1. Health
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in my forum

Demerol

Demerol - Not the Best Choice for Pain Management

By

Updated April 28, 2014

Demerol (meperidine) is a narcotic, or opioid, pain medication that has been around for quite some time. It was once used frequently in the hospital setting to treat moderate to severe pain, and is sometimes used prior to or during a surgical procedure to enhance the effects of anesthesia. However, the duration of Demerol's pain relieving effects is shorter than other narcotics and its production of toxic metabolites make it an inferior medication for pain control. Demerol also has a long list of potentially dangerous interactions with other medications. For these reasons, Demerol is now less frequently used to treat pain.

The pain relieving properties of Demerol differ from other medications, such as morphine, because instead of targeting nerve endings from transmitting messages of pain to the brain, Demerol acts on the central nervous system, essentially tricking the brain by replacing the feeling of pain with a “high.” Patients who are given Demerol for pain are basically feeling euphoric effects of the medication rather than their pain.

Hospitals and outpatient clinics don't use Demerol as frequently as they used to because of safety issues -- Demerol can be toxic when high doses are used and has a long list of side effects which include:

  • Respiratory depression (slowed breathing)
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness
  • Blurred vision
  • Low blood pressure
  • Tremors or seizures
  • Rapid heart rate or abnormal hear beats
  • Nausea and vomiting, among others.

Demerol is also highly addictive for some people and has multiple adverse interactions with other medications.

Current Use of Demerol

Demerol is not recommended for either short-term use to treat acute pain. The American Pain Society and the Institute for Safe Medication Practice (ISMP) do not recommend Demerol's use as pain relieving medication. If it must be used to treat acute pain, it should only be used for a maximum of 48 hours and shouldn't be given to patients with kidney or neurological diseases. Demerol shouldn't be used long-term to treat chronic pain and it's not used in a palliative care or hospice setting either.

So where and when would Demerol be used today?

Demerol may be used in the hospital or outpatient setting for patients undergoing anesthesia. It is still routinely used with other medications to cause sedation in patients undergoing procedures like colonoscopy or endoscopy.

If you or your loved one has had Demerol prescribed to you by a physician to treat pain, I encourage you to speak with that physician about other possible options. There are other medications that may be more effective at treating pain with fewer side effects.

Sources:

Hanks, G, Cherry, NI, Fulton, M. Opioid Anaglesic Therapy. In: Doyle, D, Hanks, G, Cherry, NI., et al. Oxford Textbook of Palliative Medicine. 3rd Edition. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004: 316-341

UpToDate.com "Meperidine: Drug Information" Accessed 6/28/2009. www.uptodate.com

Other Pain Medications

Morphine
Methadone

Related Video
How to Choose Pain Medication
  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Dying, Funerals & Grief
  4. Pain & Symptom Management
  5. Demerol Pain Medication - Uses and Side Effects

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.