Morphine and hydromorphone (Dilaudid) are opioid analgesic drugs that treat severe pain. Hydromorphone is two to eight times more powerful than morphine, but morphine’s effects last longer. Both can lead to a dependence.

Dilaudid is the brand name of the generic drug, hydromorphone, while morphine is a generic drug. The two work in similar ways but have some notable differences.

This article explores each drug in detail, the main differences between the two, and possible side effects. It also discusses drug interactions and answers some common questions about Dilaudid and morphine.

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Dilaudid and morphine are both opioids. These are a class of medications that occur naturally in the poppy plant or as synthetic derivatives of the plant. Other opioids include fentanyl, methadone, and oxycodone.

Opioids are very potent medications that serve as effective pain relievers. However, most have a high potential for dependency and addiction.


Dilaudid is one brand name for the opioid pain-relieving medication hydromorphone. Hydromorphone works by binding to opioid receptors in the nervous system, altering the way a person’s body reacts to pain.

Hydromorphone is two to eight times more powerful than morphine, according to the United States Drug Enforcement Agency. Its action is also more sedative. However, morphine’s effects last longer.

A person can take hydromorphone in the form of a tablet, a liquid, or an extended-release oral tablet.

A doctor may prescribe this medication to treat severe pain in people who may require continuous pain relief. They could also recommend them to those unable to receive treatment with other medications.

However, hydromorphone can be addictive, and if a person misuses the drug, it can result in life threatening consequences.

Learn more about recognizing the signs of an opioid overdose and what to do.


Morphine functions similarly to Dilaudid, as both change how the body responds to pain by interacting with the central and peripheral nervous systems. A doctor may use morphine to treat a person in moderate to severe pain.

A doctor may administer morphine as extended-release tablets or capsules or as a liquid solution.

There are various brand names for morphine, including:

  • Morphgesic
  • Sevredol
  • Morphabond
  • MXL
  • Oramorph
  • MST

Similarly to hydromorphone, morphine can lead to dependency, addiction, and possibly death if a person does not take the medication as a doctor advises.

The major difference between morphine and Dilaudid, or hydromorphone, is potency.

While both drugs treat severe pain and are both potent Schedule II controlled opioids, hydromorphone is the more potent of the two.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies drugs into Schedules according to their:

  • likelihood for misuse
  • likelihood of causing dependency
  • use as a medication

The DEA considers drugs with lower Schedule numbers to be more dangerous.

According to the DEA, hydromorphone is two to eight times more potent than morphine, provides greater sedation, and has a shorter duration.

Opioids carry a serious risk of dependency, addiction, misuse, and overdose. Even when a person uses opioids as a doctor directs, side effects may include:

Side effects of Dilaudid may also include:

Side effects of morphine may also include:

Additionally, adverse effects may vary between different people, and the lists above are not exhaustive.

Dilaudid, morphine, and other opioids may interact with many other medications, drugs, and herbal supplements.

These drug interactions may produce dangerous side effects.

Therefore, it is advisable for a person to discuss any other medications they may be taking with a doctor. They should also discuss any illegal substances or herbal supplements they may be using. An individual should also carefully read the enclosed packaging of the medication.

Below are some of the most common questions and answers about Dilaudid and morphine.

Can a person become dependent on Dilaudid?

Yes, Dilaudid is a Schedule II drug, which means that there is a high risk of a person becoming dependent on it.

People should only use Dilaudid exactly as a healthcare professional directs and under medical supervision.

What do hydromorphone and morphine treat?

Doctors most commonly use opioids, such as hydromorphone and morphine, to treat severe pain.

Are hydromorphone and morphine different?

Hydromorphone and morphine are both opioids and work in similar ways. However, hydromorphone is the more potent of the two.

Dilaudid is the brand name for the medication hydromorphone, while morphine is the generic name of a medication. The two drugs work similarly and are both Schedule II opioids, which carry a high risk of misuse and dependency. Doctors may prescribe them to treat severe pain.

The main difference between the two is that hydromorphone is more potent than morphine. There are several potential side effects and risks associated with both medications, and a person should only ever use them as a doctor recommends.

Both medications may also interact with a variety of other medications and substances. Therefore, a person should discuss these with their doctor to avoid dangerous interactions.