Demerol Addiction and Abuse

Demerol is an opioid similar to morphine. It possesses high addictive potential at both recommended and unprescribed doses.

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Addiction to Demerol

Demerol pillsAs with most prescription drugs, many people do not realize they can develop an addiction to Demerol. Regular abuse of this painkiller can quickly lead to tolerance—requiring the user to take more of the drug to feel its effects—and physical dependence. Physical dependence occurs when the user has reached a state where if they cease taking Demerol or reduce the amount they take, they begin to experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Addiction to Demerol occurs when the user begins to act in ways that are damaging to them in order to continue Demerol use.

People who develop a Demerol addiction often exhibit drug-seeking behavior.

An addicted user may “lose” prescriptions in order to get new ones or visit the emergency room with a fake or self-inflicted injury in hopes of getting more of the drug. They may also begin “doctor shopping,” or visiting multiple doctors to get prescriptions from each of them.

A person addicted to Demerol may also:

  • Isolate themselves from loved ones to hide their drug use
  • Continue using Demerol despite problems it’s causing with their health or relationships
  • Spend a lot of money on the drug or even steal in order to pay for it
  • Neglect responsibilities and relationships while using or looking for the drug

For 10 years, I sat on the House Appropriations Committee, overseeing every federal agency charged with addressing [the American epidemic of addiction to prescription opiate painkillers]. And during much of that time, I was addicted to prescription opiate painkillers myself. I would keep them in an aspirin bottle in my jacket so nobody would think it was strange when I popped one during an appropriations hearing…and when the original prescribing doctor wouldn’t give me more—after I explained that I lost my pills in my luggage, down the sink, the dog ate them, whatever—I could always find another who would write a prescription.

- Former U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, The Washington Post, 2013

Once a Demerol addiction has taken hold, users often have a difficult time quitting the drug—even if they really want to. When an addicted user quits taking Demerol, they’ll experience harsh withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety and nausea. This causes many people to relapse in an attempt to feel better.

A treatment program that offers medical detox can help Demerol users break this cycle and successfully get sober. Call a treatment provider for help finding a program that fits your needs.

Understanding Demerol (Meperidine)

Demerol is the brand name for an injectable form of meperidine, an opioid painkiller that is also referred to as pethidine. Classified as a narcotic analgesic, the drug is used to treat moderate to severe pain, with effects similar to morphine or oxycodone. Although Demerol is only one-tenth as potent as morphine, it is short acting and has a high risk of abuse.

Demerol is rarely prescribed outside of a hospital setting.

As classified by the Controlled Substances Act, Demerol is a schedule II controlled substance—it cannot legally be obtained without a prescription. Some people who abuse Demerol buy it on the streets under the names “dillies,” “D” or “dust.”

Demerol comes in tablet or liquid forms. The tablets are circular in shape, white in color and come in 50 mg or 100 mg strengths. As a liquid, Demerol comes in a syrup or as an injectable solution; however, the injectable form is typically only administered by medical professionals. When used as prescribed, Demerol tablets and syrup are taken orally.

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Demerol Effects and Abuse

Many people unknowingly become addicted to painkillers like Demerol because they don’t realize they’re abusing the substance. They may start out taking the drug as prescribed for pain, but once tolerance sets in, they start increasing their dose to better feel relief. Eventually, they develop a physical dependence on the drug, which is often (but not always) followed by a psychological dependence—in other words, they’re hooked.

Any non-medical or non-prescribed use of Demerol is substance abuse.

Using Demerol in higher doses, more frequently or for longer than prescribed are all considered abuse of this drug.

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While Demerol tablets are intended for oral consumption, some people abuse the drug by:
  • Chewing the tablets
  • Crushing the tablets and snorting the powder
  • Crushing the tablets, dissolving the powder in water and injecting it

Abusing Demerol in those ways intensifies its painkilling properties. A euphoric, powerful “rush” hits the user, followed by prolonged sedation. This quick high and extreme relaxation are the main reasons people abuse Demerol.

Demerol abuse is dangerous, as it increases the risk of overdose. Taking large amounts of the drug can depress and halt respiratory function, which can be fatal. Other symptoms of Demerol overdose include:

  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Stupor
  • Weak or limp muscles
  • Hypothermia
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Coma

Get medical attention immediately if you suspect a Demerol overdose.

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Common Drug Combinations

Demerol is a powerful painkiller and should not be mixed with other drugs, especially other central nervous system (CNS) depressants. Combining Demerol with other CNS depressants, such as alcohol or benzodiazepines, increases the risk of cardiac arrest, extreme sedation, respiratory failure, coma, seizure, overdose, and even death.

Mixing stimulants with Demerol is especially dangerous as the drugs work against each other. Depending on strength, the stimulant can mask the effects of Demerol or vice versa. This can lead to taking more of either drug in an attempt to increase the dulled effects, leading to overdose. Combining stimulants and depressants is referred to as a “speedballing.”

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Demerol Abuse Statistics



Emergency room visits caused by Demerol increased 111 percent between 2004 and 2008.



In 2010, there were 210 million opioid prescriptions dispensed by U.S. pharmacies.



Every year, more than 2 million people abuse opiate painkillers like Demerol.

If you or a loved one is struggling with Demerol addiction, you are not alone. Millions of people have found relief from their addiction through the help of treatment programs. Don’t hesitate to call one of our treatment providers who will help you find a treatment center that fits your needs.


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