What is Demerol Used For? Side Effects and Symptoms

Although Demerol helps many people with severe pain, it can cause addiction. And the risk may increase if you have a substance use disorder (SUD) such as an addiction to drugs or alcohol. So, Demerol can help you, but it comes with its risks and precautions.

Many people that have been prescribed Demerol don’t even realize that they are addicted to it. But addiction can happen if the drug is misused or abused and at recommended dosages.


What Can Demerol Do For Me?

Demerol pills on the table

Meperidine (The generic name for Demerol)  is used to help relieve moderate to severe pain. It is similar to morphine and belongs to a class of drugs known as opiate analgesics. Meperidine works in the brain to change how your body feels pain. It works by binding to receptors on the surface of cells where opium usually attaches and stops the body from sending pain signals to the brain.

Meperidine is most commonly used for pre-and post-operative pain in procedures related to cancer, heart attacks, childbirth, and serious accidents.

It should not be used to treat long-term or continuing pain. It is only to be used to treat sudden occurrences of moderate to severe pain.

It isn’t typically prescribed for long-term use but if you suddenly stop taking Demerol it can cause withdrawal, particularly if you have been using it for a long time or in high doses. When it is used for a long time it tends to not work as well. Don’t just take higher doses if it stops working well. The use of Demerol needs to be monitored by a clinician.


The Side Effects of Demerol


Patients begin taking the drug as prescribed but when tolerance builds up they start increasing their doses to larger amounts just to get the same pain relief that the got in the beginning. This leads to developing physical dependence and, eventually, an addiction.

An addiction to Demerol is the same as any other addiction in that it is a chronic brain disease. It has social, environmental, genetic, and psychological components. Addiction is characterized by:

  • Inability to control the use
  • Compulsive use
  • Continued use despite negative consequences
  • Cravings


Common Side Effects of Meperidine

  • Dizziness, headache, lightheadedness
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • A sudden drop in blood pressure
  • Fainting
  • Sweating or flushing
  • Itching, rash, or hives
  • Vision changes
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Slow/irregular/fast heartbeat
  • Shaking or uncontrollable movement
  • Vomiting, nausea, and constipation
  • Irritability, nervousness, and unusual thoughts


Symptoms of Demerol Withdrawal


After you build up a physical dependence on Demerol, a sudden stoppage or a substantial reduction in dosage will usually result in withdrawal. The body becomes so used to the presence of the drug that it can no longer operate normally without it. Withdrawal can also be sped up by the administration of Naloxone during an overdose. Withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Paranoia
  • Irregular heartbeat


Risks of Demerol Use

Anxiety related documents and drugs

Demerol carries the same risks as any opioid such as:

  • Risk of opioid addiction, abuse, and misuse
  • Overdose and death
  • Life-threatening respiratory depression (slowed breathing)
  • Neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome (with extended use during pregnancy)


Symptoms of Meperidine Overdose

  • Slow breathing and heartbeat
  • Extreme sleepiness
  • Coma
  • Loose, floppy muscles
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Nausea
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness and fainting


Drugs that Interact with Demerol (meperidine)


Meperidine has serious interactions with at least 54 different drugs and moderate interactions with at least 219 others. Drug interactions can affect how your drugs work or increase your risk for serious side effects.

Serious interactions include but are not limited to these drugs:

  • Entereg (gut stimulator)
  • Marplan (anti-depressant)
  • Zyvox (antibiotic)
  • Nardil (anti-depressant
  • Matulane (a chemotherapy drug)
  • Eldepryl (Parkinson’s drug)
  • Other opioids

The drugs that cause mild interactions with meperidine include but are not limited to:

  • Wellbutrin (anti-depressant)
  • Dexedrine (treats ADHD)
  • Eucalyptus (anti-inflammatory)
  • Lidocaine (treats irregular heartbeats and numbs the skin)
  • Naloxone/Narcan (treats narcotic overdose)
  • Ziconotide (treats severe chronic pain)


Alcohol, Grapefruit Juice, and Demerol


Demerol and alcohol both can cause dizziness, nausea, blurry vision, and vomiting. Drinking while taking Demerol can worsen these effects. Try to avoid drinking while taking Demerol.

Grapefruit juice slows down how quickly the body can break down the Demerol. This could cause the drug’s levels to rise dangerously high. Avoid eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice while taking it.

Always tell your medical professional about any drugs you may be taking.


Serotonin Syndrome


The use of drugs that increase serotonin such as Celexa, Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft with Demerol can cause serotonin syndrome. That is when your body has too much of the chemical serotonin. This is usually caused by a medication or combination of medications.

Your body makes serotonin to aid your brain cells and nervous system cells talk to each other. It is believed that a deficit of serotonin in your brain might play a part in depression. Too much serotonin leads to extreme nerve cell activity and possibly life-threatening symptoms.

Symptoms of serotonin syndrome are:

  • Confusion
  • Dilated pupils
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Loss of muscle control
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Shivering and goosebumps

You will need to call 911 or go the ER if these symptoms appear:

  • High fever
  • Seizures
  • Uneven heartbeat
  • Passing out


Treatment for Demerol Addiction


Since Demerol is an opioid, the same treatment plans, structured for the particular patient, would be used. However, since Demerol users typically have been prescribed the drug for severe pain, a few studies have found that the addiction might be caused by patient frustration with the poor response to chronic pain treatment. Patient addictions can be attributed to these factors:

  • Chronic devastating pain
  • Poor staff-patient relationship
  • Lower pain threshold or tolerance due to anxiety or depression
  • The patient had a history or tendency for substance abuse
  • Use of placebos and inadequate pain-relieving regimen

The study findings found that certain diagnostic and treatments should be followed by these patients.

  • Evaluate the patient for risk of suicide
  • Treat any comorbid (co-occurring) psychiatric conditions. This opens the door for dual diagnosis treatment which must occur at the same time.
  • Identify any factors that might be causing a vicious cycle in pain control
  • The staff-patient relationship should be managed carefully
  • Avoid an addiction diagnosis if possible


Typical Opioid Treatment


young yoga woman sit meditation on sunrise mountain peak rockDetox--When you stop using Demerol, you may have difficult and serious symptoms of withdrawal. Most people will require a medically supervised detox period. During this time you will rid your body of the toxins. Once you have stabilized, you will move on to your treatment plan.

Treatment programs—Depending on the severity of your addiction, you may need a residential program. You will live at the treatment facility, and be supervised round-the-clock. Therapists can help you with any psychological issues and underlying problems you might have. Physicians will assist you with a pain management plan.

You may find that an outpatient program is better suited to your life after detox. You will live at home but continue sessions with your counselors and be monitored by your doctor. You will learn how to manage your pain.

If you were a recreational user of Demerol and became addicted, you may need a longer treatment program. You will need to learn to live around the situations, places, and people that remind you of your drug use. An aftercare program or a sober living residence are good options in that case.


10 Suggestions for Chronic Pain Management You Can Try Right Now


Researchers spend a considerable amount of time trying to understand what causes chronic pain and how to get relief. Sports injuries and auto accidents are typical origins of chronic pain. There are also health issues like arthritis, cancer, diabetes, and migraines. Here are some ways to manage chronic pain.

  1. Exercise—You probably don’t really feel like exercising when you’re in pain, but it is one of the best ways to manage chronic pain. Exercising regularly raises the endorphins in your brain. Endorphins are the chemicals that boost your mood. They also block pain signals. Win/Win! It also strengthens your muscles so you have less chance of re-injury.
  2. Biofeedback—Biofeedback is the practice of consciously controlling the functions of your body. There is evidence that this has been effective for patients with chronic pain. During sessions, you wear sensors that monitor your pulse, digestion, the tension in your muscles and temperature. Then you are taught how to control these responses to relieve your pain.
  3. Reduce stress—When negative feelings such as stress, anger, anxiety, or depression, take over you, your body responds. This increases the likelihood of pain. Be careful of negative thoughts. Music, meditation, and visualization are popular techniques.
  4. Join a support group—Depression can set in if you feel like you are alone in your situation. There are support groups of other people who are suffering just like you. You may want to continue or begin counseling.
  5. Posture—Sitting incorrectly in the C-slump (a rounded back) prevents blood flow which affects your nerves. This can make the pain even more severe. Keep your head above your spine which needs to be tall and straight.
  6. Eat healthily—Regardless of the type of pain you have, it is important to eat healthily. There are actually foods that assist in pain prevention because of their anti-inflammatory properties. Leafy greens and foods high in omega-3 acids like cherries, asparagus, and soy products help with inflammation. Low-fat, low-sodium foods aid in the digestive process.  Drinking plenty of water is important because dehydration can aggravate some types of chronic pain.
  7. Deep breathing—The practice of breathing deeply, along with meditation techniques can be helpful. Breathing deeply relaxes tension and tightness in the body and lessens the pain.
  8. Avoid certain foods—There are foods that will increase inflammation which can be a cause of pain. The chemicals in tomatoes, dairy, chocolate (!), eggs, citrus fruits, high fat red meat, wheat, and processed food of any kind need to be avoided. Also, red wine, coffee, tea, or soda.
  9. Turmeric—Turmeric is a bright yellow spice that has been used since ancient times for its anti-inflammatory properties. It also has the ability to improve the flexibility of your ligaments and aid your immune system.
  10. Antidepressants—When the pain becomes too much, your doctor may suggest that you take antidepressants as pain management. Studies have shown that antidepressants are being used to target brain chemicals, influencing the chemical messages.


Learning to Live Again


You can live your life fully again. You just needed some information, right? If you think you are addicted. If your pain won’t go away—we want to help. Behavioral Health Centers has a staff of caring and experienced medical professionals who can help you—really help you.

You can’t do it alone and you don’t have to. We have programs and therapies that can get you back on the path to a fulfilling life. Contact us. Let’s get started.






Overcoming an addiction from substances or alcohol can be a very hard journey, and it’s important to have a trusted facility and staff by your side while you do it. Behavioral Health Centers is here to offer all our resources so you can live a happier and healthier life.