Demerol Abuse Information

Understanding Demerol Addiction

Learn About Demerol Addiction & Abuse

Demerol is the trade name of meperidine, a synthetic opioid analgesic that is used to treat moderate to severe pain. Demerol is a prescription medication that functions in a manner similar to morphine. Though it was once mistakenly believed that Demerol is less addictive than morphine is, that has proven not to be the case. Because of Demerol’s high risk for dependence, and due to the potential toxicity when the drug is used for an extended period of time, this medication is usually prescribed only for short-term use, such as to relieve acute pain in the immediate aftermath of surgery. Demerol may be taken orally as a tablet or syrup; it may also be administered via intramuscular injection.

As is the case with other natural and synthetic opioids, including morphine, opium, oxycodone, and hydrocodone, Demerol interacts with receptors in the brain that are involved with the release and reabsorption of dopamine and noreprinephrine, neurotransmitters that are associated with pleasure and pain. In addition to alleviating pain, Demerol use is also often accompanied by improved mood and a sense of relaxed euphoria. These latter effects are among the reasons that Demerol may be abused for recreational purposes. Demerol abuse may also occur when a person who has been prescribed this medication uses it for a longer period of time or in greater quantities than directed. Regardless of why a person begins to abuse Demerol, this behavior may result in the development of an addiction, which is known as opioid use disorder.

The powerful effects of Demerol combined with the onset of painful withdrawal symptoms in the absence of the drug can make opioid use disorder extremely difficult to overcome without effective professional treatment. With appropriate care, though, individuals who have struggled with opioid use disorder can overcome their dependence upon Demerol and become empowered to successfully achieve long-term recovery.


Demerol Abuse Statistics

According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), Demerol and other products that contain meperidine were responsible for 1,151 visits to hospital emergency rooms in 2010. DAWN has also reported that instances of lost, stolen, or otherwise misdirected doses of Demerol fluctuated between 32,000 and 37,000 during the early years of the 21st century.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and Risk Factors for Demerol Abuse

The following are among the many factors that may influence the likelihood that an individual will abuse or become addicted to Demerol:

Genetic: Among the genetic factors that may increase a person’s risk for developing opioid use disorder include personality traits such as impulsivity and novelty seeking. Several studies have also established a strong family connection to substance use disorders and have noted an increased risk among individuals whose first-degree relatives have struggles with substance abuse and addiction.

Environmental: People who experience levels of stress that exceed their ability to cope are at an increased risk for developing opioid use disorder involving Demerol and similar substances. Being prescribed Demerol to treat acute or chronic pain is also an environmental influence. Other environmental factors that may lead to opioid use disorder include having access to Demerol and associating with friends or family members who abuse Demerol.

Risk Factors:

  • Impulsivity
  • Early exposure to substance abuse
  • Family history of substance use disorders
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Illness or injury that is treated with Demerol
  • Poor stress-management capabilities
  • Conduct disorder during childhood
  • Trauma
  • Poverty

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Demerol Abuse

The following signs may indicate that a person has been abusing or has become dependent upon Demerol:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Visiting several doctors in an attempt to acquire multiple prescriptions
  • Using Demerol in situations where it is dangerous to do so
  • Abusing Demerol after having experienced negative repercussions because of prior Demerol abuse
  • Borrowing or stealing Demerol that has been prescribed to another person
  • Neglecting personal, academic, or occupational responsibilities in order to acquire, use, or recover from Demerol
  • Acting in a reckless or risky manner
  • Acting deceptively regarding one’s whereabouts or activities
  • Withdrawing from family and friends

Physical symptoms:

  • Diminished appetite
  • Respiratory depression
  • Dry mouth
  • Urinary retention
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Insomnia
  • Constipation

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Impaired ability to focus and/or concentrate
  • Memory problems
  • Inability to make effective judgments

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Anger and aggression
  • Depression
  • Loss of interest in formerly significant activities


Effects of Demerol Abuse

Continuing to abuse Demerol and failing to get proper treatment for an opioid use disorder can have a dramatically negative impact on virtually all aspects of an individual’s life. The following are examples of the damage that can result from untreated Demerol abuse:

  • Health problems, including organ damage
  • Weakened muscles
  • Breathing problems
  • Family discord and diminished interpersonal relationships
  • Poor performance in school or at work
  • Job loss
  • Unemployment
  • Financial instability
  • Arrest and incarceration
  • Onset or worsening of co-occurring disorders
  • Increased risk of suicide

Co-Occurring Disorders

Demerol Abuse & Co-Occurring Disorders

Individuals who develop opioid use disorder involving Demerol may also experience the following co-occurring disorders:

  • Other substance use disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of Demerol Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of Demerol withdrawal: One of the effects of becoming dependent upon Demerol is that when a person attempts to stop or reduce his or her use of the drug, he or she will experience a variety of distressing symptoms, such as the following:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Cravings for Demerol
  • Agitation
  • Depression
  • Profuse perspiration
  • Watery eyes and runny nose
  • Cramping
  • Fever
  • Insomnia

Effects of Demerol overdose: Anyone who exhibits the signs listed below after abusing Demerol may have overdosed on the drug. If a person who has overdosed on Demerol does not receive proper care, he or she may experience several severe outcomes, including death.

  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Extreme sleepiness
  • Lost consciousness
  • Depressed respiration
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Coma

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