The FDA approved Demerol for use as a pain reliever and surgical analgesic prior to an operation in 1942. Meperidine, or pethidine, was originally synthesized from morphine in 1932 and considered a potential antispasmodic medication. It is still used as a preanesthetic agent and to alleviate pain in post-operative situations, including obstetrics. However, it is not prescribed as often, as more effective and less sedating opioid drugs, including hydrocodone and oxycodone.
The drug can safely be ingested every 3-4 hours, and it comes in either tablet or syrup form. Meperidine is meant to be taken temporarily, and it can lead to addiction or physical dependence if taken for more than 3-4 weeks. People who use Demerol for longer than a month should speak with a doctor to gradually reduce the dosage, which can help prevent withdrawal symptoms.
Side effects from Demerol are very similar to other opioid drugs and include dizziness, drowsiness, constipation, sweating, changes in pupil size, and mild euphoria. More serious side effects include seizures, fainting, hallucinations, and very low blood pressure. Like other narcotics, Demerol can also lead to reduced or depressed breathing.
Meperidine has been linked to a syndrome with symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease. Research has found that a metabolic byproduct of meperidine, called MPTP, can damage neurons that are also damaged by Parkinson’s disease. This is a side effect not found in other opioid medications, like Dilaudid.
Like Dilaudid and other opioid painkillers, alcohol and Demerol do not mix, and grapefruit juice can block the painkilling properties of this medication.