The pharmaceutical options for pain relief can seem endless. Depending on what you choose, you could face wildly different levels of relief, as well as potential side effects. Demerol is just one prescription medication available for pain relief. Generally, this isn’t a drug that a doctor will prescribe without other possibilities being exhausted. It is intended to treat short-term pain and shouldn’t be used for extended periods of time.
Like other opioid medications, Demerol is extremely effective at relieving pain, but it is also highly addictive. When someone fails to follow the instructions of their doctor, careless consumption of Demerol can be dangerous. It can even result in overdose or death.
If you’ve been prescribed Demerol, or if you and your doctor are currently considering it, you probably have some questions. Before taking any medication – especially an opioid – users should be fully aware of the risks and potential side effects. Then, you can weigh the risks against the possible benefits and make an informed decision.
Is Demerol an Opioid?
Yes, Demerol is an opioid medication, also known as a narcotic. Chances are, you’re familiar with the opioid epidemic and its presence throughout the United States. Sadly, this is a problem that shows no signs of stopping – improved access to resources and intervention by the healthcare world is more important than ever.
Opioids are notoriously addictive drugs. Even when an individual follows the instructions provided by their physician, it’s still possible for them to develop a dependency or addiction to any opioid medication. For this reason, opioids aren’t intended for long-term use. These powerful drugs should only be used for the short-term relief of severe pain when weaker solutions are unable to provide the patient with relief.
Developing an opioid dependency is dangerous. In some cases, this can even result in accidental overdose or death. This is true for Demerol use, as well as all similar medications.
What Does Demerol Do?
But what is Demerol, actually? As we’ve mentioned, it is an opioid and a strong pain relief drug. It is sometimes known as meperidine or meperidine hydrochloride. More specifically, Demerol is intended to treat severe short-term pain – it isn’t prescribed as a solution for chronic pain due to the risk of dependency and the significant side effects. Demerol works by reducing the brain’s ability to perceive pain. As a narcotic analgesic, meperidine hydrochloride has similar effects to morphine, a popular pain relief drug.
Primarily, Demerol affects the user’s central nervous system, as well as organs that are made up of smooth muscle. Compared to morphine, meperidine may cause less constipation, smooth muscle spasms, and depression of the user’s cough reflex. However, that isn’t to say that Demerol doesn’t have substantial side effects of its own.
When Demerol is taken for extended periods of time, the user is put at an increased risk of toxicity or seizures. This is due to normeperidine, which can begin to accumulate in the individual’s blood.
Like other opioid agonists, whether they’re legal or illicit, Demerol has the potential to be abused. Its abuse liability is approximately the same as morphine. As such, physicians should avoid prescribing Demerol to patients who are at an increased risk of abuse, misuse, or diversion of medications.
Demerol Side Effects
The possible side effects of Demerol can be severe and can occur even when the drug is taken as prescribed by a doctor. As such, it’s important that all Demerol users remain aware of what they can expect to happen to their bodies as a consequence of the medication.
Keep in mind that opioid medications can interact with other medications, leading to slowed breathing or other breathing problems. If a person has difficulties with their lungs or breathing, they should avoid taking opioid medications like Demerol. If you’re a user of Demerol and are experiencing shallow or weak breathing, stop taking the drug immediately and get in touch with your physician.
The user should also stop taking Demerol immediately if they experience:
- Slowed heartbeat
- Mood changes or confusion
- Feeling as if you are going to pass out
- Severe drowsiness
- Severe constipation
- Uncontrollable muscle movement or tremors
- Low levels of cortisol (leading to nausea, vomiting, dizziness, loss of appetite, weakness, and/or severe tiredness)
If you experience any symptoms associated with serotonin syndrome, it’s crucial that you seek medical attention right away. This includes hallucinations, agitation, shivering, sweating, fever, stiff muscles, impaired coordination, fast heart rate, twitching, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Older adults or individuals who are malnourished are more prone to experiencing severe side effects due to Demerol use.
Some of the more common side effects of Demerol include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Excessive sweating
What to Consider Before Taking Demerol
Demerol isn’t for everyone. There are certain individuals who should stay away from this drug if they are ever looking for a way to relieve acute pain. Those who are allergic to meperidine should not take Demerol, as this is the primary ingredient of the medication.
Additionally, Demerol should be avoided by those with severe asthma or other breathing problems. Those who have experienced a blockage in their intestines or stomach also shouldn’t use Demerol.
If you have taken an MAO inhibitor within the past two weeks, don’t use Demerol. This can lead to a serious drug interaction.
Examples of common MAO inhibitors are:
- Methylene blue injection
To determine whether Demerol is safe for you to consume, inform your physician about whether you’ve experienced:
- A brain tumor, a head injury, or seizures
- Mental illness
- Drug or alcohol dependency
- Sleep apnea or other breathing problems
- A blockage of the intestines or stomach
- Kidney or liver disease
- Difficulties urinating
- Sickle cell anemia
- Adrenal gland, thyroid, or gallbladder problems
- Abnormal spinal curvature that impacts breathing
Further, don’t use Demerol if you are currently pregnant. Consuming this medication while pregnant could result in the child becoming dependent on Demerol. After birth, this can lead to life-threatening withdrawal symptoms for the infant. If a baby is born and they are dependent on opioid drugs, they will generally require several weeks of medical treatment to be safely weaned off.
Can I Drink Alcohol When I’m Taking Demerol?
Individuals who are using Demerol should avoid consuming alcohol.
When meperidine interacts with alcohol, this can result in severe side effects, such as:
- Low blood pressure
- Extreme sedation
- Difficulties breathing
Can I Take Demerol If I’m Already on Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers?
If you’re currently managing acute pain, then you might already be taking a common over-the-counter painkiller. Typically, it’s okay to take over-the-counter drugs like naproxen (Aleve), acetaminophen (Tylenol), or ibuprofen (Advil) when you’re also using Demerol.
Still, these over-the-counter painkillers should only be taken as needed as a means to provide mild pain relief. Drug interactions are essential to consider before you begin taking Demerol. If you’re concerned about how an over-the-counter medication may interact with Demerol, be sure to discuss this with your physician.
If you plan to start taking any new over-the-counter medications while on Demerol, avoid doing so until you have discussed this with your doctor. They will be able to inform you of whether there’s any risk of a dangerous drug interaction occurring.
Tolerance and Dependency
Over time, a person taking Demerol will begin to develop a tolerance to the medication. When this happens, they’ll start requiring larger doses to receive the same levels of pain relief. If Demerol is used in the longer term, it’s likely that the individual will become physically dependent on the drug. Should this patient abruptly stop taking Demerol, they will experience withdrawal effects.
Possible withdrawal symptoms could include excessive yawning, restlessness, nausea or vomiting, chills, increased irritability, and diarrhea. To lower your chances of developing a tolerance or dependency, never take more than the dosage amount of Demerol that was prescribed by your doctor.
Before going off of Demerol, make a plan with your physician. You should never stop taking an opioid medication cold turkey, as this will result in the most severe withdrawal symptoms. Your doctor can help you to cut back on the medication safely over a period of time.
Demerol Use and a History of Substance Dependency
When a person has a history of drug or alcohol dependency, Demerol should be avoided whenever possible. This powerful drug should only be used as a last resort in these instances. First, your doctor should confirm whether an alternative medication is available. If an alternative can be found, and it can effectively relieve your pain, there’s no reason that Demerol should be prescribed.
Demerol is a highly addictive medication. If someone has a history of drug or alcohol addiction, they are at an even greater risk of misusing the drug or overdosing on it.
Illuminate Recovery Offers Individualized Treatment for Drug or Alcohol Dependency
Opioid addiction can have a tumultuous impact on a person’s life. Recovery is rarely easy, especially if the individual is lacking the resources they need to get sober (and stay sober). Whether you’re dealing with a dependency on Demerol or another opioid drug, Illuminate Recovery provides the individualized care you need to beat addiction. Our center offers a wide range of recovery programs, including an intensive outpatient program (IOP), individual therapy, partial hospitalization program (PHP), dual diagnosis, medication-assisted treatment (MAT), and more. Our objective is to find the treatment plan that works best for you and your unique journey.
If you’re searching for rehabilitation services in the Phoenix or Scottsdale areas, don’t hesitate to get in contact with Illuminate Recovery.
Having been on both sides of active addition, both the person using, and the person affected by a loved one using drugs and alcohol, Lucas has been involved in recovery since 2009. He has been working in the treatment industry since 2013. Using his personal experience and wealth of knowledge learned from professional development and immersion in the recovery field, he has spoken with thousands of families and helped hundreds of people attain long-term sobriety. In 2020, the opportunity presented to join in and start Illuminate Recovery. Understanding the importance of personalized treatment plans and the complex nature between substance abuse and co-occurring disorders, has helped Illuminate Recovery build a strong curriculum and a phenomenal staff. Illuminate Recovery now has a medical doctor who is board certified in addiction medicine and a psychiatric medical doctor who works side by side with independently licensed therapists to provide compassionate and effective treatment.