Updated on February 6, 2024
5 min read

Demerol Addiction and Abuse

Demerol is the brand name for meperidine, an FDA-approved prescription drug. It’s a synthetic opioid and a powerful pain reliever with similar effects as morphine.

Demerol is appealing to people because it affects the way dopamine and norepinephrine react in the brain, which increases the "high" they feel. Hospitals and outpatient clinics don’t use this drug as often as they used to because it has a high risk of addiction and is toxic at high doses.

How Addictive Is Demerol?

Demerol is more addictive than most other opioid drugs. It takes effect quickly and wears off fast, increasing a person's tolerance level and leading to dependence sooner.

It’s also a Schedule II controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which is the highest level of drug control within the U.S., with medicinal use as an exception. 

The federal government tightly regulates the use of Demerol because of its likelihood of being abused or sold on the street for recreational use. Prolonged Demerol misuse can quickly lead to drug tolerance, where the person will need more of the drug to feel its effects, leading to addiction.

Synthetic opioids are currently the main driver of drug overdose deaths. They were involved in 80,411 overdose deaths in 2021, making up 75.4% of all drug overdose deaths.7

What are the Risk Factors for Demerol Misuse?

What are the Risk Factors for Demerol Misuse?

Certain factors make some people more predisposed to Demerol misuse and addiction than others. These risk factors include:

  • People who can’t or don’t know how to effectively manage stress
  • People with moderate to severe pain and are being treated with Demerol
  • People with family and friends who misuse or are addicted to Demerol
  • People with impulsivity problems
  • People with a family history of, and have experienced early exposure to, substance abuse

What are the Signs of Demerol Addiction?

Psychological dependence is one of the main signs of an opioid use disorder. A person addicted to Demerol often experiences drug cravings and opioid withdrawal symptoms when the drug wears off.

Other signs of Demerol addiction include:

  • Multiple unsuccessful attempts to stop taking Demerol
  • A drug tolerance that leads to increased self-dosage
  • Increased intake of the drug for a longer period of time than prescribed
  • A tendency to invent pain symptoms to get more of the drug
  • A lack of interest in daily activities and hobbies
  • Irregular sleep patterns
  • Frequent absences at school or work
  • Decreased productivity
  • Unreliability to fulfill daily obligations
  • Poor appetite and eating habits
  • Significant weight loss
  • Drastic mood swings 
  • Drastic personality changes

When a person is addicted to Demerol, they often continue using the drug despite knowing its adverse consequences. They persist in using it even in hazardous or risky situations and may involve themselves in illegal activities to get the drug.

What are Demerol Withdrawal Symptoms?

When a person dependent on Demerol stops taking the drug or reduces the amount they're taking, withdrawal symptoms may occur. This is because their body is adjusting to the absence or the lack of Demerol in the system.

Demerol withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Restlessness
  • Tearing or runny nose
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Pupil dilation
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Weakness
  • Insomnia
  • Heightened blood pressure
  • Heightened heart rate
  • Increased respiratory rate

Can Demerol Addiction Lead to Overdose?

One of the most dangerous effects of Demerol addiction is overdose. Signs of Demerol overdose include:

  • Bluish nail beds, lips, and tongue
  • Blurry vision
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Coma
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Fainting or syncope
  • Loss of muscle strength
  • Respiratory depression
  • Slow heart rate, or bradycardia

Other risks of Demerol addiction include severe long-term effects, including brain damage, anxiety, depression, and hypoxia. Hypoxia is a deficiency in tissue oxygenation.

Demerol use over several days can also lead to CNS excitation syndrome. It can cause tremors, mental confusion, emotional disruption, and seizures.

In 2020, an average of 44 people died daily from overdoses involving prescription opioids. It totaled to more than 16,000 deaths.1

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

What are Demerol’s Drug Interactions?

When opioid medication interacts with several other drug types, dangerous side effects or death can occur. Before prescribing Demerol, a doctor must assess if a person has used or is currently using certain drugs.

These drugs include:

  • Prescription cough medicine
  • Other opioid pain medicine
  • Sedatives like Valium (alprazolam, diazepam, lorazepam, Xanax, Versed, Klonopin, and others)
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
  • Drugs that slow breathing
  • Drugs that affect serotonin levels in the body
  • Alcohol and other central nervous system (CNS) depressants

Online Therapy Can Help

Over 3 million people use BetterHelp. Their services are:

  • Professional and effective
  • Affordable and convenient
  • Personalized and discreet
  • Easy to start
Find a Therapist

Answer a few questions to get started

Woman drinking coffee on couch

What are the Treatment Options for Demerol Addiction?

The best way to treat Demerol addiction is through a multi-faceted approach. This includes taking behavioral therapy, medication, and support groups.

  • Supervised detoxification: Provides medical supervision to prevent life-threatening consequences brought on by withdrawal symptoms
  • Behavioral therapies: Help people develop coping strategies for cravings and stressors that can lead to relapse
  • Medication: Provided under medical supervision to reduce cravings and other withdrawal symptoms
  • Support groups: Provide a nonjudgmental environment to talk openly about addiction and learn from others in similar situations; includes groups like Narcotics Anonymous or SMART Recovery

Treatment of opioid use disorder is an ongoing process that requires commitment and discipline. Finding the right treatment plan is essential for long-term success.

Get Professional Help

BetterHelp can connect you to an addiction and mental health counselor.

Find a Therapist

Answer a few questions to get started

Rehab Together

How Can You Prevent Demerol Addiction?

You can prevent Demerol addiction by only taking the medication as prescribed. Never share your prescription with someone else or use someone else's medication.

If you or someone you know is misusing Demerol, seek help from friends and family. If you struggle with pain or mental health issues, avoid self-medicating and seek proper support.

Resources for Help and Support

If you or someone you know is struggling with Demerol addiction, resources are available to help. Consider reaching out to:

  • National Helpline: 1-800-237-TALK (8255)
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): Treatment locator
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)
  • Your primary care provider or a mental health professional: Consult them for personalized guidance and treatment options

Phone, Video, or Live-Chat Support

BetterHelp provides therapy in a way that works for YOU. Fill out the questionnaire, get matched, begin therapy.

Get Started

Answer a few questions to get started

Woman drinking coffee on couch


Demerol is powerful opioid pain medication for severe pain. But while it’s effective, abuse of this drug can lead to physical and mental issues, addiction, and even death.

Seek immediate help if you or someone you know struggles with Demerol misuse and abuse. Support from loved ones and professional treatment can make a significant difference in overcoming addiction and achieving long-term recovery.

Get matched with an affordable mental health counselor

Find a Therapist

Answer a few questions to get started

Updated on February 6, 2024

Related Pages