Demerol

Medical Editor: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP Last updated on RxList: 5/3/2021
Demerol Side Effects Center

Medical Editor: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

What Is Demerol?

Demerol (meperidine) is an oral and injectable opiod used for treatment of moderate to severe pain.

What Are Side Effects of Demerol?

Common side effects of Demerol include:

  • lightheadedness,
  • slow heart rate,
  • weak or shallow breathing,
  • breathing that stops during sleep,
  • confusion,
  • tremors,
  • muscle movements you can’t control,
  • seizure (convulsions)
  • dizziness,
  • sedation,
  • mood changes,
  • nausea,
  • vomiting,
  • sweating,
  • constipation,
  • loss of appetite,
  • headache,
  • weakness,
  • dry mouth,
  • itching,
  • urinating less than usual,
  • flushing,
  • severe drowsiness, or
  • worsening tiredness, and
  • loss of interest in sex.

Dosage for Demerol

The usual dose of Demerol for adults is 50 to 150 mg every 3 to 4 hours.

What Drugs, Substances, or Supplements Interact with Demerol?

Demerol may interact with other narcotic pain medications, sedatives, tranquilizers, muscle relaxers, other medicines that can make you sleepy or slow your breathing, phenytoin, pentazocine, nalbuphine, butorphanol, or buprenorphine. Tell your doctor all medications and supplements you use.

Demerol During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Demerol has not been adequately evaluated in pregnant women. Demerol is habit forming and may cause withdrawal symptoms. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant while using Demerol. Demerol passes into breast milk and may harm a nursing baby. Breastfeeding while using Demerol is not recommended.

Additional Information

Our Demerol Side Effects Drug Center provides a comprehensive view of available drug information on the potential side effects when taking this medication.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

QUESTION

Medically speaking, the term "myalgia" refers to what type of pain? See Answer
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Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Opioid medicine can slow or stop your breathing, and death may occur. A person caring for you should seek emergency medical attention if you have slow breathing with long pauses, blue colored lips, or if you are hard to wake up.

Stop using meperidine and call your doctor at once if you have:

  • slow heartbeats, weak or shallow breathing, breathing that stops during sleep;
  • severe drowsiness, feeling like you might pass out;
  • confusion, mood changes;
  • severe constipation;
  • tremors, muscle movements you cannot control, or a seizure (convulsions); or
  • low cortisol levels--nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, dizziness, worsening tiredness or weakness.

Seek medical attention right away if you have symptoms of serotonin syndrome, such as: agitation, hallucinations, fever, sweating, shivering, fast heart rate, muscle stiffness, twitching, loss of coordination, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Serious side effects may be more likely in older adults and those who are malnourished or debilitated.

Long-term use of opioid medication may affect fertility (ability to have children) in men or women. It is not known whether opioid effects on fertility are permanent.

Common side effects may include:

  • dizziness, drowsiness;
  • headache;
  • nausea, vomiting; or
  • sweating.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

Read the entire detailed patient monograph for Demerol (Meperidine)

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Demerol Professional Information

SIDE EFFECTS

The following serious adverse reactions are described, or described in greater detail, in other sections:

  • Addiction, Abuse, and Misuse [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
  • Life-Threatening Respiratory Depression [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
  • Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
  • Interactions with Benzodiazepines or Other CNS Depressants [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
  • Serotonin Syndrome [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
  • Adrenal Insufficiency [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
  • Severe Hypotension [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
  • Gastrointestinal Adverse Reactions [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
  • Seizures [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
  • Withdrawal [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]

The following adverse reactions associated with the use of meperidine were identified in clinical studies or postmarketing reports. Because some of these reactions were reported voluntarily from a population of uncertain size, it is not always possible to reliably estimate their frequency or establish a causal relationship to drug exposure.

The major hazards of meperidine, as with other opioid analgesics, are respiratory depression and, to a lesser degree, circulatory depression, respiratory arrest, shock, and cardiac arrest.

The most frequently observed adverse reactions included lightheadedness, dizziness, sedation, nausea, vomiting, and sweating. These effects seem to be more prominent in ambulatory patients and in those who are not experiencing severe pain. In such individuals, lower doses are advisable. Some adverse reactions in ambulatory patients may be alleviated if the patient lies down.

Other adverse reactions include:

Nervous System: Mood changes (e.g., euphoria, dysphoria), weakness, headache, agitation, tremor, involuntary muscle movements (e.g., muscle twitches, myoclonus), severe convulsions, transient hallucinations and disorientation, confusion, delirium, visual disturbances.

Gastrointestinal: Dry mouth, constipation, biliary tract spasm.

Cardiovascular: Flushing of the face, tachycardia, bradycardia, palpitation, hypotension [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS], syncope.

Genitourinary: Urinary retention.

Allergic: Pruritus, urticaria, other skin rashes, wheal and flare over the vein with intravenous injection. Hypersensitivity reactions, anaphylaxis.

Histamine release leading to hypotension and/or tachycardia, flushing, sweating, and pruritus.

Serotonin syndrome: Cases of serotonin syndrome, a potentially life-threatening condition, have been reported during concomitant use of opioids with serotonergic drugs.

Adrenal insufficiency: Cases of adrenal insufficiency have been reported with opioid use, more often following greater than one month of use.

Androgen deficiency: Cases of androgen deficiency have occurred with chronic use of opioids [see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY].

To report SUSPECTED ADVERSE REACTIONS, contact Validus Pharmaceuticals LLC at 1-866-982-5438 or FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088 or www.fda.gov/medwatch.

DRUG INTERACTIONS

Table 1 includes clinically significant drug interactions with DEMEROL Tablets and Oral Solution.

Table 1: Clinically Significant Drug Interactions with DEMEROL Tablets and Oral Solution

Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)
Clinical Impact: Meperidine is contraindicated in patients who are receiving monoamine oxidase (MAOIs) or those who have recently received such agents. Therapeutic doses of meperidine have occasionally precipitated unpredictable, severe, and occasionally fatal reactions in patients who have received such agents within 14 days. The mechanism of these reactions is unclear, but may be related to a preexisting hyperphenylalaninemia. Some have been characterized by coma, severe respiratory depression, cyanosis, and hypotension, and have resembled the syndrome of acute narcotic overdose. Serotonin syndrome with agitation, hyperthermia, diarrhea, tachycardia, sweating, tremors and impaired consciousness may also occur. In other reactions the predominant manifestations have been hyperexcitability, convulsions, tachycardia, hyperpyrexia, and hypertension.
Intervention: Do not use DEMEROL Tablets or Oral Solution in patients taking MAOIs or within 14 days of stopping such treatment. Intravenous hydrocortisone or prednisolone have been used to treat severe reactions, with the addition of intravenous chlorpromazine in those cases exhibiting hypertension and hyperpyrexia. The usefulness and safety of narcotic antagonists in the treatment of these reactions is unknown.)
Examples: phenelzine, tranylcypromine, linezolid
Inhibitors of CYP3A4 and CYP2B6
Clinical Impact: The concomitant use of DEMEROL Tablets or Oral Solution and CYP3A4 or CYP2B6 inhibitors can increase the plasma concentration of meperidine, resulting in increased or prolonged opioid effects. These effects could be more pronounced with concomitant use of DEMEROL Tablets or Oral Solution and CYP2B6 and CYP3A4 inhibitors, particularly when an inhibitor is added after a stable dose of DEMEROL Tablets or Oral Solution is achieved [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].
After stopping a CYP3A4 or CYP2B6 inhibitor, as the effects of the inhibitor decline, the meperidine plasma concentration will decrease [see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY], resulting in decreased opioid efficacy or a withdrawal syndrome in patients who had developed physical dependence to meperidine.
Intervention: If concomitant use is necessary, consider dosage reduction of DEMEROL Tablets or Oral Solution until stable drug effects are achieved. Monitor patients for respiratory depression and sedation at frequent intervals. If a CYP3A4 or CYP2B6 inhibitor is discontinued, consider increasing the DEMEROL Tablets or Oral Solution dosage until stable drug effects are achieved. Monitor for signs of opioid withdrawal.
Examples Macrolide antibiotics (e.g., erythromycin), azole-antifungal agents (e.g., ketoconazole), protease inhibitors (e.g., ritonavir)
CYP3A4 and CYP2B6 Inducers
Clinical Impact: The concomitant use of DEMEROL Tablets or Oral Solution and CYP3A4 or CYP2B6 inducers can decrease the plasma concentration of meperidine [see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY], resulting in decreased efficacy or onset of a withdrawal syndrome in patients who have developed physical dependence to meperidine [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].
After stopping a CYP3A4 or CYP2B6 inducer, as the effects of the inducer decline, the meperidine plasma concentration will increase [see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY], which could increase or prolong both the therapeutic effects and adverse reactions, and may cause serious respiratory depression.
Intervention: If concomitant use is necessary, consider increasing the DEMEROL Tablets or Oral Solution dosage until stable drug effects are achieved. Monitor for signs of opioid withdrawal. If a CYP3A4 or CYP2B6 inducer is discontinued, consider DEMEROL Tablets or Oral Solution dosage reduction and monitor for signs of respiratory depression.
Examples: Rifampin, carbamazepine, phenytoin
Benzodiazepines and Other Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressants
Clinical Impact: Due to additive pharmacologic effect, the concomitant use of benzodiazepines or other CNS depressants, including alcohol, can increase the risk of hypotension, respiratory depression, profound sedation, coma, and death.
Intervention: Reserve concomitant prescribing of these drugs for use in patients for whom alternative treatment options are inadequate. Limit dosages and durations to the minimum required. Follow patients closely for signs of respiratory depression and sedation. If concomitant use is warranted, consider prescribing naloxone for the emergency treatment of opioid overdose [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION, WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].
Examples: Benzodiazepines and other sedatives/hypnotics, anxiolytics, tranquilizers, muscle relaxants, general anesthetics, antipsychotics, other opioids, alcohol
Serotonergic Drugs
Clinical Impact: The concomitant use of opioids with other drugs that affect the serotonergic neurotransmitter system has resulted in serotonin syndrome [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].
Intervention: If concomitant use is warranted, carefully observe the patient, particularly during treatment initiation and dose adjustment. Discontinue DEMEROL Tablets or Oral Solution if serotonin syndrome is suspected.
Examples: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), triptans, 5-HT3 receptor antagonists, drugs that effect the serotonin neurotransmitter system (e.g., mirtazapine, trazodone, tramadol), certain muscle relaxants (i.e., cyclobenzaprine, metaxalone), monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) (those intended to treat psychiatric disorders and also others, such as linezolid and intravenous methylene blue)
Mixed Agonist/Antagonist and Partial Agonist Opioid Analgesics
Clinical Impact: May reduce the analgesic effect of DEMEROL Tablets or Oral Solution and/or precipitate withdrawal symptoms.
Intervention: Avoid concomitant use.
Examples: butorphanol, nalbuphine, pentazocine, buprenorphine
Muscle Relaxants
Clinical Impact: Meperidine may enhance the neuromuscular blocking action of skeletal muscle relaxants and produce an increased degree of respiratory depression.
Intervention: Monitor patients for signs of respiratory depression that may be greater than otherwise expected and decrease the dosage of DEMEROL Tablets or Oral Solution and/or the muscle relaxant as necessary. Due to the risk of respiratory depression with concomitant use of skeletal muscle relaxants and opioids, consider prescribing naloxone for the emergency treatment of opioid overdose [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION, WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].
Diuretics
Clinical Impact: Opioids can reduce the efficacy of diuretics by inducing the release of antidiuretic hormone.
Intervention: Monitor patients for signs of diminished diuresis and/or effects on blood pressure and increase the dosage of the diuretic as needed.
Anticholinergic Drugs
Clinical Impact: The concomitant use of anticholinergic drugs may increase risk of urinary retention and/or severe constipation, which may lead to paralytic ileus.
Intervention: Monitor patients for signs of urinary retention or reduced gastric motility when DEMEROL Tablets or Oral Solution is used concomitantly with anticholinergic drugs.
Acyclovir
Clinical Impact: The concomitant use of acyclovir may increase the plasma concentrations of meperidine and its metabolite, normeperidine.
Intervention: If concomitant use of acyclovir and DEMEROL Tablets or Oral Solution is necessary, monitor patients for respiratory depression and sedation at frequent intervals.
Cimetidine
Clinical Impact: The concomitant use of cimetidine may reduce the clearance and volume of distribution of meperidine also the formation of the metabolite, normeperidine, in healthy subjects.
Intervention: If concomitant use cimetidine and DEMEROL Tablets or Oral Solution is necessary, monitor patients for respiratory depression and sedation at frequent intervals.

Drug Abuse And Dependence

Controlled Substance

DEMEROL Tablets and Oral Solution contain meperidine, a Schedule II controlled substance.

Abuse

DEMEROL Tablets and Oral Solution contain meperidine, a substance with a high potential for abuse similar to other opioids including fentanyl, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, methadone, morphine, oxycodone, oxymorphone, and tapentadol. DEMEROL Tablets and Oral Solution can be abused and is subject to misuse, addiction, and criminal diversion [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].

All patients treated with opioids require careful monitoring for signs of abuse and addiction, since use of opioid analgesic products carries the risk of addiction even under appropriate medical use.

Prescription drug abuse is the intentional non-therapeutic use of a prescription drug, even once, for its rewarding psychological or physiological effects.

Drug addiction is a cluster of behavioral, cognitive, and physiological phenomena that develop after repeated substance use and includes: a strong desire to take the drug, difficulties in controlling its use, persisting in its use despite harmful consequences, a higher priority given to drug use than to other activities and obligations, increased tolerance, and sometimes a physical withdrawal.

“Drug seeking” behavior is very common in addicts and drug abusers. Drug-seeking tactics include emergency calls or visits near the end of office hours, refusal to undergo appropriate examination, testing, or referral, repeated “loss” of prescriptions, tampering with prescriptions, and reluctance to provide prior medical records or contact information for other treating healthcare provider(s). “Doctor shopping” (visiting multiple prescribers to obtain additional prescriptions) is common among drug abusers and people suffering from untreated addiction. Preoccupation with achieving adequate pain relief can be appropriate behavior in a patient with poor pain control.

Abuse and addiction are separate and distinct from physical dependence and tolerance. Healthcare providers should be aware that addiction may not be accompanied by concurrent tolerance and symptoms of physical dependence in all addicts. In addition, abuse of opioids can occur in the absence of true addiction.

DEMEROL Tablets and Oral Solution, like other opioids, can be diverted for non-medical use into illicit channels of distribution. Careful record-keeping of prescribing information, including quantity, frequency, and renewal requests, as required by state and federal law, is strongly advised.

Proper assessment of the patient, proper prescribing practices, periodic re-evaluation of therapy, and proper dispensing and storage are appropriate measures that help to limit abuse of opioid drugs.

Risks Specific To Abuse Of DEMEROL Tablets And Oral Solution

DEMEROL Tablets and Oral Solution are for oral use only. Abuse of DEMEROL Tablets and Oral Solution pose a risk of overdose and death. DEMEROL Tablets have been reported as being abused by crushing, chewing, snorting, or injecting the dissolved product. The risk is increased with concurrent use of DEMEROL Tablets with alcohol and other central nervous system depressants. Due to the presence of talc as one of the excipients in tablets, parenteral abuse of crushed tablets can be expected to result in local tissue necrosis, infection, pulmonary granulomas, and increased risk of endocarditis and valvular heart disease. In addition, parenteral drug abuse is commonly associated with transmission of infectious diseases such as hepatitis and HIV.

Dependence

Both tolerance and physical dependence can develop during chronic opioid therapy. Tolerance is the need for increasing doses of opioids to maintain a defined effect such as analgesia (in the absence of disease progression or other external factors). Tolerance may occur to both the desired and undesired effects of drugs, and may develop at different rates for different effects.

Physical dependence is a physiological state in which the body adapts to the drug after a period of regular exposure, resulting in withdrawal symptoms after abrupt discontinuation or a significant dosage reduction of a drug. Withdrawal also may be precipitated through the administration of drugs with opioid antagonist activity (e.g., naloxone, nalmefene), mixed agonist/antagonist analgesics (e.g., pentazocine, butorphanol, nalbuphine), or partial agonists (e.g., buprenorphine). Physical dependence may not occur to a clinically significant degree until after several days to weeks of continued opioid usage.

Do not abruptly discontinue DEMEROL Tablets and Oral Solution in a patient physically dependent on opioids. Rapid tapering of DEMEROL Tablets and Oral Solution in a patient physically dependent on opioids may lead to serious withdrawal symptoms, uncontrolled pain, and suicide. Rapid discontinuation has also been associated with attempts to find other sources of opioid analgesics, which may be confused with drug-seeking for abuse.

When discontinuing DEMEROL Tablets and Oral Solution, gradually taper the dosage using a patient-specific plan that considers the following: the dose of DEMEROL Tablets and Oral Solution the patient has been taking, the duration of treatment, and the physical and psychological attributes of the patient. To improve the likelihood of a successful taper and minimize withdrawal symptoms, it is important that the opioid tapering schedule is agreed upon by the patient. In patients taking opioids for a long duration at high doses, ensure that a multimodal approach to pain management, including mental health support (if needed), is in place prior to initiating an opioid analgesic taper [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION, WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].

Infants born to mothers physically dependent on opioids will also be physically dependent and may exhibit respiratory difficulties and withdrawal signs [see Use In Specific Populations].

Read the entire FDA prescribing information for Demerol (Meperidine)

© Demerol Patient Information is supplied by Cerner Multum, Inc. and Demerol Consumer information is supplied by First Databank, Inc., used under license and subject to their respective copyrights.

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