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Demerol, the brand name of the synthetic opioid meperidine, was first used medically in 1939 and has, unfortunately, resulted in many individuals developing a Demerol addiction after long-term use. Like many synthetically produced opioids, Demerol was originally thought to be less addictive than other opioids. However, this was later proven to be untrue, as the ranks of individuals with Demerol addiction continued to grow over time. Although Demerol is approximately 30% less potent than morphine, it has a number of unpleasant and potentially dangerous side effects, in addition to its potential for abuse and addiction, that have made it become less commonly used than it once was by the medical community. Because of these side effects, Demerol is not indicated for chronic, long-term use. Rather, it is intended to be used for short-term, acute pain and is still commonly used in the emergency room and in labor and delivery in various countries in its injectable form.

photo of man leaning over his desk in pain with open bottle of Demerol tablets

Dangerous Interactions Between Demerol and Other Drugs

The potential dangers of Demerol addiction are greatly intensified when the drug is mixed with other relatively common prescription drugs. Individuals under a physician’s care should be safe from these interactions as their doctor will know to avoid prescribing Demerol to patients taking these other drugs, but those illegally feeding a Demerol addiction may easily expose themselves to potentially deadly drug interactions. Common prescription drugs that can have potentially deadly results when combined with Demerol include: MAOIs, benzodiazepines, alcohol, muscle relaxants, and SSRIs, among many others.

animated question mark

Case Study: MAOI & Demerol Interaction

According to the FDA, individuals who have used MAOIs, commonly prescribed for depression, within the last 14 days may experience a variety of potentially deadly drug interactions if they consume Demerol as well. These interactions include: coma, severe respiratory depression, cyanosis, and hypotension, agitation, hyperthermia, diarrhea, tachycardia, sweating, and tremors (among others) after even relatively small doses of Demerol are taken. [1]

Demerol Side Effects

Demerol usage is often accompanied by various undesirable side effects, like many other opioids, most of which can occur after only limited usage of the drug. However, one of these side effects, seizures, tends to occur only after long-term usage, as the metabolites of the drug build up in the user’s system. This is why physicians no longer prescribe the drug for chronic pain and instead prescribe it only to treat relatively short-term acute medical issues. The following list of side effects are all possible when individuals use Demerol:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sedation
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Urinary retention
  • Constipation
  • Serotonin syndrome – Characterized by unstable vital signs, hyperthermia, agitation, tremor, dilated pupils, and diarrhea
  • Seizures due to accumulation of metabolites (after long-term use)


Switching from Demerol to Other Opioids

Because there is a limited “black market” for Demerol production and distribution, individuals who fall into the trap of Demerol addiction often switch to another more easily obtained opioid as their addiction progresses. These drugs can include other prescription opioids and (increasingly commonly) “street drugs” such as heroin. In the case of heroin, much of today’s heroin supply is also adulterated with the incredibly potent drug fentanyl. The recent movement of many prescription opioid addicts to the cheaper and more readily available heroin (coupled with its fentanyl adulteration) has led to a massive spike in overdose deaths over the last 20 years. This rise in overdose death rates is particularly pronounced among women. According to a recent CDC report, the drug overdose death rate for women aged 30 to 64 has climbed more than 260% from 1999 to 2017. Much of this increase is due to the usage of opioids (such as Demerol) that many of these women may have first obtained via prescription, only later replacing them with “street” sources. [2]

illustrated bar charts showing the increase in women overdose deaths in the U.S.

Source: Aidsmap

Demerol Detox and Withdrawal

Like other opioids, if you abruptly stop taking Demerol after an extended period of use, you will experience a number of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Due to the intensity of these withdrawal symptoms, many individuals with a Demerol addiction will return to using the drug or other opioids in order to find relief, even if they had a strong commitment to stopping their use. That is why it is so critical for individuals seeking to quit their Demerol abuse to undergo a professionally supervised and monitored Demerol detox. Professional addiction treatment specialists can help to minimize the negative effects of withdrawal, keeping you on track during detox and setting you up for success with post-detox drug treatment. Common Demerol withdrawal symptoms include:


  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Sweating
  • Restlessness, agitation, and anxiety
  • Muscle cramping
  • Insomnia
  • Chills
  • Runny nose
  • Runny eyes
photo of a medical practitioner abusing Demerol

Why Medical Practitioners Are Particularly At-Risk of Demerol Addiction

Unlike many other opioids, Demerol is not commonly produced and distributed illegally through “street sales.” Therefore, individuals can only fuel their addiction to it through a doctor’s ill-advised long-term prescription, “doctor shopping” to obtain multiple prescriptions from different physicians, or access to a hospital or clinic’s supply of the drug. This has created a situation where many of the individuals who develop a Demerol addiction are actually healthcare providers such as doctors or nurses who can procure the drug through theft or fraud from their employer’s supplies. This invariably leads to them being caught as the amount of unaccounted-for Demerol grows to feed their addiction – and their attempts to procure it get more and more reckless as their Demerol addiction intensifies.

The Importance of Demerol Addiction Treatment

Most effective Demerol addiction treatment typically takes place in an inpatient or residential drug detox and treatment center. Demerol detox that is not followed-up with drug rehab is unlikely to be effective. In fact, the American Society of Addiction Medicine has made a statement that they do not believe that opiate detox alone can be considered an effective treatment for this disorder. Post-detox treatment is what prepares you for long-term sober recovery, giving you the tools to identify why you initially fell prey to addiction and to resist the temptation to fall back into Demerol addiction. Through a combination of education, talk therapy, group discussion and a variety of other elements of treatment, you can build a solid foundation for your post-addiction life that will enable you to navigate the challenges ahead confidently and successfully.

photo of a patient talking to other patients during group therapy treatment

Free Yourself from Demerol Addiction Today

If you or a loved one is struggling with a Demerol addiction, call BWR at 800-683-4457 to get started on the road to recovery from this life-threatening disease. BWR’s operators are available any time of day or night to help you confront your addiction and begin your journey to a happier and healthier life.


Behavioral Wellness & Recovery is a Joint Commission accredited program. The Joint Commission recognizes excellence in health care organizations and programs.


Behavioral Wellness & Recovery is a Joint Commission accredited program. The Joint Commission recognizes excellence in health care organizations and programs.

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