Demerol is the brand name for a synthetic opioid pain medication called pethidine. Opioids have powerful analgesic effects that can also produce a feeling of warmth and euphoria, which can be powerfully addictive. 

Currently, the United States and much of the rest of the world is going through an epidemic of opioid abuse, addiction, and overdose. Sometimes, the abuse of prescription drugs like Demerol can lead to dependence and a pattern of addiction. However, Demerol is thought to have lower dependence liability than morphine and other synthetic opioids. Still, it can easily become addictive to people with other addiction risk factors, primarily if it’s abused.

Addiction to an opioid like Demerol comes with certain signs and symptoms. If you have been prescribed the drug or if you’ve taken some recreationally, it’s important to know how to identify addiction and what you can do about it.

What Is Demerol?

As an opioid, Demerol (also called meperidine) works as an agonist on opioid receptors in the brain to produce a pain relief effect. It binds and excites the specific receptor (k-opioid receptors) that deals with pain, consciousness, motor control, and mood. 

The resulting effects are moderate pain relief as well as physical and cognitive euphoria. It was first synthesized in 1939 as the first of the phenylpiperidine class of drugs and has a range of uses from opioid analgesic to medication for Parkinson’s disease.

Demerol has a short half-life and acts quickly, though not as fast as some other opioids like the extremely potent fentanyl. Demerol can start to take effect within 30 minutes to an hour of the dose and lasts for about four to six hours, though some effects can be felt for up to 10 hours. It has been widely used as a pain reliever in labor and delivery. However, it can react dangerously with antidepressants, muscle relaxants, benzodiazepines, and alcohol.

Because it is fast-acting, it has a high potential for abuse compared to slower-acting opioids. As your brain becomes used to Demerol binding to your opioid receptors, it may grow to depend on it. It takes a while for the brain to recover from physical dependence on opioids and quitting cold turkey can result in painful withdrawal.

What are the Signs of Demerol Addiction?

Abusing opioids can produce a range of adverse effects on the user. Plus, addiction, in general, will often manifest in specific signs and symptoms. Addiction can come in the form of physical and psychological dependence on Demerol, causing both mental and physical side effects. 

If you have been taking Demerol and you’re worried that you might be dependent, there are a few telltale signs. If you have tried to stop using the drug and couldn’t because of powerful cravings or symptoms, it could mean that you’ve formed a dependence. Addiction can also be indicated by the need to take more of the drug (or more frequent doses) for it to be effective.

Abusing this drug comes with some unwanted Demerol side effects such as:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Drowsiness
  • Itchiness
  • Weakness of limb
  • Decrease in urination

If you are worried that a friend or family member has become addicted to Demerol, there are a few common signs, including

  • Loss of interest in normal activities
  • Inability to meet obligations
  • Isolation and withdrawal from social activities
  • Strange sleep schedule
  • Irregular weight loss
  • Failing performance at work or school
  • Erratic behavior
  • Uncharacteristic legal issues

Since Demerol is fast-acting and wears off quickly, you might be able to build a tolerance level more quickly than other opioids. As you need more to achieve an effective dose, your body and brain will begin to count on it to function normally. If you notice that a prescribed dose is no longer effective, call your doctor immediately.

What is Involved in Demerol Addiction Treatment?


If you have developed a physical dependence on Demerol, medical detoxwill be the best place to start treatment. Opioid withdrawals are seldom fatal, but it can be difficult to get through without medical treatment. Demerol withdrawal can cause flu-like symptoms, restlessness, nausea, muscle and joint pain, anxiety, weakness, and increased heart rate. 

Along with a strong craving to keep using opioids, it is difficult to get through opioid withdrawal without using if you don’t have supervision. A detox center can help ease your symptoms and keep you accountable to your decision to stop using. The best detox centers should have clinicians on staff that can help you find the best treatment options for you.


After detoxification, you will still need to address the addiction that has affected how your brain processes triggers. Many potential high-risk situations can trigger the urge to relapse. This is why many people choose to enter a residential treatment immediately after their detox is over. By living at the facility and going through therapy in a secure and drug-free environment, you can gain the tools you need to fight relapse in the future.

Through treatment that’s tailored to your specific needs, you can learn how to deal with situations that would otherwise drive you to use Demerol. Addressing the thoughts and behaviors that led you to Demerol addiction in the first place will help you maintain your sobriety even when you’re outside of the facility. 


Addiction is a chronic disease with relapse rates similar to other diseases like asthma, hypertension, and type 1 diabetes. Once you’ve finished a treatment program, it’s important to safeguard your sobriety with a continued commitment to recovery through support groups, 12-step programs, or other outpatient programs

In outpatient treatment, you will be living at home or at a transitional living facility while you regularly attend therapy and stay connected to counselors and peers. By easing your way back into everyday life in sobriety, you can avoid the stressors and triggers that led to your addiction to Demerol. 

How Dangerous is Demerol?

Demerol abuse can come with several side effects some of which can be life-threatening. Common adverse effects include gastrointestinal distress, sedation, dizziness, and constipation. However, overdose can lead to more serious symptoms like respiratory depression, hypotension, and coma. The most common cause of death in opioid overdose comes from oxygen deprivation. Opioids tend to repress breathing to the point of asphyxiation. 

Demerol is also dangerous when combined with other drugs like alcohol or benzodiazepines, causing delirium, convulsions, and hyperthermia. Poly-substance abuse can also exacerbate the Demerol side effects or even speed up the overdose process.

Demerol Abuse Statistics

  • 91 Americans die each day because of opioid overdose.
  • From 2000 to 2015, more than 500,000 people were killed by opioid overdose.
  • 2 million people suffer from an addiction to opioids like Demerol every year.
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