Rehab for Demerol Abuse

Demerol user sitting on stairsDemerol is a branded version of meperidine, a powerful opioid painkiller. Like all opioids, Demerol can be highly effective for alleviating pain, but the medication also has the potential for abuse and addiction.

Today’s guide will highlight the dangers of Demerol abuse. You will also discover the safest and most effective way to bounce back from Demerol addiction.  


Meperidine, otherwise known as pethidine, is a narcotic opioid analgesic. Demerol is the branded version of this potent opioid. This medication is rarely prescribed outside a clinical setting.

Demerol is prescribed for the treatment of moderate and severe pain. If prescribed to alleviate acute pain, Demerol it is inadvisable to use Demerol for more than two days.

The effects of the medication are similar to the effects of morphine and oxycodone. Demerol should not be used to treat chronic pain due to its habit-forming nature.

Demerol is available in the following forms:

  • Tablet: The white, circular Demerol tablets come in 50mg or 100mg strengths.
  • Liquid: Demerol is available in two liquid forms (a syrup and an injectable solution).

If prescribed Demerol, you can take the syrup or tablet form orally as prescribed. Those prescribed the injectable version of Demerol will need the injection administered by a medical professional.

Even though this medication is much less potent than morphine, the short-acting opioid Demerol still carries a strong potential for abuse. As such, Demerol is classified under schedule II of the CSA (Controlled Substances Act). Like all substances in this class, Demerol has some limited medical applications, but there is also the potential for abuse. Possession of Demerol without a supporting prescription is illegal.

Demerol’s mechanism of action differs from that of other opioid painkillers such as morphine. Instead of preventing pain signals from reaching the brain, Demerol induces a feeling of euphoria to mask the feelings of pain as it works on your CNS (central nervous system). 

American Pain Society recommends that Demerol should no longer be prescribed for pain relief, particularly in the over-65s. The pain-relieving properties of this medication are not as long-lasting as those of other narcotic analgesics. Beyond this, Demerol can trigger the production of toxic metabolites.

In addition to the risk of Demerol abuse and addiction, this medication is also contraindicated with many other medications.

How many people end up abusing Demerol, then?


CDC data shows that more than 100,000 people died from drug overdoses in the United States in from April 2020 to April 2021. Opioids like Demerol were implicated 75% of these fatal overdoses.

Each year SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) reports data from NSDUH (National Survey on Drug Use and Health). The most recent data from NSDUH 2020 shows that 2.6 million U.S. adults developed an opioid addiction in 2020.

While it is tough to establish precise rates of abuse for a specific substance like Demerol, it is clear that a significant portion of those who use this medication develop problems with abuse and addiction, sometimes resulting in fatal overdose.

Demerol abuse symptoms, on the other hand, are much easier to pinpoint.


For many people, Demerol abuse begins by taking the drug as directed for pain relief. Continued use of Demerol will cause tolerance to form, causing you to require more Demerol or more frequent doses of Demerol to feel pain relief. This can trigger physical dependence, often accompanied by psychological dependence. 

The signs and symptoms of Demerol addiction will differ from person to person. Some markers may be detectable soon after starting use of the medication, while others symptoms might not manifest for months.

These signs may be visible from the onset of Demerol use: 

  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Insomnia
  • Drowsiness
  • Impaired coordination

Abusing any opioid like Demerol long-term is characterized by a variety of physical and psychological signs.


These are the most common physical signs of Demerol abuse:

  • Headaches
  • Dilated pupils
  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Low body temperature
  • Slow movements
  • Reduced sensitivity to pain
  • Low blood pressure levels
  • Slow heart rate
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle pain
  • Joint pain
  • Cramping
  • Weight loss
  • Seizure
  • Coma


Taking opioids like Demerol increases the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter (chemical messenger) that stimulates the brain’s reward pathways and improves mood. This causes your brain to crave the pleasurable feelings associated with Demerol. 

Using Demerol or other opioids long-term will damage the reward pathways, leading to permanent structural changes to that area of the brain. 

These are the most common psychological signs of Demerol abuse:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Pronounced mood swings
  • Intense cravings for Demerol
  • Tolerance to Demerol
  • Confusion
  • Problems with focus
  • Disorientation
  • Noticeable behavior changes
  • Altered perceptions of reality
  • Inability to control use of Demerol
  • Withdrawal symptoms in the absence of Demerol


The withdrawal symptoms that present during Demerol detox are seldom life-threatening. That said, opioid withdrawal can be unpleasant and uncomfortable. The optimum approach to Demerol withdrawal is a supervised detox in a medical setting.

According to the FDA, these are the most reported Demerol withdrawal symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Weakness
  • Anxiety
  • Increased respiratory rate and heart rate
  • Elevated blood pressure levels
  • Stomach cramps
  • Chills
  • Sweating
  • Runny nose
  • Weight loss


The primary danger of Demerol abuse is the way it can quickly and easily lead to addiction. 

Many people start using Demerol as directed by their physician. As tolerance builds, they may increase the dosage to achieve the same pain relief. This can accelerate the development of physical dependence. When psychological dependence also sets in, those who started using Demerol as prescribed may find themselves diagnosed with opioid use disorder (the clinical descriptor for Demerol addiction).

Other people abuse Demerol for the euphoric high, whether alone or in a social setting.

All of the following are considered Demerol abuse:

  • Any nonprescribed use of Demerol
  • All nonmedical uses of Demerol
  • Using more Demerol than prescribed
  • Using Demerol after the completion of treatment

All opioids are highly addictive, but research suggests that Demerol may be even more addictive than other substances in this class. Demerol takes effect quickly and the effects also wear off quickly. This leads to both tolerance and dependence forming at an accelerated rate.

These are some of the most common signs of Demerol addiction:

  • Unsuccessful attempts to moderate or discontinue use of Demerol
  • Tolerance to Demerol
  • Taking more of the medication than intended
  • Doctor shopping to obtain more Demerol
  • Appetite changes and weight loss
  • Reduced interest in everyday activities
  • Neglecting personal and professional responsibilities
  • Using the medication in hazardous situations
  • Continuing to use Demerol regardless of negative outcomes

Besides addiction, there is also a risk of overdosing on Demerol.


Taking Demerol carries the risk of overdose. Seek immediate medical assistance if any of the following Demerol overdose symptoms present:

  • Unresponsiveness
  • Decreased awareness
  • Altered consciousness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Unusual drowsiness

The FDA reports that serious Demerol overdose is characterized by cold skin, stupor, and respiratory depression.

The administration of naloxone, a narcotic opioid antagonist, can reverse the effects of Demerol overdose.

Naloxone should not be administered in the absence of respiratory depression. Additionally, if you are physically dependent on opioids, administering a narcotic opioid antagonist will trigger acute withdrawal. If administering naloxone is unavoidable in this scenario, only 10% of the typical dose is required.


If you are addicted to Demerol, we can help you tackle the physical and psychological aspects of opioid use disorder at Gratitude Lodge.

We offer inpatient rehab at three luxury treatment centers located in Long Beach, Newport Beach, and San Diego. Additionally, we provide intensive outpatient programming for those unable to commit to a month or more in residential rehab.

Our licensed medical detox facility allows you to withdraw from Demerol as safely and comfortably as possible. You will have access to FDA-approved medications during detox and throughout ongoing treatment.

MAT (medication-assisted treatment) is proven effective for the treatment of Demerol addiction. MAT typically delivers superior outcomes when combined with behavioral interventions. At our California Demerol rehabs, you will have access to these evidence-based treatments:

  • Individual counseling
  • Group counseling
  • Psychotherapy (talk therapies like CBT or DBT)
  • Family therapy

At Gratitude Lodge, you can also take advantage of our 12-step immersion program and an array of holistic therapies.

If you or a loved one are ready to move from Demerol addiction into ongoing recovery, reach out to Gratitude Lodge today by calling 800-994-2184.