies, as well as their doctors, noted that this medication was suitable for providing constant pain relief with a single daily dosage.

Instant-release preparations of hydromorphone may be more appropriate for acute pain in some people. This is due to the relatively short half-life of the drug, meaning that it is broken down in the body after a few hours. When given as an instant-release drug, this medication effectively relieves pain, but must be re-dosed after four to six hours in many cases to provide continual relief.

Other issues may influence how effective taking hydromorphone for pain can be. Opioid medications tend to induce tolerance in many people that take them for long periods of time. This can result in a greater amount of the drug being required for the same level of pain relief that an individual originally received from it.

Individuals with certain medical conditions may find that taking hydromorphone for pain can produce risks that would make its efficacy not worthwhile for them. Conditions such as brain injuries, epilepsy, and mental disorders may lead to this medication causing adverse reactions in some people. For this reason, even though some individuals would likely find relief by using hydromorphone for pain, they may turn to other strategies for pain control.

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