Demerol is classified as a synthetic opioid and a schedule II controlled substance.
It’s an opioid analgesic prescription medication used to treat moderate to severe pain that works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain and slowing down activity in the central nervous system (CNS).
Demerol is the brand name for meperidine and meperidine hydrochloride (HCL). It’s also used as a sedative or anesthetic before surgery, and has strong potential for abuse and addiction.
Demerol Drug Classification
Demerol is classified as an opioid or narcotic analgesic prescription drug. Because it’s made in a lab and not derived directly from the opium plant, it is a synthetic opioid versus a natural opiate like morphine.
It’s also considered an opioid agonist which means it binds to opioid receptors and initiates the response that leads to pain relief/analgesia. It’s also considered a CNS depressant because of its sedative qualities.
Besides Demerol, meperidine can also be found under the brand names Pethidine and Isonipecaine.
Demerol Drug Schedule
Demerol is also classified by the FDA and DEA as a schedule II controlled substance. This means that it has a high potential for abuse which can lead to both psychological and physical dependence.
It may have medical uses, but it’s still highly addictive. It’s one of the reasons healthcare providers only recommend it for short-term use.
Side Effects Of Demerol
Demerol, like most medications, comes with a number of adverse effects. Some are more common and relatively mild while others are severe and can lead to serious issues. Side effects are likely to occur when you first start taking the medication or after a dose increase.
Common Side Effects
The most common side effects of Demerol may include:
- nausea and vomiting
- mood changes
- difficulty urinating
Serious Side Effects
While the serious side effects are not as common, they can still occur and may include:
- shallow breathing
- sleep apnea
- severe drowsiness
- increased heart rate/tachycardia
- serotonin syndrome
After a period of continued use, Demerol can lead to physical dependence. Once dependence develops, withdrawal symptoms may occur after stopping use.
Pre-Existing Conditions & Demerol
There are also several pre-existing conditions that your doctor should be aware of before they prescribe Demerol.
Demerol can actually make these conditions worse:
- brain disorders like a head injury, tumor, or seizures
- breathing problems like asthma or COPD
- gallbladder disease
- kidney disease
- liver disease/hepatic impairment
- history of substance abuse
- pheochromocytoma (tumor in the adrenal gland)
Demerol should also not be used for chronic pain. Because of the high risk of addiction, long-term use is not recommended.
Drug Interactions With Demerol
Certain medications should not be taken with Demerol because of how they interact. They can lead to an overdose or cause more serious health conditions.
Some of these contraindicated medications include:
- certain mixed opioid agonist-antagonists or pain medications like butorphanol, oxycodone, and fentanyl
- monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors like linezolid, methylene blue, and phenelzine
- benzodiazepines like alprazolam, lorazepam, and zolpidem
- muscle relaxants like carisoprodol and cyclobenzaprine
- some antidepressants like amitriptyline, amoxapine, and clomipramine
If you abuse Demerol or take it in high doses, there is an increased risk of an overdose. If an overdose occurs and is left untreated, it can be life-threatening.
The signs of a Demerol overdose can include:
- blue lips or nails
- low blood pressure/hypotension
- clammy skin
- respiratory depression
- cardiac arrest
If someone shows any of these signs, call 911 immediately. Additionally, if you have access to naloxone (Narcan) and have been trained to use it, this is the time to administer that as well. It can reverse the symptoms of an overdose.
But whether naloxone is used or not, anyone experiencing an overdose should still likely be treated at a hospital.
Opioid Addiction Treatment
The primary treatment for opioid addiction is medication-assisted treatment (MAT). This consists of a medical professional prescribing a medication, like methadone or buprenorphine, along with behavioral therapy and other treatment services.
If you or a loved one is struggling with Demerol abuse or another form of drug abuse, please contact us today for information on our outpatient treatment programs.
Northeast Addition Editorial Team
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This page does not provide medical advice.