Meperidine, otherwise known as Pethidine, or by its brand name, Demerol, is a narcotic medication intended to relieve moderate to severe pain in patients. While this substance has helped some doctors manage patients’ pain, it also poses a high risk of addiction. As such, this substance is only available through prescription, under strict physician supervision.

What is Meperidine?

This narcotic medication is a synthetic opioid analgesic, meaning that it functions to reduce pain by acting on the brain, spinal cord, and nervous system. Doctors typically use Meperidine before or during surgery (in addition to anesthesia), including during labor and delivery procedures. Because of its potentially dangerous effects, however, Meperidine is prescribed with less frequently than ever. Still, some doctors prefer Meperidine to similar drugs, such as Morphine, because they believe that it produces fewer side effects. This impression, however, has not been proven and is often considered a myth.

Meperidine is typically injected at a medical facility, but patients can use the drug at home with the help of syringes. The drug can also be taken orally, in the pill form. The effects of the substance are usually felt in less than 15 minutes, especially when injected. The drug’s effects typically last for anywhere from two to four hours.

History of Meperidine

In 1939, German Chemist Otto Eislab created Meperidine. It was first used as an anticholinergic medication to treat gastrointestinal disorders, respiratory disorders, genitourinary disorders, insomnia, dizziness, vertigo, and sinus issues.

It wasn’t until later that another German chemist named Otto (this time it was Otto Schaumann) discovered its analgesic (or pain relieving) properties. In the 1900’s Meperidine was one of the most popular pain relievers prescribed by physicians. In fact, in the mid 1970’s, the majority of doctors used it for acute pain, and about a quarter of doctors used it for severe pain.

Throughout it’s use, the safety of Meperidine has come into question. At once, many doctors thought that it was safer than some alternative narcotics, but most doctors currently believe it poses equal risk to similar medication (including the risk of addiction in patients). It was also found that a variant of Meperidine could be even more dangerous than similar substances because it can cause or contribute to Serotonin Syndrome (a life-threatening condition).

Side Effects of Meperidine

Aside from reducing pain, Meperidine can cause a number of side effects, including:
• Drowsiness;
• Dizziness;
• Light headedness;
• Difficulty breathing;
• Slowed breathing;
• Loss of appetite;
• Cold or clammy skin;
• Hallucinations;
• Agitation;
• Decreased urination;
• Fever;
• Increased heart rate;
• Confusion;
• Mood changes;
• Weakness;
• Flushing;
• Sweating;
• Sedation;
• Vomiting
• Respiratory depression;
• Fainting; or
• Constipation.

Because of these side effects, doctors will often avoid using the medication on children or elderly patients, whose bodies may not respond well. In patients of normal health, the dose will eventually be tapered off, because sudden discontinuance of the drug can lead to withdrawal. As with the dangers of any narcotic drug, death is always a possible side effect. When prescribed, doctors will always discuss the risks and benefits.

Addictive Qualities of Meperidine

Meperidine is a Schedule II Controlled Substance as classified by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). This means that it has a high potential for abuse, with only Schedule I drugs (such as LSD or Heroin) being classified as more dangerous.

This substance is known to be highly addictive, especially because of the pain relief and sense of euphoria experienced by many patients. Because of its addictive nature, use of Meperidine can lead to psychological or physical dependence. This will cause the user to experience intense cravings and withdrawals.

Doctors stress the importance of using Meperidine for only the recommended or prescribed amount of time. Use of the substance for longer periods can lead to toxicity, seizures, addiction, or even death.

As with many addictive substances, long-term use of Meperidine can lead to tolerance. This means that a user will have to take increasingly large doses of the drug in order to achieve the same effect. This can lead to a vicious cycle where addicts must obtain more and more medication, leading to further mental and physical damage.

Prolonged use can also lead dangerous withdrawal symptoms when the medication is removed from the user’s system. These withdrawal symptoms include:

• Anxiety;
• Restlessness;
• Insomnia;
• Sweating;
• Tremors or muscle spasms;
• Chills; and
• Shivering.

At times, even short-term use can lead to withdrawal symptoms if patients are not adequately tapered off the medication. Withdrawal can occur in as little as 4 to 5 hours after the medication is administered, or as soon as the medication begins to wear off. This quick onset of withdrawal symptoms is one of the many reasons that Meperidine is considered so dangerous. Patients will often seek more of the drug to avoid the symptoms, causing an addiction to form.

Signs and Symptoms of Meperidine Addiction

If you think that a loved one is struggling with addiction to Meperidine, you may notice that they are experiencing any of the above-listed side effects. You may also notice:
• Syringes, needles, or other injection implements;
• Track marks, rash, or swelling at user’s potential injection sites;
• Any of the above-listed withdrawal symptoms;
• Cravings for the drug; or
• Drug seeking behaviors.

Drug Interactions with Meperidine

Patients and addicts alike face the risk of dangerous (and even deadly) drug interactions when taking Meperidine. Because of the lack of doctor supervision, addicts who obtain the substance illicitly are at increased risk for a fatal interaction. Meperidine can cause dangerous effects when mixed with an MAO Inhibitor (such as Furoxone), and can also be dangerous when mixed with medications for conditions such as:

• Asthma;
• Liver disease;
• Head injury;
• Gallbladder disease;
• Low blood pressure; or
• Mental illness.

Additionally, mixing Meperidine with other illicit drugs or alcohol can have a lethal effect. Common street drugs, such as muscle relaxants, benzodiazepine, and antidepressants, when mixed with Meperidine, can cause a harmful interaction. Furthermore, addicts are at increased risk for Meperidine overdose, as they are not supervised by a physician and they may take increasingly large dosages, over time. Addicts may also mix Meperidine with other available narcotics, such as Morphine, which can lead to overdose or death.

A deadly drug interaction with Meperidine even led to the passage of the Libby Zion Law in New York. This law, which restricts the number of hours that medical residents can work, was created after the death of a young patient who was prescribed the drug (amongst other substances) by overworked medical residents.

Meperidine Today

While the cases of Meperidine addiction have recently dropped (in favor of newer Opiates such as Fentanyl), there are still about 30,000 to 40,000 lost or stolen doses of the drug every year.

Addiction to narcotics and pain medications can seem impossible to beat, but with the help and resources of the experts at iAddiction, there is hope. With one simple call to our 24/7 hotline, you can start your journey to a happy, healthy, and drug free lifestyle. We will connect you with the best treatment facilities, so you can start living life once again.