Browse all modules

Hydromorphone: A high risk medicine

CPD Hours



All Modules
New Modules
Palliative care


For many Australians, opioids are an important and effective medication for the treatment of both acute and chronic pain.

However, opioid use is not without risk, as they come with adverse effects that are sometimes life-threatening.

Hydromorphone is one of the most potent opioids available in Australia. The use of hydromorphone is increasing, requiring healthcare professionals to have appropriate education and training in regard to appropriate use of opioids, including hydromorphone.

Compared with the opioid ‘standard’ of morphine, hydromorphone is at least 5 times more potent. Hydromorphone should be initiated with caution, especially when changing to hydromorphone from another opioid. There is also the potential for errors surrounding drug selection and administration because of its similar name to other opioids such as morphine, oxycodone and methadone.

This module will discuss the mechanism of action of hydromorphone, its role in pain management in Australia, contraindications and precautions for use, drug interactions, and the potential adverse effects and risks associated with hydromorphone.

This module will also discuss risk reduction strategies that may be implemented to avoid drug-related misadventure from hydromorphone.

National standards

This module primarily relates to the National Safety and Quality Health Service (NSQHS) Standard number 4: Medication Safety.

Learning Objective

At the end of this module participants will be able to:

  • Understand the mechanism of action of hydromorphone.
  • Describe the administration forms of hydromorphone.
  • Identify the place of hydromorphone in therapy.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the contraindications, precautions for use, and potential drug interactions associated with hydromorphone.
  • Understand the recommended dosage regime for hydromorphone.
  • Recognise potential adverse effects associated with hydromorphone.
  • Identify risk reduction strategies that may be implemented to reduce hydromorphone-related harm.

Other modules to explore