Demerol is a prescription opioid medication primarily used to treat moderate to severe pain. It is a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning it can lead to abuse, dependence and addiction. Due to these risks, Demerol is typically prescribed as a short-term treatment.
The generic base of Demerol is meperidine, which is derived from the pods of the opium poppy plant and then synthesized into tablet and syrup form. Research shows that in 2020, 9.3 million Americans misused prescription painkillers like Demerol and 2.3 million were addicted to them.
Demerol Side Effects
Demerol works by activating opioid receptors in the brain. This suppresses brain activity and reduces the feeling of pain, but it also affects many other body systems.
Many of Demerol’s side effects are due to how the drug suppresses nerve signals. The most common side effects of Demerol include:
- Mood changes
- Dry mouth
- Changes in vision
An overdose can occur when too much Demerol is used. Overdoses can cause severe and potentially fatal side effects, with symptoms that include:
- Slow or absent breathing
- Inability to respond or stay awake
- Blueness around the mouth or in the nail beds
If someone you are with may be overdosing, immediately call 911 and stay with them until help arrives. Administer Narcan (naloxone), the opioid overdose reversal drug, if it is available.
Signs of Demerol Addiction
Opioids like Demerol chemically stimulate the release of endorphins in the brain, leading to feelings of pleasure or relaxation. Some people begin misusing their prescriptions or buying Demerol illegally in order to experience these effects. However, repeated use trains the brain to seek out and use Demerol, leading to addiction. The brain also begins to depend on Demerol to function normally, which causes a person to experience withdrawal symptoms when the drug is not in their system.
Other potential signs of Demerol addiction include:
- Needing to use more Demerol to achieve the same effects as before
- Continuing Demerol use despite negative effects
- Trying to quit but being unsuccessful
- Being unable to reduce frequency or amount of Demerol use
- Spending less time with friends or loved ones in favor of using Demerol
- Spending a lot of time thinking about or preparing to use Demerol
Because Demerol creates changes in how the brain functions, the brain must go through a readjustment period when Demerol use is ended. During this period, a person will experience a variety of withdrawal symptoms caused by abnormal brain function.
Demerol withdrawal will normally start within eight to 24 hours of taking the last dose. The process can take four to 10 days, with symptoms typically peaking within two to four days. Some of the symptoms of Demerol withdrawal include:
- Stomach pain
- Muscle aches
- Watery eyes
- Runny nose
- Rapid breathing
- Rapid heartbeat
- Anhedonia (difficult feeling pleasure or happiness)
Demerol withdrawal is rarely dangerous, but it can be a very uncomfortable and unpleasant experience. Many people choose to undergo medical detox to help manage the symptoms of Demerol withdrawal.
Detox is the first step in recovering from Demerol addiction, and it is a process that involves ending Demerol use and making it through the withdrawal stage. While Demerol detox is not normally dangerous, it can be very uncomfortable. Someone who is detoxing from Demerol will be tempted to take the drug again just to stop the withdrawal symptoms.
Because Demerol detox is very unpleasant and can cause people to quickly relapse, many people turn to professional help. In a medically supervised detox program, experienced professionals supervise the entire process and provide medications to help relieve uncomfortable symptoms and ensure safety.
Demerol Addiction Treatment Options
Treatment options for Demerol addiction include therapy, counseling, peer support groups and medication-assisted treatment. These treatment methods may take place in an inpatient or outpatient setting, depending on the severity of the addiction and the client’s progress in recovery.
In America, the primary form of medication treatment for opioid addiction is methadone. This drug has been around since 1939, and it helps alleviate most of the discomfort of withdrawal. Buprenorphine is another great choice in treating an opioid addiction. While methadone clinics require patients to check in every day to receive their dose of medication, buprenorphine prescriptions provide much more flexibility. Buprenorphine is also less susceptible to misuse because it creates a ceiling effect, meaning it only activates opioid receptors to a certain extent. This helps to limit potential misuse by making it so that a high will not occur, no matter how much of the medication is used.
If you or someone you love is struggling with Demerol addiction, help is available at The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake. Our addiction experts can provide you with the foundation needed to achieve a healthier, drug-free life in recovery. Contact us today to learn more about Demerol addiction treatment programs that can work well for your situation.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indi[…] Drug Use and Health.” October 2021. Accessed January 13, 2022.
U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Meperidine.” MedlinePlus, January 11, 2022. Accessed January 13, 2022.
World Health Organization. “Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Manag[…]e in Closed Settings.” 2009. Accessed January 13, 2022.
U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Methadone.” MedlinePlus, January 11, 2022. Accessed January 13, 2022.
Medscape. “Meperidine (Rx).” Accessed January 13, 2022.
The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.