Demerol Addiction Treatment

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What is Demerol?

Demerol is a painkiller prescribed as a tablet or an injection for acute episodes of moderate to severe pain. The generic name for Demerol is meperidine. Demerol is an opioid, meaning it is a synthetic compound that mimics the effects of opiates, derived from the opium poppy flower. Misuse of Demerol and other prescription opioids can result in dependency, abuse and addiction.

Demerol is a controversial drug for its role in the recent and ongoing opioid epidemic. Demerol is prescribed to patients dealing with difficult acute pain problems, meaning it should not be used for chronic treatment, especially in non-cancer pain patients. It can be habit-forming, leading to addiction. If the pain-relieving effects of Demerol wear off and leave patients in pain, patients may be tempted to misuse the drug by taking excessive additional doses. Demerol is a Schedule II controlled substance for its addictive properties, making it dangerous to increase your dosage without your doctor’s instructions. Demerol’s addictive properties have led to it being sold on the street, sometimes called Demmies.

Demerol side effects and dangers

There are common Demerol side effects even when taking it correctly. These include:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Constipation
  • Sleepiness
  • Itching

Demerol use crosses the line into abuse and addiction when it is misused. Taking more than the prescribed dosage is considered misuse because it goes against your doctor’s instructions. If your current Demerol dosage is not providing effective relief, it is important to talk to your doctor about what to do, instead of self-medicating with additional doses.

It is illegal to share, give away or sell Demerol because of its dangerous overdose risks. Prescriptions are filled for specific people in specific doses, and the effects can have adverse reactions on others. Taking an incorrect Demerol dose can result in a life-threatening overdose.

Demerol overdose symptoms include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Hypothermia
  • Extreme drowsiness leading to coma
  • Circulatory collapse
  • Heart attack
  • Death

These symptoms can be deadly if not treated immediately.

The path to serious abuse of Demerol can begin when the desired effect is the high produced by the drug instead of pain relief. The risk of Demerol overdose increases when it is tampered with: crushing, chewing or dissolving the pills allow the body to absorb the drugs faster. This absorption is even more damaging when the drug is snorted or injected. The euphoric high comes faster, but so does bodily harm and the potential for addiction. In addition, Demerol pills include talc as an inactive ingredient. Abusing crushed tablets has the added risk of infection, tissue necrosis, heart disease and other serious side effects.

If a person addicted to Demerol is unable to access the drug, they may look for ways to buy it illegally. Because illicit Demerol or meperidine is not controlled by a pharmacy, it frequently contains unknown and harmful ingredients. Even worse, a person’s craving for Demerol can be relieved by a cheap, plentiful alternative: heroin. This is a common scenario in today’s opioid epidemic.

Demerol abuse and addiction signs

Any use of Demerol outside of a doctor’s instructions is considered drug abuse. This includes tampering with Demerol pills by chewing, crushing, cutting or dissolving them in order to ingest, snort or inject a higher dose than prescribed. Even if the Demerol pills are not tampered with, taking more pills than prescribed is also abuse of the drug.

Demerol addiction signs include:

  • Taking more than the prescribed dosage
  • “Doctor shopping” for multiple prescriptions
  • Tampering with Demerol before taking it
  • Refusal to undergo appropriate examination, testing or referral
  • Repeated “loss” of prescription

Demerol withdrawal symptoms and treatment

It is possible to develop a physical dependency on Demerol, which should be discussed with your doctor. A physical Demerol dependency occurs when the body adjusts to the presence of the medication and depends on that medication to function normally. A Demerol prescription can include dosing instructions from your doctor to taper off the dosage to reduce and eliminate this physical dependency. This type of medication management is important –those who are physically dependent on opioids will experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop their Demerol prescription too suddenly. If the withdrawal symptoms are extreme, they could drive the patient to continue using the substance despite significant harm – the definition of addiction.

The signs and symptoms of opioid withdrawal can include:

  • Restlessness
  • Yawning
  • Sweating
  • Tearing eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Chills
  • Muscle and back aches
  • Dilated pupils
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Irritability, anxiety
  • Increased blood pressure, heartbeat or breathing

These problems vary in severity and duration depending on the specific opioid dose and duration of use.

Opioid withdrawal stabilization, also known as detoxification or detox, is usually done in a similar way as other opioid withdrawal treatment. In general, the opioid withdrawal stabilization procedures resemble those used for withdrawal from sedatives: longer-acting opioid are substituted for shorter-acting ones and the patient is stabilized on the longer-acting opioid medication, such as Suboxone. The patient will be most uncomfortable during the first one to three days of the opioid withdrawal phase, so a combination of clonidine (an alpha-adrenergic agonist), a sedative such as phenobarbital, and a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory such as Motrin (generic name ibuprofen) is frequently combined with the longer-acting opioid to help make the patient more comfortable for the first two to three days of the conversion to Suboxone. Usually after day three of the correct dose of Suboxone, a patient’s opioid withdrawal symptoms and opiate cravings have almost completely subsided.

Opioid addiction treatment options

Most users of Demerol or meperidine need help with their addiction and require residential drug treatment. Few people can safely stop using without a certified detoxification and evidence-based addiction treatment program.

Withdrawal and recovery from opioid addiction is most effectively accomplished under the supervision of board-certified medical professionals, who can assist with the intense cravings for the drug, along with dangerous withdrawal symptoms, such as disturbed sleep patterns, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rate, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, muscle aches and flu-like symptoms.

Typically, opioid abusers go through a supervised drug and alcohol detox program – or withdrawal stabilization – before beginning a long-term treatment program. Patients can be prescribed anti-addiction medications to lessen the opioid withdrawal symptoms.

The drug and alcohol detox process alone is not a cure for opioid addiction. A comprehensive, personalized addiction treatment program, like the program at Enterhealth, is crucial for a successful recovery. A combination of therapeutic and pharmacological addiction treatment can help those with opioid addiction regain a stable and productive life and address the underlying issues creating the desire to use. Research shows that integrating both types of treatment is the most effective approach to restoring a degree of normal function to the brain – and provide a more positive, life-long outcome.

Effective behavioral treatments for opioid addiction can be administered in a residential or outpatient setting after withdrawal stabilization. A treatment plan may include:

  • Individual counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy sessions
  • Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)
  • Wellness, nutritional and stress management treatment services

Anti-addiction medications approved for Demerol or meperidine addiction treatment work through the same opioid receptors in the brain that Demerol prescriptions affect. Medications such as Suboxone (buprenorphine) and Vivitrol (naltrexone), block the effects of Demerol, reduce cravings and allow healing to continue. These medicines treat opioid addiction through the same receptors as the addictive drug, but are safer and less likely to result in addiction.

Demerol addiction recovery with Enterhealth

People suffering from opioid addiction may feel hopeless, but they are not alone. Enterhealth Ranch and Enterhealth Outpatient Center of Excellence can help you or a loved one begin recovery at our 43-acre residential opioid addiction treatment center just north of Dallas-Fort Worth, and our outpatient opioid addiction treatment center located in the Preston Center area of Dallas, Texas.

At Enterhealth, our goal is to treat the whole person for a lifetime. We offer a better chance to recover through our advanced, evidence-based treatment approach, designed and administered by board-certified addiction psychiatrists, physicians and other experts, that is proven to be more effective than traditional twelve-step approaches.