Demerol Addiction Signs and Symptoms – A Quick Guide for Beginners

Last Updated: December 18, 2019

Authored by Sharon Levy, MD, MPH

Demerol, a brand name for Pethidine, is an artificially synthesized opioid. It is in common use as a strong painkiller (for instance during childbirth). It belongs to the phenylpiperidine class of medications and has similar effects to those of Morphine. The drug is also sold under the brand name Meperidine. Originally thought to be a safer alternative to Morphine, they have now established the drug as equally addictive. Furthermore, due to its slow release from the body, even more, toxic than other opioids. Learn about Demerol addiction signs and symptoms.

Demerol Dependency Definition

Like all opiates, Demerol is highly dependency-forming with regular use. The drug works by acting as an agonist at the brain’s the μ-opioid receptors. As a result, this creates an analgesic effect of euphoria, reduced anxiety and an immediate decrease in physical pain.

The presence of opioids causes the central nervous system to change its workings. This way, it can maintain the brain’s delicate chemical balance. Demerol dependency occurs when the central nervous system has adapted to the drug and has trouble with normal functioning without the drug. In other words, withdrawal occurs when the brain no longer has a supply of Demerol.
The manufacturer warns against psychological dependency. This is in the product monograph that’s supplied with the medication.
There are a couple of indicators that one may be at risk of developing an addiction. First, it is developing an increased tolerance for the drug. Second, it is a physical dependency on it. These are the Demerol addiction signs and symptoms. Therefore, one should carefully consider if it worth to continue the use of the drug. Quitting now will be easier than quitting later.

Demerol Addiction Development

Dependency is not entirely the same as addiction. In some cases, dependency is an indicator that opiate addiction may occur and it will probably occur at a later stage. However, the distinction between the two lies in the behavior of the user.

Potential Demerol Addiction – Signs and Symptoms

The manufacturer recommends tapering off the regular use of Demerol as the first step in quitting. Start quitting if any of the following symptoms present:

  • Feeling nervous or restless
  • An unusual increase in sweating
  • An unexplained fever
  • Weakness
  • Tremors or shivering
  • Body aches
  • Diarrhea
  • Gooseflesh
  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Rapid heart rate (tachycardia)
  • Insomnia
  • Yawning

The above is a check list for the classic symptoms of opioid withdrawal. The withdrawal itself is a symptom of Demerol addiction. Also, most doctors will include it in the criteria when checking for addiction. When more than one of the following are present, it may indicate an opioid use disorder.

Signs For Doctors To Look for Opioid use Disorder

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual provides insights into the conditions tested for when checking when Demerol addiction signs and symptoms are present.
There is a notable change in definitions and treatments from DSM-IV to DSM-5. It is that the previously clear-cut distinction between Opioid Dependency and Opioid Abuse is now less apparent. In addition, experts now base the difference between the two on the number of criteria that the patient meets.

DSM-IV Diagnostic Codes (ICD-9-CM) DSM-5 Diagnostic Codes (ICD-10-CM) Substance Use Disorder

304.00 Opioid Dependence F11.10 Opioid Use Disorder
305.50 Opioid Abuse F11.20 Opioid Use Disorder

The DSM-5 codes under F11.1-F11.99 refer to the following opioid use disorders:

  • Intoxication (including delirium, perceptual disturbances)
  • Mood disorder
  • Psychotic disorder (including delusions, hallucinations)
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Sleep disorder
  • Withdrawal

Demerol Addiction Symptoms That Require Medical Treatment

When it comes to Demerol addiction signs and symptoms, a mental addiction can point to a change in the patient’s behavior and relationship with the drug. Check, if any of these apply to a loved one:

  • Are they taking Demerol recreationally? (or for any reason other than relieving physical pain)
  • Have they had cravings for Demerol?
  • Have they developed a tolerance for Demerol, where I need much higher doses to achieve the same effect?
  • Do they have any of the effects of opioid withdrawal?
  • Do they need to take Demerol or other opioids to relieve withdrawal symptoms?
  • Are they using Demerol regardless of problems caused to my personal or work life?
  • Are they using Demerol despite the negative impact on my relationships with others?
  • Have they been taking Demerol for longer than my original script?
  • Are they taking Demerol at higher doses (more than 600mg per day), or more frequently than my doctor prescribed?
  • Have they previously tried to cut down or completely quit Demerol but failed?
  • Are they purchasing Demerol from a doctor or from sources where I don’t need a prescription?
  • Have they ever purchased Demerol on somebody else’s script?
  • Are they using the drug in a way other than prescribed by a doctor (for instance smoking or snorting it)?
  • Are they using Demerol in conjunction with alcohol or other drugs?
  • Have they used Demerol in situations where it was dangerous?
  • Has their use of Demerol caused them to give up important recreational, work or social activities?
Dr. Phil O’Dwyer from Oakland University published a DSM-5 study on Opioid-Related Disorders.

In it, he identified the following stages of addiction and remission. Refer to the above list of questions for psychological addiction.

  • Early remission – No criteria met for three months but less than 12
  • Sustained remission – No criteria met for 12 months except “craving.”
  • Maintenance therapy – Suboxone, methadone
  • Treatment in a controlled environment

Signs and Symptoms of Demerol Long-Term Use

In addition to the signs of Demerol withdrawal and behavioral changes, you should look out for the following Demerol addiction signs:

  • Use of more than one type of opioid (including Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, Dilaudid, Demerol)
  • When clinical opioids become unavailable, some users resort to street heroin
  • ‘Track marks’ (injection sites on arms or legs, which some users cover with long-sleeved clothing)
  • Selling drugs (prescription or illicit street drugs) to support the addiction
  • Involvement in crime
  • Deterioration in physical appearance
  • Uncharacteristic jitteriness or nervousness
  • Uncharacteristic appearance of relaxation or euphoria
  • Inconsistencies in finances (needing loans from friends, ‘missing’ property or unexpectedly having money)
  • Increased time spent partying

Any of the above Demerol addiction signs and symptoms can be a red flag. If you notice any of these, you should take note and act quickly before it’s too late.

Page Sources

  1. Latta KS, Ginsberg B, Barkin RL. Meperidine: A Critical Review. American Journal of Therapy Vol.9(1).Jan/Feb 2002:61.

Published on: May 3rd, 2017

Updated on: December 18th, 2019

About Author

Sharon Levy, MD, MPH

After successful graduation from Boston University, MA, Sharon gained a Master’s degree in Public Health. Since then, Sharon devoted herself entirely to the medical niche. Sharon Levy is also a certified addiction recovery coach.


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