Addiction A-Z

Meperidine

Meperidine is the generic medication for the brand name Demerol. Similar to morphine, meperidine is a narcotic pain reliever. It is used to treat moderate to severe pain in patients.

Meperidine is a Schedule II Controlled Substance as it has a high abuse liability. It alters the perception of pain in the spinal cord and central nervous system, but has no effect on nerve endings. It does trigger the brain’s pleasure centers while blocking the pain, which intensifies its ability to generate an addiction.

Patients and other users of meperidine can quickly build a tolerance for the drug and require more to achieve the desired effect. Signs of dependency and abuse include a strong desire or need to continue taking more of the medicine; a need to increase the dose to maintain the effects of the medicine; and withdrawal symptoms occurring after the patient stops taking the medication.

Meperidine can produce effects that can be felt 10-15 minutes after it is ingested and will typically last anywhere from 2-4 hours. Effects are similar to that of morphine, although meperidine tends to deliver sedation, respiratory depression and euphoria that are less intense than morphine.

Continuous or prolonged use of meperidine can lead to a physical dependence on or tolerance of the drug. If the drug is abruptly stopped, users with a physical dependence – even those taking it regularly for medical reasons – can experience intense withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms associated with meperidine use can occur 4-5 hours after the last dose and can include, but are not limited to:

  • severe anxiety
  • insomnia
  • profuse sweating
  • muscle spasms
  • chills
  • shivering
  • tremors

Meperidine users should taper off the medication slowly under the care of a board-certified physician and board-certified addiction psychiatrist to ensure withdrawal symptoms are prevented or at least minimized.

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