What are the Different Demerol&Reg; Side Effects?

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  • Written By: Maggie J. Hall
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 28 November 2019
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Demerol® side effects are directly related to the medication’s activity in the central and peripheral nervous system. Also known as meperidine or pethidine, the drug can be taken orally or by intramuscular or intravenous injection. Demerol® has anticholinergic properties and typically causes relaxation of involuntary smooth muscle movement throughout the body by inhibiting the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Certain preexisting medical conditions and the use of Demerol® in conjunction with other medications increases the risk of side effects.

Once believed to be less addictive and more effective than morphine, the opioid painkiller Demerol® was useful for treating biliary spasms and renal colic because of its antispasmodic properties. Physicians soon realized, however, that this medication, along with other narcotic analgesics, is addictive. Healthcare providers began to prescribe the drug less frequently because of its short period of duration and tendency to cause psychological symptoms.

Because the medication inhibits neurotransmitter activity, Demerol® side effects that arise from its central and peripheral nervous system effects include drowsiness, confusion, and physical incapacitation, and individuals taking Demerol® should exercise caution when operating motorized equipment or vehicles. In addition to displaying uncoordination, patients may experience the muscle rigidity, muscle twitching, or tremors generally associated with Parkinson’s disease. Some patients exhibit seizure activity. Generally, Demerol® side effects are more prevalent in parts of the body that contain smooth muscle.


By relaxing the smooth muscles within the gastrointestinal tract and the urinary system, Demerol® side effects include constipation and urinary retention. Persons having medical conditions involving these problems are at greater risk for adverse conditions because of their bodys' decreased ability to remove the medication. Those who have liver disease also experience side effects as their bodies are unable to correctly metabolize or remove Demerol®. The relaxation produced by Demerol® also applies to the respiratory tract and frequently results in a decreased number of respirations. Persons with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other respiratory diseases may experience an increase in adverse symptoms for this reason.

The cardiovascular system contains smooth muscle, and Demerol® side effects involving this system include bradycardia, tachycardia, heart palpitations and decreased blood pressure. The diminished blood circulation produced by these conditions may also result in dizziness, light-headedness and skin flushing. These adverse conditions are enhanced when an individual is dehydrated or taking certain other medications.

The psychological effect of euphoria often makes Demerol® susceptible to abuse resulting in addiction. The medication may also produce agitation, paranoia and auditory or visual hallucinations, and because of the drug’s ability to affect the nervous system, misuse or overdose may lead to life threatening circumstances.

In certain situations, patients have a sensitivity to the medication that produces a skin rash. In severe cases, persons may experience anaphylactic shock. The risk of side effects increases when Demerol® is combined with other medications, especially those that affect the central nervous system. Allergy medications, other narcotic analgesics and various psychiatric medications can all interact with Demerol®.


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