Going by the Demerol brand name, meperidine belongs to a class of narcotic pain relievers similar to morphine. These are used to treat varying degrees of pain especially during and after surgical procedures. A prescription drug, meperidine is a controlled substance because of its high potential for abuse among users. This means that patients may easily develop tolerance, dependence and addiction on the drug with prolonged use. Tolerance develops when one needs higher subsequent doses to achieve the same or stronger effect.
As a narcotic pain reliever, meperidine's effects are very similar to those of morphine. Its effect on the central nervous system results in relief from pain and sedation. However unlike morphine, the level of sedation and euphoria it causes is lower. The effects of meperidine begin to be felt about 10-15 minutes after it is administered and last from two to four hours.
Despite being a prescription drug, meperidine is among the pain medications that are highly abused. In the US, authorities are increasingly concerned about prescription drug abuse, which is a growing problem especially among the youth. A 2010 report from a national survey on drug use showed that about two percent of 12 year olds and three percent of 14 and 15 year olds used prescriptions drugs such as meperidine for non-medicinal purposes.
Another report in 2004 showed that teenagers were more likely to abuse prescription drugs for recreational purposes than illegal drugs. Some were using them to enhance athletic performance at school.
The report attributed this practice to myths associated with prescription drugs, that they are safe when used as recreational drugs and that their use for purposes other than medical is legal. Additionally, prescription drug abuse in America is partly attributed to the fact that the nation leads the world in painkiller use. As much as 80 percent of the opioid supply in the world is used in the US.
Easy access to prescription drugs on the internet and doctor shopping, a practice that involves obtaining illegal prescriptions from doctors or getting prescriptions from more than one doctor, have contributed to the illegal use of these drugs. Common street names for meperidine include demmies, new heroine and pethidine.
Meperidine comes in syrup and tablet forms that are administered orally or by injection. Typically, the dosages are 50 milligrams-150 milligrams every three hours. Abusers take the drug through chewing the tablets or crushing them and snorting or dissolving the powder in water and injecting themselves. The drug's effects are felt faster when it is injected.
Meperidine is a narcotic analgesic that is mostly used in medical settings to treat short-term acute severe or moderate pain. Its effects do not last as long as most other pain medications because it is eliminated from the body faster. For these reasons, meperidine is often not recommended for use during recovery at home for treating long-term chronic pain. Nevertheless, using the drug or abusing it over a long period can easily result in meperidine addiction.
Addiction to meperidine is a neurological illness. People who are addicted to meperidine have a strong urge to take the drug and will look for it relentlessly. Meperidine addiction influences feelings, behaviour patterns and way of thinking. After prolonged use, the users experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the drug. The symptoms include mood swings, difficulty in falling asleep, irritability, agitation or anxiety, nausea and stomach cramps, flu-like symptoms, muscle aches, dizziness and tremors among others.
These signs may vary from person to person depending on the level of meperidine addiction. Although these symptoms may be uncomfortable, the person may not realize that he or she has a problem. This is despite the fact that meperidine addiction may manifest in behavioural problems and may also affect the addict's relationships. Often, long-treatment is necessary to treat the problem because relapse is common.
As the body becomes more and more dependent on meperidine, the person uses higher doses of the drug to feel normal. This is potentially dangerous because it may easily lead to overdosing. Symptoms of meperidine overdose include respiratory depression, low blood pressure and slow heart rate, muscle flaccidity, drowsiness and stupor. The person may become comatose or die. The risk is especially higher if the drug is combined with alcohol or other substances that depress the nervous system. Timely treatment is necessary to avoid the risk of disability or pre-mature death.