Demerol is a brand name for the prescription drug meperidine. It is a an opioid (narcotic) analgesic prescribed for patients experiencing moderate to severe pain, or administered before and during surgery or other potentially painful medical procedures.
Demerol is a narcotic analgesic, a class of medication similar to morphine. It functions by altering how the central nervous system responds to pain signals. When taken recreationally instead of to treat pain, users experience a rush of euphoria and relaxation, similar to heroin.
Due to its high potential for abuse, Demerol must always be taken exactly according to a doctor’s instructions. Taking a larger dose, or taking Demerol more frequently or for a longer period of time than prescribed, will lead to physical dependence and addiction.
Understanding Demerol Abuse
Demerol is a brand name for preparations of meperidine that include pills, liquids and injections. When taken under a doctor’s guidance, as needed for pain, the drug is administered in a controlled dose every 3 to 4 hours.
Individuals who abuse Demerol may take more of the drug more often, and they may crush the tablets in order to snort or inject them, which intensifies the euphoric effects. Taking Demerol in this way is extremely dangerous.
Like heroin and other opioid drugs, Demerol attaches to opioid receptors in the brain, blocking pain signals. Because opioid receptors are located in the brain’s reward center, this process also triggers the release of dopamine, commonly known as the “feel-good” chemical, producing a state of euphoria and relaxation. This highly-desirable feeling is one of the primary reasons for the widespread abuse of Demerol and other opioid drugs.
Another key factor in the illicit use of opioids is how readily available they are to the public, either through prescriptions or to purchase illegally. Many dealers obtain Demerol through fraudulent prescriptions or shady pain clinics, and opioids are some of the most commonly stolen medications.
Signs and Symptoms of Demerol Abuse
Possible signs and symptoms of Demerol abuse may include:
- appearing intoxicated with no signs of alcohol use
- needing to have a prescription refilled earlier than scheduled
- seeing multiple doctors/clinics for pain prescriptions
- changes in mood
- changes in appearance or hygiene
- mental clouding
- isolation from family and friends
- secretive behavior
- nervousness and restlessness
- lack of interest in activities the user previously enjoyed
The U.S. National Library of Medicine lists the following symptoms as possible side effects of Demerol use:
- extreme calm
- mood changes
- stomach pain or cramps
- dry mouth
- changes in vision
Some side effects can be serious. The following symptoms are not common, but if you or a loved one experiences any of them while taking Demerol, seek immediate medical attention:
- hallucinations (seeing things or hearing voices that do not exist)
- fast, or other changes in heartbeat
- severe muscle stiffness or twitching
- loss of coordination
- nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
- loss of appetite
- weakness or dizziness
- inability to get or keep an erection
- irregular menstruation
- decreased sexual desire
- slow or difficult breathing
- shaking hands that you cannot control
- difficulty urinating
- rash or hives
Dangers of Demerol Abuse
Sustained use of Demerol will create a tolerance for the drug, forcing addicts to increase their dosage to experience the same effects. Taking large amounts of Demerol will increase the number and severity of side effects, and as well as the risk of serious medical consequences.
Opioid receptors are found in the same areas of the brain that control respiration. High doses of opioids can cause breathing to stop completely, leading to fatality.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine explains that symptoms of Demerol overdose may include the following:
- slowed breathing
- extreme sleepiness
- loose, floppy muscles
- cold, clammy skin
- slow heartbeat
- blurred vision
Who Abuses Demerol?
A person of any age, gender, financial status, or ethnicity can become addicted to Demerol. According to The National Institute on Drug Abuse, “regular use [of opioids]—even as prescribed by a doctor—can produce dependence, and when misused or abused, opioid pain relievers can lead to fatal overdose.”
Some addicts take Demerol to combat feelings of anxiety, to self-medicate depression, or to enjoy feelings of euphoria. Some users take the drug due to chronic pain and an unbearable physical dependency that makes them unable to quit the drug on their own.
Withdrawal symptoms of Demerol may include:
- watery eyes
- stuffy nose
- muscle pain
- stomach pain, upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhea
- loss of appetite
- fast breathing
- fast heartbeat
- back pain
When used legally, under a doctor’s instructions, Demerol can be beneficial, improving a patient’s quality of life during illness, injury, or surgery. When pain goes untreated, patients can suffer mentally as well as physically, running the risk of developing mood disorders and suicidal thoughts.
However, prescription opioids such as Demerol can be highly addictive, and patients must be careful to take them only as directed. Overuse and abuse of the medication (such as taking Demerol to relax instead of to treat pain) will lead to serious mental and physical consequences.
Taking Demerol recreationally, especially in conjunction with alcohol or other drugs, is extremely dangerous and is a clear sign of a substance abuse problem.
Am I Addicted to Demerol?
If you fear that you may be addicted to Demerol, ask yourself the questions below:
- Do I abuse Demerol every day?
- Do I abuse the drug in order to combat feelings of unhappiness, loneliness, depression, etc.?
- Have friends or family members mentioned more than once that they are worried about my drug use?
- Do I become hostile or angry when they do so?
- Do I ever experience side effects or withdrawal symptoms such as those listed above?
- Do I feel like I can’t have fun, be normal, or complete everyday tasks without Demerol?
- Am I secretive about my drug use, and/or do I lie about when I use or how much I take?
- Do I need more and more Demerol each time I abuse the drug in order to feel its effects?
- Have I experienced any major problems in the last year, such as a breakup, job loss, car accident, family problems, financial problems, or getting arrested as a result of my drug use?
- Despite these problems, do I feel unable to stop using Demerol on my own?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you may be addicted to Demerol and in need of professional substance abuse help.
Demerol Addiction Treatment
Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease. The NIDA explains that “repeated drug use changes the brain, including parts of the brain that enable you to exert self-control. These and other changes can be seen clearly in brain imaging studies of people with drug addictions.”
This is why addicts require professional help to break the cycle of addiction. The treatment specialists at a qualified drug and alcohol rehab are trained in how to manage substance abuse issues and lead addicts safely to recovery.
Detoxification is the first step to any recovery plan. A person needs clarity of mind and a body free from addictive substances before they can be effectively treated.
Because withdrawal from Demerol can be extremely unpleasant, detoxing in a rehab center under the care of medical professionals is ideal. A doctor will likely have you taper off of Demerol gradually, to minimize withdrawal symptoms, and may prescribe medications to help ease symptoms and more comfortably transition you into sobriety.
Whether addicts choose inpatient residential treatment, and/or outpatient treatment, all substance abuse recovery plans will include talk therapy.
Individual therapy allows patients to work intensively on issues specific only to them, while group therapy allows them to both support and experience support from other addicts who are struggling with similar challenges. Family therapy is a fundamental tool to ensure individuals encounter the best possible environment at home, to prevent relapse.
Other treatment options include:
- Treatment for co-occurring conditions: most addicts suffer from undiagnosed mental health issues that underlie and fuel their substance abuse. These co-occurring disorders must be addressed as a part of recovery.
- 12-step meetings: Meetings based on the 12-step program that originated with Alcoholics Anonymous are an invaluable resource to support long term sobriety.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy: CBT teaches patients to retrain their brains with new methods of coping with stress and cravings, and avoiding trigger situations.
- Nutrition, fitness and recreational therapy: a strong body is just as important as a strong mind when it comes to long-term recovery. The better a person feels, the more prepared they will be to handle life as it comes.