Demerol Addiction and Withdrawal

Meperidine, better known by its brand name Demerol, is a pain medication that falls into the opioid category. It is available in a wide range of forms, including tablets, syrups, and injections. In most cases, Demerol is prescribed to treat severe pain caused from an acute injury. However, according to the Neuroscience Biobehavioral Reviewin some cases, Demerol is prescribe to treat chronic pain.


Like many opioids, Demerol provides a certain level of pain relief and feelings of happiness. If people take the drug for longer periods of time, they require higher doses to achieve the same results. This leads people, some of whom may not be prescribed the pharmaceutical by a doctor, to take more and more of the drug more often. They develop a tolerance for the medication so that they must increase its usage to maintain the same level of affects.

Demerol interacts with the central nervous system and can change internal body chemistry. People using the medication often become dependent on the medication and face symptoms of withdrawal when attempting to stop taking it. If this dependence is coupled with compulsive use, treatment is needed to address addiction in a safe and effective manner.

How Demerol Affects the Mind and Body

Demerol primarily works with the brain and central nervous system to provide pain relief by interacting with the brain to change how a person’s body feels and responds to pain. In some individuals, use of Demerol causes negative symptoms. In terms of the brain, it may cause:

  • Feelings of health: The pain relief and chemical reactions caused by Demerol may prompt individuals to feel healthier and more positive. This can be a problem for those with an acute injury, as they may not feel pain and move in a way that worsens the injury.
  • Dizziness: Someone who has taken Demerol may experience persistent dizziness that makes it difficult to focus.
  • Blurred vision: Changes in vision and double vision are possible side effects of Demerol.
  • Mood swings: The interaction of this pharmaceutical in the brain may cause unexpected mood swings or shifts in personality.
  • Headache: Interactions between Demerol and the brain’s chemistry may lead to persistent headaches.

Demerol also impacts other systems in the body, even when taken as prescribed in regular doses. Potential symptoms include:

  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness or fatigue
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Weakness

Signs of Addiction

The most obvious signs of addiction to Demerol are changes in the user’s behavior and emotional state. Misuse of Demerol can cause significant swings in extreme emotional conditions. People who misuse Demerol will often experience more frequent occurrences of heightened anxiety and lasting depression. It will take less of a stimulant to cause an extreme change in mood with continued overuse of Demerol.

People who misuse Demerol will also see a significant decrease in impulse control, leading to a significant increase in impulsive behavior. In many cases, this condition results in a significant increase in risky and often dangerous behavior. Coupled with an increase in irritability, Demerol users stand a significantly higher chance of being involved in dangerous activities and being less likely to maintain positive social relationships. Interactions with other people will often become more volatile, as users have a reduced ability to manage their actions as well as their emotional state.

Changes in Behavior and Emotions

These changes in emotional state and behavior may lead users to withdraw from social activity. This includes normal activities, such as socializing with family members or successfully completing work that involves other people. Users may begin to withdraw from society as they begin to lack the motivation to be social and tend to have negative experiences with other people due to other side effects of abusing Demerol.

According to the Current Psychiatry Review, those abusing opiates like Demerol may take more work absences and sick days than their counterparts. This may lead to job loss or loss of income, and ultimately serious financial issues. In addition, relationships often suffer, as substance abuse becomes the primary focus of the person’s life.

Change in Physical Appearance and Health

Overdose is always a serious concern with abuse of and addiction to opiates. Signs of an overdose include:

  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Clammy skin
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Low blood pressure
  • Slow pulse
  • Trouble breathing
  • Twitching muscles
  • Seizures
  • Bluish tint to the fingernails and lips
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Coma

Aside from the mental and emotional changes experienced by those who abuse Demerol, there are significant changes that often occur in physical appearance and health. Long-term exposure to Demerol can cause various biological systems to malfunction or even shut down.

One of the earliest signs of Demerol abuse is an overall loss of energy. Due to the opioid qualities of the medication, users often experience a significant lack of energy and excitement. This may make users appear sluggish and unmotivated, and often lead to excessive sleepiness.

Continued long-term exposure to Demerol can result in the failure of critical biological systems, including a partial shutdown of respiratory functions. Difficulty breathing is often reported to be one of the earlier and more visible signs overdosing on Demerol. If this occurs, prompt medical treatment is needed.

Long-term users may also experience issues with kidney and liver diseases. By chronically exposing the liver and kidneys to the ingredients in Demerol, users may experience a gradual loss of function in these vital organs. When these organs begin the shut down, toxins build up in the body, leading to other serious health issues.

As the body slowly loses functionality of the kidneys and liver, the increase in toxins in the body can have a profound effect on the brain. As these toxins damage brain cells, typical brain functions may begin to fail, leading to an increased risk of seizures and coma. Overexposure to Demerol can also cause significant damage the heart, significantly increasing the risk of heart-related issues.

If untreated, overdose can result in death. Naloxone, an injectable medication, can be administered to reverse an opiate overdose; however, it must be followed by immediate medical treatment.

The Necessity of Medical Detox

Treatment can make a real difference in the lives of those struggling with addiction. According to Pharmacoepidemiology Drug Safety, even simpler education programs can have a positive effect. The key with any treatment program is that care should be customized to meet the individual needs of each client. There is no one-size-fits-all approach that will work for everyone.

Since opiates are such addictive substances, medical detox is needed to break the physical dependence on the substances. People should not attempt to simply stop taking Demoral altogether on their own. Once the drug begins to leave the body, physical withdrawal symptoms will take hold. These symptoms are rarely life-threatening but they can be incredibly uncomfortable. This leads many individuals to return to Demoral use in an effort to make the symptoms disappear, and this relapse to use comes with a high potential for overdose.

With medical detox, clients have 24-hour care and supervision from medical professionals. Withdrawal symptoms can be managed with medications and supportive therapies, helping to ensure that clients make it through the entirety of the withdrawal process safely and even comfortably.

In some instances, those suffering from opiate addiction may opt for long-term replacement medications, such as methadone or buprenorphine. These medications essentially replace the drug of abuse on a longer-term basis. The individual won’t experience the euphoria associated with opiate use but also won’t experience withdrawal symptoms or cravings. This often allows clients to fully focus on the therapeutic process, and over time, they are slowly weaned off the replacement medication.

The use of any medications during detox and recovery is determined on an individual basis by the supervising physician in consultation with the individual client. What may be appropriate for one person may not be right for another. Again, individualized care is essential.

Co-occurring Mental Health Issues

Co-occurring mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety, are common with substance abuse and addiction. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), nearly 8 million US adults had co-occurring disorders in 2014.

Those suffering from mental health issues are more likely to abuse substances, and those who abuse substances are more likely to have mental health issues. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, roughly a third of those who have mental illnesses abuse substances, and over half of all people who abuse drugs suffer from mental illness.

In cases of co-occurring addiction and mental health issues, it’s difficult to say which issue came first. In some instances, people attempt to mask the symptoms of mental health issues, such as depression, personality disorders, or post-traumatic stress disorder, with drugs or alcohol. This form of self-medication may temporarily lessen the symptoms of the mental health disorder; however, on a long-term basis, the substance abuse only serves to exacerbate the mental health issue. In other instances, substance abuse may trigger the development or worsening of a mental health issue.

Regardless of which issue came first, treatment must address both issues simultaneously. If one condition is left untreated, that condition will trigger relapse into the other condition. For example, if a person is struggling with co-occurring Demoral addiction and an anxiety disorder but only gets help for the addiction issue, that person won’t know how to manage the symptoms of the anxiety disorder. As a result, it becomes more likely that the person will return to substance abuse when the anxiety disorder rears its head.

Integrated treatment means a single treatment team will treat the client on all fronts. While certain members of the treatment team may specialize in addiction treatment and others may specialize in specific mental health issues, they all work together to ensure the best overall treatment approach is in place. This is particularly important in cases of co-occurring disorders since pharmacological and therapeutic approaches for each disorder should be aligned.

When choosing an opiate addiction treatment facility, look for a program that is equipped to diagnose and treat co-occurring disorders. Upon intake, clients should undergo a comprehensive assessment to identify any potential mental health or medical issues that may occur alongside the addiction issue. Then, a treatment plan should be developed that thoroughly addresses issues related to both, or all, disorders.

Other Treatment Considerations

Support is a key factor in sustained recovery.

Since Demoral addiction involves both physical and psychological dependence, and intense cravings for the drug during early recovery, inpatient care is often recommended. This ensures people don’t have access to Demoral or other opiates, thereby eliminating the likelihood of relapse. In addition, the 24-hour supervision and support provided by inpatient treatment gives those new to recovery a firm foundation before they return to life in the outside world.

In ideal situations, those in recovery have strong, healthy support systems at home in the form of family and friends who want to see them succeed in sobriety. But not everyone has this type of support system already in place, and treatment is often about building that support network. Group therapy and peer support groups, such as 12-Step meetings, help individuals to meet others who are similarly struggling with addiction. In these settings, those in recovery can offer and receive support from people who truly understand what they’re going through. Once clients exit formal treatment programs, they can continue attending meetings in the community and access this support system whenever they need it.

In some instances, people may not be able to step away from life for weeks or months to attend inpatient opiate addiction treatment. For these people, outpatient addiction treatment is an option. Though outpatient care doesn’t offer the 24-hour supervision and complete focus on recovery that inpatient care does, it can work better for those who have jobs or familial responsibilities that require their continual attention. Certain programs, such as intensive outpatient programs (IOPs), still offer rigid structure and intensive care, but clients return home each night to sleep. It’s vital that those participating in outpatient care have a safe and supportive home environment, as risk of relapse is higher with outpatient treatment.

Get Help Today

Demoral is an incredibly addictive opioid drug, and its abuse comes with serious risks that reach into every area of life. No matter how long a person has been abusing Demoral, recovery is possible.

With comprehensive treatment that is tailored to meet each person’s specific needs, opiates do not have to rule a person’s life. While there is no cure for addiction, it can be effectively managed on a long-term basis. As a result, people can leave opiate abuse and addiction in the past and achieve a life of health and wellness.

About The Contributor

Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff

Editorial Staff, American Addiction Centers

The editorial staff of Greenhouse Treatment Center is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed... Read More

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