Demerol: Uses, Side Effects, Addiction & Treatment

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Demerol is a powerful opioid painkiller with limited medical applications. The medication also carries the risk of abuse and addiction.

This guide explores the effects of using Demerol and shows you how to combat addiction to this potent opioid.

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What is Demerol?

A branded version of meperidine, otherwise known as pethidine, Demerol classification is a narcotic opioid analgesic. Demerol is rarely administered outside of a clinical setting. 

This opioid is usually used for the treatment of moderate and severe pain. The effects of Demerol are similar to those of morphine and oxycodone. 

Demerol should not be used for more than two days if administered for the management of acute pain. 

This opioid-based medication is unsuitable for treating chronic pain for two reasons: 

  1. Demerol, like all opioids, is strongly habit-forming.
  2. There are many superior pain medications available.

Demerol is available as a tablet (in either 50mg or 100mg strengths), as a syrup, and as an injectable solution. 

You should take Demerol tablets and Demerol syrup orally as prescribed. You will need to see a medical professional if you require a Demerol injectable. This will be administered under controlled conditions to mitigate abuse.

Is Demerol a Controlled Substance?

Demerol might be less potent than morphine, but the short-acting opioid has a strong potential for abuse and addiction. 

Demerol is classified by the DEA (U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration) as a Schedule II controlled substance. Like all Schedule II medications, there are some medical applications for Demerol, but the medication also carries the risk of abuse. 

Demerol is only available with a prescription.

Most opioids – morphine, for example – prevent pain messages from reaching your brain. Demerol has a different mechanism of action, though. This opioid works on your CNS (central nervous system), disrupting feelings of pain by triggering euphoria

An image of a woman feeling the full side effects of Demerol use

Demerol Side Effects

These are the most common side effects Demerol:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Cold skin
  • Sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Faintness
  • Dizziness
  • Appetite loss
  • Restlessness
  • Overactive reflexes
  • Impaired coordination
  • Muscle twitches
  • Tremors
  • Hives
  • Blue hue to skin
  • Pale lips
  • Puffy lips
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Chest pain
  • Blurred vision
  • Breathing problems
  • Darkening skin

Can You Overdose on Demerol?

Demerol is an opioid analgesic that depresses the central nervous system, slowing the functioning of major organs in the body. 

It may be difficult to differentiate the side effects of Demerol from a Demerol overdose. Look for the following indicators of overdose: 

  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Low blood pressure levels
  • Dizziness
  • Severe nausea and vomiting
  • Extreme muscle weakness
  • Slow heart rate
  • Cold or clammy skin
  • Convulsions
  • Respiratory depression
  • Inability to stay awake
  • Cardiac arrest

The most common adverse outcome associated with Demerol overdose is respiratory depression. If this condition is not treated, it can trigger brain damage and could even be fatal.

Demerol overdose should be considered a medical emergency. With immediate care and the administration of naloxone can reverse the effects of opioid overdose. 

Demerol Addiction

Opioids like Demerol are heavily implicated in the unresolved U.S. opioid epidemic. 

Some studies indicate that the meperidine might be even more addictive than most opioids. This is due to the rapid onset and dissipation of effects, leading to the accelerated development of tolerance and physical dependence.

Addiction to Demerol is clinically termed substance use disorder (generally) and opioid use disorder (specifically). According to 2020 data from SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), more than 2.5 million adults in the United States met the criteria for opioid addiction in 2020.

Any non-medical and non-prescribed use of meperidine is classified as Demerol abuse. Abusing any opioid inflames the risk of dependence and addiction developing. 

Many people become addicted to Demerol after being prescribed the medication to manage chronic pain. Tolerance to Demerol builds so quickly, and many people attempt to counter this by taking more Demerol or more frequent doses of this potent opioid. These abusive patterns are likely to hasten the development of physical dependence. 

If you become physically dependent on Demerol, intensely uncomfortable opioid withdrawal symptoms will manifest in its absence. 

When addiction presents in the form of opioid use disorder, this is a chronic brain condition characterized by the uncontrollable use of Demerol despite adverse outcomes.

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Drug Rehab at California Detox

If you are addicted to Demerol or any other opioid, we can help you to kickstart your recovery here at California Detox in Orange County. 

We offer a full suite of treatment programs, including:

  • Supervised medical Demerol detox
  • Inpatient programs
  • Outpatient programs
  • IOPs (intensive outpatient programs)
  • PHPs (partial hospitalization programs)
  • Virtual rehab
  • Dual diagnosis (for Demerol addiction with co-occurring mental health condition)

MAT (medication-assisted treatment) is proven effective for the treatment of OUD (opioid use disorder). FDA-approved medications can be useful during detox and throughout ongoing treatment. You can also access these interventions at California Detox: 

  • Individual counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Psychotherapies (talk therapies like CBT and DBT)
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic therapy

When you’re ready to embrace life opioid-free, we can help you from detox to discharge and beyond. Call 949.390.5377 for immediate assistance.


Yes. Demerol is unlike other opioid that disrupt the transmission of pain signals between nerve endings and the brain. Instead, Demerol acts on the CNS (central nervous system) and tricks the brain into feeling euphoria in place of pain. This euphoria is triggered even when Demerol is used for legitimate medical purposes. As such, Demerol has psychoactive properties.
Demerol directly impacts the central nervous system, altering how you feel pain and respond to pain.


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