Meperidine Addiction Risk

When someone has prescribed meperidine or given the drug in a clinical or hospital setting, they should be warned about the risk of addiction. There is a black box warning with meperidine, stating that it may be habit-forming, especially with longer-term use. The risk of meperidine becoming habit-forming can be especially high in people with a personal or family history of excessive drug or alcohol use, including other prescription drugs. Along with the potential for a psychological addiction to occur with meperidine, it can be physically habit-forming as well. If someone takes meperidine for more than a few weeks, they may experience withdrawal symptoms if they try to stop using it suddenly.

Meperidine is a synthetic opioid. Opioids are a class of drugs that include prescription narcotic pain medicines and illicit drug heroin. Opioids contain chemicals that relieve pain and create relaxation, so they are often used in medicine, but they are highly addictive. When someone takes a prescription medicine like meperidine as prescribed and only for a short time, the risk of addiction is somewhat low, but misusing any opioid can increase the likelihood of an addiction-forming as well as other dangerous side effects. Opioids activate receptors located through the brain, spinal cord and all of the body. These receptor sites are involved not only in pain sensations but also feelings of pleasure. When opioids bind to receptor sites, they block pain signals being sent from the body to the brain, but they can also create a pleasurable or euphoric response. An artificially high amount of dopamine is released into the brain and body. That can create a reward and reinforcement response, which can then cause addiction.

FAQs About Meperidine

  • What is meperidine?

    Meperidine is a generic drug, most commonly known as the brand-name Demerol. Meperidine is used for the treatment of moderate-to-severe pain, and it’s sometimes used to put people to sleep before a procedure or for pain relief following childbirth. Meperidine is an opioid analgesic, meaning it’s an opioid pain medication that binds to certain opioid receptor sites throughout the body of the patient. Opioids are also referred to as narcotics. Meperidine is a synthetic opioid, which was first synthesized in the late 1930s. As with other opioids, meperidine changes how the brain and the nervous system send pain signals and respond to pain. Meperidine is available as a tablet and a syrup, and it’s taken as needed. Some of the side effects of meperidine can include nausea, vomiting, constipation, dry mouth, sweating and changes in vision. Severe side effects may occur as well, including slow or labored breathing. Meperidine is similar to morphine.

  • What does meperidine look like?

    Demerol is the active ingredient in the brand-name drug Demerol, and Demerol is frequently given in tablet form. A Demerol tablet is usually small, white, and scored. Depending on the dosage and the manufacturer, it may have different markings and logo imprints. It’s usually given as either a 50 mg or 100 mg dosage. There are meperidine injection solutions available in dosages of 25 mg, 50 mg, 75 mg, and 100 mg per mL of solution. A meperidine syrup is available as well, which can be taken orally.

  • Can you drink alcohol while taking meperidine?

    Mixing alcohol and meperidine or any opioid isn’t a good idea. The side effects can range from uncomfortable such as nausea or vomiting to death because of respiratory depression. The severe risks of mixing alcohol and meperidine are even greater if someone is misusing the drug by taking large doses or by crushing it to snort or inject it. Alcohol changes how the body metabolizes substances. Taking alcohol and meperidine together can cause higher concentrations of the drug in the body of the patient. If someone is regularly mixing alcohol and meperidine, they may have a polysubstance addiction. Simultaneous addictions to multiple substances aren’t uncommon, but they require in-depth specialized detox and addiction treatment.

Symptoms Of Meperidine Abuse

When someone is using a prescription drug like meperidine in any way outside of how it’s prescribed, this is considered misuse. Meperidine is a controlled substance in the U.S., so misusing it can not only increase the risk of negative side effects but can be illegal as well. Symptoms of meperidine misuse can include taking higher doses than instructed or taking doses of meperidine more often than prescribed by a doctor. Using meperidine without a prescription, such as by stealing it or buying it illegally, is a symptom of misuse. Using meperidine in ways other than what’s intended, such as crushing and snorting the tablets, is also a symptom of misuse. Other symptoms of meperidine misuse can include:

  • Changes in mood or behavior
  • Rapid mood swings
  • Impulsiveness
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Irritability or agitation
  • Forging prescriptions or making up symptoms
  • Lying about how much meperidine is being used
  • Keeping stashes of meperidine
  • Developing a tolerance

Using meperidine for the effects, such as to feel euphoria or relaxation

Side Effects Of Meperidine Abuse

There can be physical, mental and lifestyle-related side effects of meperidine misuse. Physically, some of the side effects of meperidine misuse can include nodding off or seeming extremely drowsy, even at odd times. Someone who is misusing a prescription opioid might experience dry mouth, headaches, nausea and vomiting, and constipation. Sedation, disorientation, confusion and severe symptoms like heart attack, seizures, stroke or death are possible with opioid misuse. Mentally, when someone is misusing a prescription narcotic, they may start to have worsening symptoms of mental illness, such as depression or anxiety that becomes worse. Regarding lifestyle, when someone is misusing a powerful drug like meperidine, they may withdraw from friends, family and responsibilities. Two troubling side effects of meperidine misuse can also include addiction and dependence.

Meperidine Long-Term Effects

Over time, the use of meperidine can lead to serious side effects. First, when the brain is repeatedly exposed to an opioid-like meperidine, it changes the structure, wiring and function. People who have been taking opioids like meperidine for a long time can have imbalances in the neurons and their hormones. There have also been some studies showing a decline in the brain’s white matter because of long-term opioid use. This can lead to problems with thinking, behavior and decision-making. Damage to organs and systems throughout the body can start to occur, especially when they don’t receive the oxygen they need because of slowdowns in the central nervous system. Complications from chronic constipation can occur, and the longer someone uses meperidine, the more likely they are to develop a physical dependence.

What Are Common Meperidine Withdrawal Symptoms?

Meperidine is a generic opioid drug, most commonly known as the brand-name Demerol. Meperidine is prescribed to treat acute pain that’s severe enough to warrant the use of an opioid. Meperidine binds to opioid receptors, located through a person’s brain, body and spinal cord. It can change how pain signals are sent from the body to the brain, and in that sense, opioids are powerful pain relievers. Opioids do have a significant list of possible risks associated with their use, however. Opioids are highly addictive, and they can also lead to the formation of dependence. Due to how opioids interact with the brain and certain brain chemicals, an individual may become dependent on these effects. The brain alters its own functionality in response to the effects of the opioid drug. If someone is dependent on meperidine and they stop using it suddenly, they’re likely to experience withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms can occur if someone is using this medication exactly as prescribed and instructed.

Common meperidine withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Runny nose
  • Aches and pains
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Agitation
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Tremors
  • Strong drug cravings

Meperidine Withdrawal Timeline And Symptom Duration

People may wonder what the meperidine withdrawal timeline might look like. Opioid withdrawal isn’t typically deadly, but it is uncomfortable, and it can be difficult to manage. The meperidine withdrawal timeline can vary depending on certain factors, including how long someone used the drug, the dosages they were regularly using and whether they’re also using any other substances. A general guide for a meperidine withdrawal timeline indicates symptoms will typically start anywhere from 12 hours after the last dose up to two days after someone last took meperidine. During the first one to two days after stopping meperidine, a person may experience nausea, vomiting, restlessness and some tremors. During days three to four, withdrawal symptoms will usually continue and then peak within the first week. For most people, symptoms will subside after one to two weeks. However, some people may experience ongoing symptoms, particularly ones that are psychological such as anxiety and depression.

Managing Symptoms Of Meperidine Withdrawal

It’s important before stopping meperidine to seek guidance from a medical professional to make it less uncomfortable and to reduce the risk of complications. Most physicians are going to recommend that patients manage withdrawal symptoms by tapering down their dosage of the drug gradually, as opposed to stopping suddenly, which is called going cold turkey. It’s important not to try and taper down a dosage of meperidine without medical guidance, however, because it can lead to severe symptoms. Certain medications may be taken over the counter or by prescription to ease withdrawal symptoms. For people who have been taking opioids for a long time or who are more likely to have severe withdrawal symptoms, a medically supervised detox may be the best option. A medically supervised detox provides around-the-clock care and supervision. This kind of setting increases the chances of a person successfully detoxing from meperidine so they can then begin addiction treatment.

Meperidine Medications

With some drugs, there are specific, FDA-approved medications that can be provided to patients during detox. Opioid withdrawal drugs include methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone. Methadone and buprenorphine can help reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings because they act as milder opioids. However, there is some risk of addiction and dependence with these drugs, which is something to be aware of. Naltrexone is a drug that is an opiate antagonist, so it blocks the effects of opioids and can reduce cravings. Along with FDA-approved opioid withdrawal drugs, if a patient receives medical care while they detox, other medicines may be given as needed. Clonidine is a drug often used during detox to ease a variety of withdrawal symptoms and others are available as well.

Treatment Options For Meperidine Addiction Symptoms

Meperidine, frequently known by the brand name Demerol, is a powerful opioid pain medication. Meperidine is intended to be used as a short-term treatment for acute pain on an as-needed basis. As an opioid, meperidine has medical uses but risks as well. Meperidine interacts with the brain and body in a way that can lead to the development of psychological and physical dependence. Certain symptoms can be used to diagnose addiction, and addictions can be characterized as mild, moderate or severe. If someone is addicted to meperidine, they will likely require professional treatment. Opioid addiction can be powerful and difficult to overcome without the right treatment. Treatment options can vary based on the type of program and how long it lasts as well as the specific therapies and approaches used. Regardless of the specifics, the goal of any meperidine addiction treatment program is to help people stop using drugs and productively return to their daily lives. General addiction treatment options include medical detox, and then from there, patients can opt for inpatient or outpatient treatment.

Choosing A Meperidine Rehab Center

When choosing a meperidine rehab center, everyone is going to have their own preferences and priorities. Some specific things to think about which can guide the decision include:

  • Does the program have a medical detox?
  • How severe is the addiction? Is it a long-term, ongoing addiction or did it just start?
  • Has the person tried other types of treatment previously?
  • Can the individual take time away from school or work to attend treatment?
  • How comfortable is the person leaving their home and maybe their state?
  • Would a supportive, supervised environment work well for the person?
  • What kind of support system does the individual have at home?
  • Is dual diagnosis treatment available for mental health disorders that occur along with addiction?

To learn more about choosing a rehab center, or even just what might happen at rehab, contact The Recovery Village today.

  • Medical Disclaimer

    The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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