Demerol Addiction and Abuse

Demerol is a synthetic opioid pain medication with a high potential to cause addiction within a short period.

Pethidine addiction | Table of Contents

Understanding Demerol (Meperidine)

Demerol is the brand name for the injectable version of Meperidine, an opioid painkiller named Pethidine. This drug is classified as a narcotic analgesic and is used extensively to treat mild to moderate pain due to its similarity to Morphine and Oxycodone. Demerol’s potency is only one-tenth of Morphine, but that alone should not undermine the drug’s short-acting characteristics that could quite easily lead to abuse.

It is rare to obtain Demerol prescriptions outside of a hospital or clinical setting. It is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance and cannot be obtained legally without a prescription. Demerol can be purchased illegally off the streets under the names of dillies, D, or Dust.

Demerol is available in liquid or tablet forms. The tablets usually come in white, circular shapes and in strengths of 50mg or 100mg, whereas liquid Demerol is available as syrup or injectable. Injectable liquid Demerol is only administered directly by medical professionals, while both tablets and syrups are consumed orally when prescribed.


How is Demerol used?

Demerol is usually injecting into the vein, muscle, or under the skin. It should only be used as directed by your doctor.

Demerol Effects, Abuse, and Addiction

Most people unintentionally form an addiction to Demerol, as they do not genuinely realize when they start abusing the drug. Although they might strictly adhere to the prescription initially, over time, they may build up a tolerance to the drug and require higher doses to relieve their pain. Eventually, this will instigate physical and psychological dependency on the drug, inevitably leading oneself to addiction.

Demerol use is considered abuse when:

  • Using Demerol for reasons apart from medical applications.
  • Using this drug frequently, in higher doses, or longer-term than prescribed.
  • Chewing, crushing and snorting, dissolving in water, and injecting the drug are also forms of abuse as Demerol is only intended for oral consumption.

Abusing the drug in the ways mentioned above magnifies the drugs painkilling properties and awards the user with a powerful euphoric rush, followed by a prolonged sedated sensation. This euphoric rush and the prolonged feeling of calmness are the main reasons for an individual to abuse the drug.

Any amount of Demerol abuse is dangerous, as the risk of overdose is ever lurking. Taking in large amounts of the drug can depress and suspend respiratory functions, which could be fatal. As per the World Health Organization, individuals with medical and psychological problems, such as HIV or depression, are more at risk of overdose.

Other telltale symptoms of Demerol overdose are:

  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Stupor
  • Limp muscles
  • Hypothermia
  • Coma
  • Cold and clammy skin

A Demerol overdose can be fatal in children or individuals who use it without a proper prescription. Thus, immediate medical attention is crucial when a dangerous drug overdose is suspected.

Demerol Abuse Statistics

  • Emergency room visits due to Demerol skyrocketed to 111 percent between 2004 and 2008.
  • In 2010 alone, around 210 million opioid prescriptions were distributed by US pharmacies.
  • Around 2 million people each year tend to abuse prescription painkillers like Demerol.

Common Drug Combinations

As Demerol is a powerful painkiller, it should never be combined with other drugs, particularly with other central nervous system depressants. Doing so, especially with alcohol or benzodiazepines, increases the risks of cardiac arrests, extreme sedation, respiratory failures, coma, seizures, overdoses, or even death.

Combining stimulants with Demerol is even more hazardous as the drugs tend to work against each other. This implies that the drug either masks Demerol’s effects or vice versa, which then goads the individual to take more of the drug to improve its effects. Combining stimulants with depressants, also known as “speedballing,can quickly lead to an overdose.

Signs of Demerol (Meperidine) Use

It may be hard to recognize Demerol abuse, particularly when they have a prescription. However, there are a few signs to watch out for that may suggest that someone is using Demerol improperly.

Some external symptoms of Demerol misuse include:

  • Nodding off
  • Constricted pupils
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Profuse sweating
  • Disorientation
  • Slowed breathing
  • Constant fatigue
  • Drowsiness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Depression
  • Unusual sleeping patterns
  • Intense mood swings
  • Unremitting anxiety
  • Impulsiveness
  • Constant itching
  • Agitation
  • An unusual state of calmness & relaxation
  • Drug-seeking behaviors
  • Forging prescriptions for Demerol
  • Craving the medicine when it is unavailable
  • Irritability
  • Increasing the dose to achieve similar effects
  • Doctor shopping to get more extra prescription
  • Lying about Demerol use
  • Headaches
  • Getting other people’s prescriptions
  • Stashing Demerol around the home, car, or work.
  • No longer participating in previous activities
  • Ignoring professional or personal obligations
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Worsened mental illness symptoms
  • Stealing or borrowing money

Recognizing Demerol Addiction

There’s a clear line between addiction and abuse. Abuse happens when the individual is taking Demerol in ways that are not approved by their doctor. Although some patients start taking the medication under the care of a doctor, they later take more medication than recommended due to the build-up of tolerance.

Individuals with Demerol addictions tend to often display drug-seeking behaviors such as:

  • Deliberately lose prescriptions to access to new ones.
  • Visit the emergency room, feigning pains or injuries to get more of the drugs.
  • Doctor shopping by consulting many doctors to obtain prescriptions.
  • Continually using the drug despite its implications on health and relationships.
  • Run into financial problems due to spending too much on the drug or resort to stealing to afford the drugs.
  • Prioritizing drug habit over other obligations in life.
  • Isolation from peers and families to conceal drug usage.
  • Stealing money from friends and relatives to fuel their addiction.
  • Forging prescriptions.
  • Becoming defensive as their usage of the drug is brought up.

What is Demerol Withdrawal

Prolonged misuse of Demerol can induce anomalies and changes in the brain. When these changes happen, it implies that they have established tolerance, dependency, and even addiction.

Withdrawal happens when a Demerol patient avoids using or decreases their drug dose. When their body attempts to physiologically adapt to the lack of Demerol in their system, the patient may experience painful withdrawal effects.

Demerol-associated withdrawal effects are not usually life-threatening, but they may feel that way to some patients. Symptoms can be quite unpleasant and should be handled in a hospital setting.

Symptoms of Withdrawal

Demerol withdrawal is different for each individual. Symptoms that arise depend upon the amount of drug consumed, the method of intake, how often Demerol has been used, polydrug abuse, and the state of their mental and physical well being.

Demerol withdrawal signs are usually mild-to-extreme and may include the following:

  • Paranoia
  • Restlessness
  • Vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Muscle aches
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Chills
  • Dry mouth
  • Agitation
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Hallucination
  • Runny nose and eyes
  • Sweating
  • Intense craving

To minimize the risk of relapse, those who are addicted to Demerol must find the assistance of a licensed recovery program.

Duration of Withdrawal

Although the length of withdrawal varies for everyone, most Demerol users experience symptoms during the first 24 hours after their last intake, while others may start as soon as three hours.

There are two stages of Demerol withdrawal,

  • Acute withdrawal symptoms: Acute withdrawal is extremely painful, but only lasts 3 to 10 days.
  • Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS): Signs that persist more than ten days are known to be PAWS. PAWS may continue as long as 24 months, but typically diminish as time passes.

Demerol Withdrawal Timeline

First 24 Hours

Symptoms normally begin between 3 to 24 hours after the last dosage. Anxiety, physical discomfort, irritability, nausea, and intense cravings are typically the first signs to arise.

Days 2-5

Withdrawal tends to peak in the next few days. Patients may feel psychological symptoms such as anxiety, fear, and paranoia. Physical symptoms such as fatigue, muscle aches, nausea, and vomiting may also appear. Demerol’s cravings tend to be intense during this period.

Days 6-14

The symptoms will continue to diminish during the next week or two. Any residual signs are likely to be mild. Acute withdrawal has concluded at this stage, while PAWS begins.

Days 15+

Although cravings may continue, symptoms such as the inability to experience pleasure, restlessness, decreased appetite, irritability, depression, anxiety, impaired concentration, mood fluctuations, lack of motivation, and irregular sleep habits will diminish.

Demerol Detox

Demerol users are recommended to contact their physician before they stop taking the drug if they have a prescription, and those without a prescription are encouraged to visit a substance abuse professional to assess the best way forward.

During medical detox, physicians may swap to a similar drug, such as Buprenorphine, Subutex, or Suboxone, to help alleviate withdrawal symptoms. It is better and more comfortable than stopping Demerol cold turkey.

Treatment for Demerol Addiction

Though Demerol addiction can be challenging to resolve, several rehab services are available to assist in the recovery. Patients with a lengthy history of Demerol addiction may need more intensive treatment in an inpatient environment. Mild Demerol use problems may be properly handled in an outpatient facility. However, someone considering Demerol addiction therapy must be reviewed by a substance addiction specialist to evaluate the precise level of care required.

Treatment facilities provide a healthy and supervised environment where patients can focus on overcoming their addictions. They provide a range of services and guidance to help their patients achieve a more productive and recovered life. Since Demerol detox may be traumatic, a recovery program that includes medically-assisted detox is best.

Inpatient Rehab

Inpatient treatment centers provide Demerol patients with the best degree of monitoring and care. These treatments typically last 30 to 90 days, although certain centers may expand the time of the stay if necessary. Patients who reside at the facility are subjected to rules and regulations like:

  • Curfew
  • Attendance at 12-step meetings
  • Dress code
  • Specified visitation hours
  • Drug screenings
  • Diet restrictions

These stringent rules are in place to guarantee the safety and sobriety of each resident. Inpatient recovery usually includes attending individual and group therapy sessions and addiction support groups. These sessions encourage Demerol patients to speak up about their problem and learn ways to manage their desire to consume drugs. Such recovery services often include in-house clinical therapy to assist people with co-occurring mental health conditions.

Various treatment types can be used to combat Demerol abuse, including cognitive behavioral therapy, biofeedback, and motivational enhancement therapy, which are usually provided at inpatient treatment centers.

Ongoing Treatment and Relapse Prevention Strategies

Outpatient recovery services provide much of the same benefits as inpatient care but with greater flexibility for patients. Demerol patients can remain in their own homes or a sober house through outpatient treatment. This helps people to continue working or taking care of their responsibilities and obligations when undergoing therapy.

Although outpatient care’s versatility is sufficient for people with minor addictions, Demerol patients with a lengthy or serious history of abuse may require inpatient treatment instead. Outpatient services also act as a successful ongoing recovery choice for patients who have already finished an inpatient procedure and wish to continue on with their rehabilitation.

Post-rehab is usually complicated during the first few weeks; when patients move back to their everyday lives. Chances of relapse tend to be high during this period. Hence having a support group and an active recovery strategy can be essential for sobriety.

Continued counseling and 12-step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), will establish a healthy support system for recovering patients. 12-step programs help connect recovering patients with one another and provide a safe, judgment-free space to continue their journey to recovery.

Relapse Prevention Strategy

Addiction is a life long battle, and relapse can be inevitable. Here are a few strategies to help avoid relapses and prolong one’s sobriety.

Finding alternative pain-relieving methods

Seeking drug-free alternatives to relieve pain may minimize your desire to use it again. Use heat treatment, ice packs, massage therapy, or acupuncture as other options.

Getting your endorphins flowing

Endorphins are the normal pain and stress relievers in our body. Increasing the number of endorphins that the body generates is another way of reducing discomfort. Exercising and fun physical activities are commonly recognized to improve endorphins.

Clearing your mind

Meditation can be very helpful in alleviating discomfort and improving emotional wellbeing and clarity. Meditation has also been found to improve cognitive performance, immune system, while also significantly reducing tension and stress. Having the opportunity to think logically and de-stress would be extremely beneficial when dealing with rehabilitation triggers.