Demerol was originally intended to treat moderate to severe pain. At one point, it was the most widely administered opioid for women in labor.
However, it has fallen out of favor in the U.S. and other countries, due to its toxicity and side effects. Demerol is no longer recommended for short-term use, but it may be used in palliative care or hospice settings.
What is Demerol?
In 1939, German chemists synthesized meperidine to relieve involuntary muscle spasms. Its pain-relieving properties were later discovered. At one time, meperidine (aka pethidine or Demerol) was thought to be a safer alternative for morphine, but those notions were eventually dismissed.
Demerol can be taken orally as a tablet or liquid, and it can also be injected. If any doctor prescribes it, it’s usually to treat acute pain during childbirth. It’s also used as a sedative for people undergoing surgery.
Like other medications of its class, Demerol binds to opioid receptors and alters how pain signals are sent to the brain. When someone takes this medication, they experience a sudden rush of euphoria.
The relative expediency of Demerol’s effects makes it highly addictive. When someone takes Demerol, the effects can be felt within 15 minutes and can last up to five hours. Moreover, all opioids profoundly impact the brain’s reward systems.
What are the Signs of Demerol Addiction?
When somebody starts developing a tolerance to Demerol, they’ll take more of it to experience the same effects that the original dose produced. When they start experiencing withdrawal symptoms, dependency will be established.
At this point, a user will start exhibiting addiction signs that resemble the ones produced by other opioids, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone.
As with all opioid addictions, someone hooked on Demerol will display a marked disinterest in family obligations, work, or school. Instead, they’ll fixate on obtaining and using Demerol.
One sign of opioid addiction is extreme sedation. A user doesn’t have the energy to do anything other than take pills. When someone becomes addicted to Demerol, they may also crush and snort it to feel the effects faster. Someone who has become dependent on Demerol will exhibit these withdrawal symptoms after they stop taking it:
- Runny nose
- Muscle pain
- Pinpoint pupils
They may also experience other symptoms, which can show up as:
- Joint pain
- Abdominal cramps
- Increased blood pressure
If you suspect that you or a loved one has a Demerol addiction, it’s vital to seek professional addiction treatment. This action can rescue them from a myriad of troubling health complications.
What’s Involved in Addiction Treatment for Demerol?
While not life-threatening, the symptoms of opioid withdrawal can be painful and unpleasant. Someone who attempts to quit on their own could relapse due to the discomfort caused by these symptoms.
The best, most effective course toward recovery and sobriety is professional addiction treatment. That journey begins with medical detoxification. During this process, the addictive substance is safely removed from your body. When you enter a detox, a licensed staff will assess the severity of your addiction and physical health.
During this time, a physician will customize a detox plan tailored to your needs, and you’ll receive medications to stem any uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Additionally, you’ll receive round-the-clock care and support.
After detox, the next step is residential treatment, where you’ll live onsite and receive ongoing treatment. The average length of a stay in a residential program is 30 days, but the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) recommends a 90-day stay for the best results.
After you’ve completed a residential program, outpatient treatment is a great option. Then you can commute to counseling services.
Additionally, a clinical team will help you determine the next step after residential or outpatient care. They can connect you to a recovery community through aftercare programs, which will help you maintain your sobriety.
How Dangerous is Demerol?
Demerol is often prescribed to pregnant women to ease pain during childbirth, but it can harm the fetus and reproductive organs.
Although Demerol is no longer a first-line medication for pain, recreational use persists. Like other opioids, it’s sold on the black market. When someone overdoses on Demerol, they can experience the following symptoms:
- Slowed breathing
- Extreme sleepiness
- Loose, floppy muscles
- Cold, clammy skin
- Slow heartbeat
- Blurred vision
In addition, Demerol can produce a host of other side effects, including:
- Extreme calm
- Mood changes
- Stomach pain or cramps
- Dry mouth
- Changes in vision
Demerol Abuse Statistics
- In 2017, 191 million opioid prescriptions were filled, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- In 2016 and 2017, 11.4 million Americans misused prescription pain medications, according to the HHS.
- In 2016, 17,087 persons in the U.S. died from drug overdoses involving prescription opioids.
- In 2016, 14,432 Americans died from unintentional drug overdoses involving prescription opioids.