Demerol Side Effects, Withdrawal and Detox

Demerol, or meperidine, is an opioid pain reliever that can be given as an injection or taken orally as a tablet or liquid. Unlike some other narcotics, Demerol is only meant to treat sudden, acute episodes of pain that are of a moderate to severe intensity. It is not intended for the treatment of chronic, longer-term pain. Typically, this medication is most often used to manage post-surgical pain.

What Precautions Are Taken When Prescribing Demerol?

Prior to writing a prescription for this medication, your doctor will need to make sure it is safe for you to take it. He or she will ask you a series of questions to determine this. Your doctor will want to know if you have any allergies, and you should also inform him or her if you are pregnant or currently breastfeeding. Demerol may harm an unborn child, and the drug can pass to your baby through breast milk. For this reason, pregnant or breastfeeding individuals are usually prescribed another drug.

You should also inform your doctor if you have seizures, a brain tumor, breathing disorders, or diseases of the kidney, liver, pancreas or gallbladder. Let your doctor know if you have any cardiovascular issues or if you have sickle cell anemia. Patients who have these conditions may be better suited to another pain reliever. If you have any of these issues and your doctor does prescribe Demerol, he or she will prescribe the lowest effective dose and monitor you frequently.

Patients who have a personal or family history of substance use issues should inform their physician, and he or she may decide to prescribe a non-narcotic pain reliever instead.

What Are the Possible Side Effects?

The side effects for the tablet, liquid and injected versions of this medication are the same. While using this medication, people should be aware of the most commonly reported side effects. These include lightheadedness, headaches, blurry vision, dry mouth, and constipation. In addition, some people may become agitated while on this drug, and they may develop a tremor or uncontrolled shaking in a part of the body. People who take this medicine via injection may have pain, redness or swelling at the injection site.

Rarely, some individuals who take this pain reliever experience more severe side effects, and these should be reported to a physician immediately. Some potentially serious side effects include a slower rateof breathing, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and loss of appetite. People may experience frightening hallucinations, and these might be accompanied by a fever, rapid heartbeat, sweating, shivering or muscle twitching. Females on Demerol have experienced irregular menstrual periods. This drug can substantially alter a person’s mood, and it may cause feelings of extreme happiness or intense sadness. Skin rashes, itching, hives and skin flushing have all occurred.

Additional side effects that merit immediate medical attention include fainting, a feeling of nervousness or uneasiness, and seizures. Demerol may cause low blood pressure and a slow heart rate. It can lead to the development of heart issues, including chest pain, heart attacks, ST-segment elevation, heart arrhythmias, palpitations and QT-interval prolongation. Due to the risk of heart issues while on this medication, individuals may wish to monitor their pulse and blood pressure at home daily, and any changes should be reported to a doctor.

What Are the Potential Signs of a Demerol Use Issue?

This medication is considered habit-forming, and people may develop a dependency if it is used for a long period. Any person taking this medicine should try to remain vigilant for possible signs of a developing dependency so that prompt action can be taken. If these signs develop, early treatment may be able to prevent or reduce the severity of any dependency.

To reduce the risk of a possible overdose, people taking the injectable form of this medicine may be given naloxone and told to keep it with them at all times. This drug can be injected or given as a nasal spray to help reverse the effects of an overdose.

Possible signs of a Demerol overdose or dependency may include shaking, seizures, slowed breathing, sleepiness or falling asleep, fainting, constant itching and sweating heavily. People may also have a slow heartbeat, and their skin may be cold or clammy. The muscles may become very floppy or loose, and some individuals might slip into a coma. If any of these signs occur, an ambulance should be called right away.

What Are Withdrawal and Detox?

Withdrawal is a natural process that the body goes through in order to rid itself of all traces of a drug. The term “detox” simply refers to the process of withdrawing from substance use. The withdrawal period typically begins within as little as three hours after the last Demerol dose. In some cases, withdrawal can take up to three days to begin after the last dose.

Withdrawal can be an anxious time for many people, and it may cause pain and other unpleasant physical symptoms. For example, people may experience a runny nose and other flu-like symptoms along with watery eyes, goosebumps and loss of appetite. Users often sweat profusely during withdrawal, and they may also have chills, tremors and severe shivering. Some individuals develop an increased sensitivity to pain, and this may be accompanied by vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, and muscle or stomach cramps. Emotionally, people may feel depressed, irritable or nervous.

Why Is Medically Supervised Detox Recommended?

Between 40 to 60 percent of patients who attempt to detox from opioids will experience a relapse. Since Demerol is such a powerful drug, trying to detox on your own can be very difficult, and it is also dangerous. A medically supervised detox program can give you the highest chance of recovery because it provides you with medical and psychological support that can make the withdrawal process less scary and more tolerable. In addition, participating in a detox program allows you to meet people who can help you on your long-term journey to recovery. Most medically supervised programs are held at residential facilities. Many of them have a homelike atmosphere and do not feel clinical, and the doctors and mental health professionals are welcoming and respectful of their patients.

What Happens During a Medically Supervised Detox Program?

When you enter a medically supervised detox program at a residential facility, you’ll be asked to fill out a health history form, and you will likely have a physical exam and urine testing. The doctor will ask you for a list of your current medications, and he or she will also ask about any personal or family history of heart or breathing problems, liver or kidney disorders, and mental health issues. To begin the exam, the doctor will check your pulse and blood pressure, and he or she may also check your weight. Having these measurements helps the medical staff monitor your progress during your stay.

Since Demerol can cause cardiovascular and breathing difficulties, the doctor will pay particular attention to these areas during the exam, and he or she may want to perform extra tests such as an electrocardiogram. For baseline checks, the clinician will listen to your heart with a stethoscope. He or she will listen for any extra heartbeats and for abnormal clicks or rubbing sounds. The doctor will also check that the rate is not too slow or too fast and that the rhythm is regular. To check your breathing, the doctor will place the stethoscope on several areas of your back and ask you to slowly breathe in and out through your mouth. He or she will listen to check that the breath sounds are clear and that there are no signs of congestion. The physician may also quickly feel your abdomen to make sure that you are not in any pain, and he or she may also assess your memory and mental status.

After the exam is complete, you will likely have some free time to settle into your surroundings. Over the course of the next few days, doctors and nursing staff will monitor you closely as you begin the withdrawal process. A nurse will check your temperature, blood pressure and pulse every few hours, and you will be asked if you are experiencing any pain.

While you are at the residential facility, you can be prescribed certain drugs to ease withdrawal symptoms you may be having. For example, you might be prescribed methadone, buprenorphine, lofexidine or extended-release naltrexone. These drugs reduce the discomfort and shakiness caused by the withdrawal process.

What Psychological Support Is Provided?

During a medically supervised program, you will be given numerous forms of counseling. You will have both individual and group therapy sessions during the day, and you may also have family therapy sessions.

One of the most common forms of psychotherapy that is used for substance use issues is cognitive behavioral therapy. This therapy aims to help you reframe your thoughts and develop positive coping mechanisms. Your therapist will help you learn to recognize the situations in which you may be more likely to use Demerol, and he or she will show you ways that you can avoid or cope with these situations. This therapy is often supplemented with contingency management and motivational enhancement therapy. Contingency management uses rewards to motivate patients. For example, patients may be given rewards for staying off Demerol, for taking medication as prescribed and for attending therapy sessions. Motivational enhancement therapy maximizes the patient’s readiness to enter treatment.

How Can You Find Detox Resources Near You?

First, ask your doctor or mental health professional for resources in your area. These health care providers will be able to recommend treatment facilities that have a high rate of success. If you need additional help finding resources, you may wish to contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, this office can refer you to appropriate resources in your state.

What If You Don’t Have Insurance?

Patients without insurance can still receive treatment for substance use issues. Some facilities take Medicaid or Medicare patients, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration can help you find the details of these facilities. In addition, your doctor or mental health provider likely knows of nearby treatment facilities that offer sliding scales for payment, meaning you pay based on your income.

How Can You Help Yourself During Treatment?

While going through treatment, try to follow all of your medical team’s suggestions. Take all of your medications exactly as prescribed, and make sure that you comply with any drug-testing measures. Be open with your medical team about symptoms or pain that you are experiencing so that they can help. Try to share as much as possible about how you are feeling during your individual, group and family counseling sessions.

How Can You Help a Friend or Loved One With Substance Use Issues?

Helping a friend or loved one who has substance use issues can be both challenging and rewarding. The most important thing you can do is to be present for your loved one and let him or her know that you care. Try to stay in touch with personal visits, phone calls or texts. If you notice that your friend may have a substance use issue, try to encourage him or her to see a doctor. Offer to make or go to the appointment with him or her. If your friend does not want to see a doctor, ask if he or she will consider seeing a counselor or other mental health professional.

If your friend or loved one is currently in or has already completed treatment, try to do something to celebrate together. Let your loved one know how proud you are of him or her for entering or completing treatment, and do all you can to help your friend or loved one create a new life. If he or she needs help with job applications or a place to stay, try to provide names of people or organizations that might be able to assist. With patience and determination, it is possible to get and stay clean.