Demerol is a narcotic opioid medication. It’s used to manage acute pain that’s severe enough to require an analgesic. While Demerol isn’t solely responsible for the current opioid epidemic, it does possess the traits of oxycodone or hydrocodone, which are addictive. Therefore, a Demerol user usually doesn’t realize they’re developing an addiction.
As the opioid epidemic rages on, doctors have become much more apprehensive about prescribing Demerol. Since 130 Americans are dying every day from opioid overdoses, these physicians’ stances are expected. In 2016, 66 percent of drug overdoses involved opioids.
In other words, 63,600 individuals died because of opioid use in one year. These startling statistics all point to overprescribing practices, but doctors can’t be solely blamed for this problem. In the 1990s, pharmaceutical representatives assured doctors that opioids weren’t as addictive as they had been, which caused catastrophic consequences.
Once these floodgates opened, the medical community and other concerned citizens started to realize what was actually happening. The rise in deaths due to overdose can be outlined in three distinct waves:
- In the 1990s, overdose deaths were attributed to prescription opioids.
- In 2010, there were rapid increases in heroin overdoses.
- In 2013, overdoses involved fentanyl.
Several steps have been taken by legislatures and citizens to combat this opioid crisis.
For example, Florida is suing CVS and Walgreens for their alleged roles in it. This lawsuit will also extend to Purdue Pharma, the maker of the popular drug OxyContin, another opioid. The lawsuit states that, “Walgreens has violated its obligations under Florida law, as both a large-scale distributor and a large-scale pharmacy, to prevent abuse.”
Depending on the outcomes, this lawsuit could be a huge blow to drugmakers, and a huge victory to states that have been significantly hampered by opioid addiction.
What Is Demerol?
Demerol is also known as meperidine. It’s an opioid that was synthetically derived in 1939. It was initially intended to be an anticholinergic agent, but it was later found to possess analgesic properties. Further research showed that it could be a useful alternative to morphine, due to its effects on the body regarding respiratory depression and chemical dependency. Specifically, it works on our central nervous system (CNS) in organs composed of smooth muscle.
As previously mentioned, Demerol is not used to treat long-term chronic pain, but it is used to treat acute episodes of pain in a medical setting. In some situations, a doctor will prescribe the drug for acute pain outside a hospital.
Demerol is most effective when treating short-term acute pain after an injury, or during childbirth. It’s not an effective means of treating chronic pain, but its intense effects are still sought out for opioid abusers. Demerol can lead to abuse even after short-term use. It works by binding to natural opioids receptors in our brain that block pain. However, it also generates increased relaxation, which can cause an individual to keep abusing opioids.
Demerol is different than other opioids in one significant way: It has a quicker onset, which is why it’s used for acute pain. When intravenously used, its effects can be felt within five minutes. The feelings it causes have been described by users as warm and relaxing, which is why it has a strong possibility of abuse.
What Are the Signs of Demerol Addiction?
During the earlier stages of Demerol addiction, there are fewer outward signs, so loved ones are less likely to know what’s happening. Since opioids are prescribed as a way to treat acute pain, they may not be met with resistance, so the stages of a substance use disorder may be ignored. However, this disorder shouldn’t be taken lightly, and the ability to be aware of the signs can provide your best defense.
The initial stage of a substance use disorder can be characterized by tolerance. In this stage, the user starts taking higher doses of Demerol to achieve the same effects they experienced when they started taking it. In other words, they start obtaining the drug in unintended ways because the original dosage is no longer sufficient.
A tolerance to a drug can eventually lead to dependence. At this point, you’ll feel sick if you don’t take the drug, so you’ll only take it to avoid withdrawal symptoms. If you keep using it anyway, you’ll end up in the final stage—addiction.
Addiction is defined as a chronic brain disease that manifests itself despite harmful consequences, such as distorted thoughts, behaviors, and bodily functions. For example, if your Demerol use causes you to get in trouble at work, you’ve probably developed an addiction.
What’s Involved in Addiction Treatment for Demerol?
Addiction is a serious disease that can result in grave consequences without the right guidance. But with all of the new funding to increase the quality of rehab facilities and addiction science, you shouldn’t have to feel stuck in your addiction.
While addiction is a lifelong disease, it can be managed with the right therapies, so it’s important to start building these foundations in treatment.
Medical detoxification is the first and most difficult step in the continuum of care.
While Demerol withdrawal isn’t as dangerous as barbiturate withdrawal, there’s still reason for concern. It can be extremely uncomfortable if it’s attempted at home, so experts recommend that it should never be attempted alone. The sudden cessation of any drug can be met with complications, so it’s always best to have professionals present.
Medical professionals will continually monitor your health 24/7 throughout your stay. You could be in the detox for three to seven days, depending on the severity of your addiction and other medical problems that may be present.
During your stay, you will become prepared for the level of care you’ll complete after detox. The symptoms of opioid withdrawal have been compared to the flu, so they can include nausea, sweating, vomiting, diarrhea, runny nose, and sneezing.
The next level of care is dependent on the severity of addiction and other factors, such as a dual diagnosis. These factors could result in placement in a residential treatment facility, intensive outpatient, or outpatient center. In a residential treatment center, you’ll live onsite for 30 to 90 days and attend therapies designed to get to the root of your addiction.
If you’re placed in an outpatient setting, you’ll attend the same type of therapies, including cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, and individual therapy. But you’ll be able to go home after the sessions have been completed, which is ideal for individuals who are unable to leave work or school.
How Dangerous Is Demerol Abuse?
While Hospitals Don’t Outright Ban Demerol, It Has Fallen Out Of Doctors’ Rotation Because Of Its Safety Issues. In High Doses, The Drug Can Be Toxic, And It Has A Long List Of Side Effects, Which Include:
- Dizziness, or feeling lightheaded
- Respiratory depression
- Slowed breathing
- Blurry vision
- Low blood pressure
- Rapid heart rate or an abnormal heartbeat
- Nausea and vomiting
Demerol is a highly addictive substance for those prone to addiction and has several adverse interactions with other medications. You should always consult with a doctor prior to using the drug.
Demerol is not recommended for short-term use or to treat acute pain. The American Pain Society and the Institute for Safe Medication Practice (ISMP) do not recommend Demerol’s use as a pain-relieving medication. In the event it is used to treat acute pain, it should only be used for a maximum of 48 hours.
The drug should not be given to patients with kidney or neurological diseases, and it should never be used as a long-term option to treat chronic pain.
It is no longer used in palliative care or hospice. Those who abuse Demerol put themselves at an increased risk of addiction and overdose. If you suspect someone has overdosed as a result of Demerol, you must immediately call 911. The operator can offer advice on how to take care of the person while emergency services are on their way.
Demerol Abuse Statistics
- From 1999 to 2008, the sales of opioids, overdose deaths caused by opioids, and admissions to treatment centers related to prescription pain relievers all increased.
- As of 2015, 2 million Americans over the age of 12 had a disorder involving prescription pain relievers; 591,000 had one involving heroin.
- In 2015, 276,000 adolescents were nonmedical users of pain relievers, and 122,000 had an addiction to prescription pain relievers.