Demerol is a strong, synthetic opioid that is used to treat moderate to severe pain. Its generic name is meperidine. It falls in the class of opioid analgesics. It works by changing the way the brain senses and responds to pain. This factor is one of the reasons why Demerol can be misused and cause addiction.

Demerol is most often given to patients in a hospital setting during and after surgery. The drug can cause severe respiratory depression within the first 24 to 72 hours of treatment, says MedlinePlus. This is why patients given it are closely monitored.

It is listed as a Schedule II drug by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Schedule II drugs “have a high potential for abuse which may lead to severe psychological and/or physical dependence,” as indicated by the federal agency. As an opioid-derived medication, it is highly sought out by those addicted to opioids and by those who sell them illicitly.

Opioids are naturally found in the opium poppy plant and mainly work in the brain by attaching to opioid receptors. When doing this, they provide several effects, including pain relief, calmness, and sometimes, euphoria. Prescription opioids are commonly used to block pain signals between the body and brain.

There are three main uses of opioid drugs:

  • Prescription medication, such as Demerol, OxyContin, Percocet, and others
  • Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid sometimes prescribed as a patch or lozenge, and also as a powder mixed in with cocaine or heroin
  • Heroin, which is an illicit drug, often injected

Let’s take a look at what Demerol is and how it can lead to Demerol addiction.

What is Demerol?

Demerol, also known by its generic name, meperidine, is a narcotic drug that, early in its life, was found to have analgesic properties. Instead of working on the opioid receptors in the brain, like other opioids, it works in the central nervous system (CNS) on the organs made of smooth muscle.  The drug tricks the brain by replacing the feeling of pain with a “high.” “Patients who are given Demerol for pain are basically feeling the euphoric effects of the medication instead of their pain,” as noted by Verywell Health.

Demerol is not a regularly used medication today due to its possible dangerous side effects.

  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Low blood pressure
  • Respiratory depression (slowed breathing)
  • Rapid heart rate or abnormal heartbeats
  • Tremors or seizures
  • It also can cause multiple adverse interactions with other medications.
  • Strong possibility of addiction

Demerol also has a very quick onset of five minutes when injected intravenously, unlike other opioids, which have an onset of 30 minutes.

What are the Signs of Demerol Addiction?


There are certain signs of possible Demerol abuse and addiction. A person who is abusing Demerol may be crushing the pills to snort the powder or dissolve it for injection, or chewing them, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notes.

It can be difficult to spot the signs of early Demerol addiction someone may have. However, there are indications that a person may be becoming addicted to this drug.

Tolerance for the drug is the first sign of addiction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) shares that tolerance for a drug occurs when “a person no longer responds to the drug in the way they did when they began taking it. In order to feel the same effects as they initially did, they will take a higher dose.” The longer drug use continues, the less effective the dose will become. This will eventually lead to dependence.

A person is dependent on the drug when they stop taking it, and they experience uncomfortable and possibly dangerous withdrawal symptoms. These are a group of physical and mental symptoms that can range from mild to life-threatening. Dependence is the brain’s way of requiring the drug or drugs to maintain normalcy.

Addiction is a chronic disease of the brain that causes a person to keep using the drug despite negative consequences. Addiction is also called a severe substance use disorder. Demerol addiction is also called an opioid use disorder. Addiction often leads to unwanted behaviors, distorting thoughts, and adverse bodily conditions. Demerol addiction may adversely affect the user’s school life, work, relationships, finances, and all other aspects of their life.

Demerol addiction may lead to an overdose.

Demerol Overdose

Demerol is very dangerous when taken in high doses or when mixed with other drugs or alcohol. It can lead to overdose, which could result in a fatality. Taken in high doses, it can severely slow down the CNS. Its sedative qualities are meant to relax you and help you recover from surgery or injury. When misused to get high, Demerol abuse can lead to a dangerously slow heart rate and breath rate. A Demerol overdose can lead to the point where your body does not get enough oxygen to function. Adverse effects of that may be brain damage, coma, or death.

There are other signs/symptoms of a Demerol overdose to know. They are:

  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Drowsiness
  • Inability to be woken up
  • Trouble staying awake
  • Slow heart rate
  • Loss of muscle tension
  • Hypotension
  • Coma

A Demerol overdose can cause potentiation if taken with other drugs. This means the effects of all the drugs taken combine and are more intense. Even when Demerol is taken in small doses with other drugs in small doses, potentiation can occur. When you take two more drugs at the same time, it is called polydrug use.

Demerol Withdrawal

When a person is addicted to Demerol and stops using the drug, they will likely experience withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal occurs when your brain chemistry becomes unbalanced after it has become reliant on the opioid. When you stop using opioids, your brain chemistry is knocked out of kilter until it gets used to not having the drug in your system.

The imbalance will cause you to feel discomforting withdrawal symptoms. Demerol and other opioid use can lead you to feel a range of symptoms that may seem like you have a bad case of the flu. These symptoms include:

  • Sweating
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Body aches
  • Excessive yawning
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Blood pressure changes
  • Heart rate changes
  • Cravings for the drug

Demerol withdrawal is not as dangerous as alcohol withdrawal. Nonetheless, it can be very unpleasant to experience, and more so on your own. You may become severely dehydrated from continual vomiting and diarrhea, and you could feel intense cravings to use Demerol again to stop feeling so poorly.

The safest way to undergo withdrawal is in medical detox, which entails 24-hour medically overseen treatment. This is the first step in addiction treatment.

What is Involved in Demerol Addiction Treatment?

NIDA describes medical detox as the process the body goes through of clearing itself of drugs through medically managed treatment. Medical detox is designed to safely manage the acute and potentially dangerous physiological effects of sending drug use. Detox is followed by an assessment and referral to addiction treatment.

The person in detox is monitored 24-hours a day, and medication could be provided to alleviate withdrawal symptoms. This step allows the person’s body to rid itself of all toxins and obtain a clean mindset to begin addiction treatment and therapies.

The next stage in the continuum of care might be placement in a residential treatment center. Here, the person will live on-site for 30 days to 90 days and participate in different therapies to find the root of their addiction and help them understand it from a psychological perspective. 

Cognitive behavioral therapies are aimed at helping people find out where their addiction originates and help them change the way they react to scenarios when outside of treatment. Other therapy types provided in addiction treatment include individual, family, and group therapy. All of these are beneficial in the process of healing.

Outpatient treatment may be an option once residential treatment is concluded. Outpatient treatment includes the above-mentioned therapies and is helpful for the person who can control their response without substances to such factors as home life, relationships, and old friends from drug-using days, for example. Those who need to balance work or school with addiction treatment will benefit from this form of treatment.

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