Meperidine Addiction

The White House calls prescription drug abuse, "the Nation's fastest-growing drug problem." After marijuana, prescription medications like meperidine are the most abused drugs among young people in the United States. The National Institute on Drug Abuse says that 16 million Americans aged 12 years and older took a prescription drug non-medically to get high or for a condition other than the one for which he had received the prescription.

Abusing prescription painkillers like meperidine for a long time can lead to physical dependence and addiction. Physical dependence and meperidine addiction are serious diseases, requiring the help of a qualified professional.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports an increase in people seeking help for substance abuse. The U.S. admission rates for opioids other than heroin sprung up 414 percent between 1997 and 2007, from 7 people in every 100,000 to 36 per 100,000.

This sudden rise in opioid abuse and addiction is due, in large part, to the fact that Americans take more painkillers than another other nation on earth. Even though Americans represent only about 5 percent of global population, they consume 80 percent of the world's supply of opioids, according to the Institute of Addiction Medicine.

The Definition of Addiction

Meperidine addiction is a neurological disease that interferes with your brain's reward, motivation and memory functions. These dysfunctions change the way a person thinks, behaves and feels. The addicted individual craves meperidine and will relentlessly pursue meperidine.

Meperidine addiction arises on its own and not the result of another disease or condition. Meperidine addiction is a chronic disease, requiring long-term treatment. Relapse is common.

Like other diseases, meperidine addiction causes specific signs and symptoms that doctors use to diagnose a patient's condition. When diagnosing a patient as having a meperidine addiction, doctors look for an inability to abstain from meperidine consistently or an inability to control behavior in other ways. A person with a meperidine addiction does not sense a problem with his behaviors. He may not be able to see the negative impact meperidine addiction has on his personal relationships. A physician may also look for a dysfunctional emotional response.

As with other chronic diseases, meperidine addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without prompt and adequate treatment, meperidine addiction is progressive, possibly causing disability or premature death.

Addiction versus Dependence

While many use the terms meperidine addiction and dependence interchangeably, these two conditions are separate and very different from one another. With continue use, especially at high doses, a person may become addicted to meperidine or dependent upon it, or both.

Your body adjusts to the presence of certain foreign substances, such as meperidine, by altering its own chemical balance. After continuous use, your body might become tolerant to meperidine, which means it takes a stronger dose to relieve your pain or to get high.

If you continue to use meperidine, your body may start to depend on having a certain level of meperidine in your blood stream in order to feel normal. If meperidine were to drop below this level, your system would struggle to maintain its chemical balance. A person dependent on meperidine feels this struggle through uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal.

Someone with a meperidine addiction will feel powerful cravings and will engage in drug-seeking behavior when her supply of drugs runs out.

A person can be addicted to a substance but not dependent upon it, or dependent but not addicted. For example, an individual can depend on an antihypertensive to keep her blood pressure under control. If she runs out of medicine, her body struggles to maintain a safe blood pressure but she will not crave her medication.

On the other hand, a person addicted to cocaine will not feel the typical flu-like withdrawal symptoms when he runs out of cocaine but he will experience cravings and display drug-seeking behavior.

Opioids such as meperidine may cause either dependence or addiction, or both.

Addiction: What Family Members Should Know

Family members should know that meperidine addiction is a neurological disease, not a personal choice or lack of moral character. While it is true that many people become addicted to meperidine because of criminal drug abuse but many medical conditions, including cancer, may be the result of poor lifestyle choices. Anyone can develop an addiction, including those who use meperidine exactly as prescribed to treat a chronic, painful condition.

As with any disease, someone facing meperidine addiction needs the love and support of his family. Meperidine addiction is a devastating and frightening disease.

Meperidine addiction is a family affair in that heredity plays an important role in determining who develops a substance abuse problem. A person who has a parent with a substance abuse problem is more likely to develop an addiction or dependence at some point in life. Hypersensitivity to stress, known for increasing the risk of addiction to substances such as meperidine, also passes from one generation to the next.

A stressful home environment raises the risk for addiction in everyone living within the home. Financial struggles, fights or arguments between residents, criminal activity or other stresses cause some people to "self-medicate" with alcohol or drugs like meperidine. A child who watches his parent cope with stressful situations by drinking or getting high is likely to use those same coping mechanisms as he grows older.

Meperidine addiction affects everyone in the family and puts the entire household in danger. Meperidine and other opioids are very costly. Spending money on meperidine takes money away from groceries, rent, bills, childcare or medical expenses.

A child with one or two addicted parents suffers from neglect, as meperidine addiction robs the parent of his capacity to care for anything other than meperidine.

Dangerous Risks

A person with a meperidine addiction usually keeps several doses nearby in the family home. Keeping a supply of opioids such as meperidine in a house with children raises the risk for accidental overdose. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, emergency departments treated about 71,000 kids for accidental drug overdoses between the years 2004 and 2005. About 80 percent of these children where unsupervised when they found and consumed medications like meperidine.

Meperidine addiction introduces your family to the criminal element. At some point, you will find you can no longer get meperidine from your doctor or local pharmacy, so you resort to buying drugs on the street. In the early days of your meperidine addiction, you will be mindful of your family's safety and keep drug dealers at a distance. As your meperidine addiction progresses, you will become more comfortable allowing criminals into the home to buy or sell drugs, or just to get high with your friends.

Addiction: What Parents Should Know

Parents should know that prescription drug abuse among American children and teenagers is a serious problem. According to results of the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 2 percent of 12 and 13 year olds use psychotherapeutics including opioids like meperidine non-medically. About 3 percent of 14 and 15 year olds admit to prescription drug abuse. More than 3 percent of 16 and 17 year olds report using drugs like meperidine without a prescription.

It is important to recognize the difference between normal signs of aging and symptoms of meperidine addiction. A child goes through many changes as he grows so it may be difficult to recognize signs and symptoms that could indicate drug abuse or addiction. Parents should look for warning signs including an unusual loss of interest in things your child used to love. A parent may notice deterioration in grades or performance in sports. A child battling meperidine addiction seems to lack the motivation or energy to improve his behavior. He may sneak away and have trouble explaining his absences. The addicted child has money problems that seem advanced for someone of his age - parents should be aware of money or items missing from the home.

Caring for a Family Member with an Addiction

Recovery often begins when family members begin to talk about meperidine addiction. Family members can talk about issues that affect the household, including substance abuse and addiction. One person should take charge when scheduling meetings to discuss treatment plans and progress, but all family members should have an equal voice when making decisions.

The person suffering from meperidine addiction does not have to participate in family discussions. The disease of addiction causes the individual to feel very protective of her disease, so she may be upset when she first learns of the family meetings. Your loved one will grow more comfortable talking about her meperidine addiction as time goes by and rehabilitation restores some of her neurological functions.

Meperidine addiction has a negative impact on the family unit but recovery can have a positive effect on the household as each individual participates in the healing process. Frequently, a family member finds the treatment facility the addicted individual eventually attends. Every member of the family should encourage the addicted individual to seek and complete treatment.

Every member of the family plays an important role in recovery. Each person participates to the best of their ability and according to age. For example, a grandparent can take over bill payment, an uncle can cook meals, older children with a driver's license can run errands while younger children assume simple household chores.

When to Seek Treatment

It is possible to slow or stop the progression of meperidine addiction at any time. It is not necessary to let your loved one hit rock bottom before encouraging him to seek help. Meperidine addiction causes collateral damage and health hazards to your family member. Early treatment reduces this collateral damage.

Treatment and recovery from meperidine addiction works best when the individual feels physically, emotionally and spiritually safe with his family. To afford him this safety, family members should treat meperidine addiction as a disease. Family members should learn ways to support the individual without blaming him for his disease.

There is, however, a line between supportive comfort and enabling meperidine addiction to continue unchecked. It is necessary for the addicted individual to feel full force of problems associated with meperidine addiction before he can commit to recovery.

Signs of Addiction

Meperidine addiction makes changes to the cells of the central nervous system. These changes cause the addicted person to behave, think and feel in a certain way. Doctors look for these changes when diagnosing a person as suffering from meperidine addiction.

Behavioral, Cognitive and Emotional Changes


A person with a meperidine addiction uses this drug or other opioids excessively, frequently using larger doses or using meperidine more often than he realizes. A person with a meperidine addiction may express a persistent desire to quit even while he is using this drug. He may even attempt recovery several times. Some people addicted to meperidine seem unable or unwilling to overcome the habit, despite awareness of the damage meperidine does.

Meperidine addiction causes a person to lose an excessive amount of time looking for meperidine, getting high or recovering from using this drug. Eventually, the meperidine addict loses interest in all aspects of his life that do not involve meperidine. This loss of interest has a significant negative impact on the individual's social life, personal relationships and performance on the job.


Meperidine addiction changes the way a person thinks. The individual addicted to meperidine becomes preoccupied with getting high; meperidine invades all other aspects of his life. A person with meperidine addiction perceives meperidine as entirely good and ignores the negative aspects of drug abuse. He may think that other people or events caused his problems, unable to see that his difficulties are the predictable consequence of addiction.


Some people develop a meperidine addiction after using this drug to self-medicate emotional pain. Despite this non-medical use, meperidine addiction actually causes increased anxiety, emotional pain and sadness. Neurological changes associated with meperidine addiction affect the brain's stress system, making everyday seem more challenging to the addict.

Sometimes, meperidine addiction makes it hard for a person to identify her feelings or to distinguish between emotions and body sensations. She may not be able to describe her feelings, a condition known as alexithymia.

Symptoms of Addiction

As with any other disease, a person suffering from meperidine addiction will feel physical and psychological symptoms resulting from the neurological changes addiction causes. To the untrained eye, physical symptoms may be mistaken for lifestyle choice. Without professional training, psychological symptoms of addiction can sometimes make it difficult to interact with a person battling meperidine addiction.

Physical Symptoms

Physical symptoms of drug addiction include:

  • Unexplained Weight Gain or Weight Loss
  • A Change in Sleep Patterns
  • Deteriorating Physical Appearance - Looks Sickly
  • Nagging Cough
  • Diminished Hygiene Care
  • Body or Clothing May Have an Unusual Odor
  • Bloodshot Eyes with Large or Small Pupils
  • Tremors
  • Slurred Speech

Psychological Symptoms

Psychological symptoms of meperidine addiction include:

  • Inability to Abstain from Meperidine Use Consistently
  • Impairment in Behavioral Control
  • Cravings for Drugs or Intense Reward Experiences
  • Diminished Capacity to Recognize Significant Personal or Relationship Problems
  • Dysfunctional Emotional Response

Gender Differences

According to the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, men were two times more to abuse or be dependent upon illicit substances such as heroin, cocaine or marijuana. In 2010, 5.9 percent of females admitted to using illicit drugs, as compared to 11.6 percent of males.

While fewer women abuse illicit substances, more females abuse prescription drugs, such as meperidine. Females are also more prone to combine prescription drugs like meperidine with alcohol, marijuana or other psychoactive drugs.

Men abuse drugs differently than women do. A man is most likely to get high with friends while a woman would probably choose to do drugs by herself. Addicted women tend to be loners, whereas men with addictions have wide social circles. The way the two genders abuse drugs such as opioids could be because society is tolerant of addicted men while women face strong social stigmas against drug use and addiction.

Men and women take different paths to meperidine addiction. Men tend to abuse drugs for recreational purposes while women often begin opioids addiction after using this medication as prescribed to treat pain. Some studies suggest physicians are more likely to prescribe mood-altering drugs to female alcoholics because they think depression, anxiety or some other emotional difficulty was at the root of the woman's health complaints.

Cause of Gender Differences

Addicted women frequently come from families where at least one relative struggled with substance abuse problems or addictions. Girls who carry too much domestic responsibilities can develop an addiction later on in life. Many addicted females report a turbulent childhood home environment.

Addicted women sometimes blame a difficult relationship or traumatic event as the cause of substance abuse and addiction. When asked, women also name genetics, family history or environmental stress responsible for their drug abuse problems.

Women with addictions are frequently in relationships with a partner who also has a substance abuse problem. This can make it difficult for a woman to seek recovery, feeling she is "leaving her partner behind" or breaking some sort of promise.

Addicted females often have co-existing psychological problems such as a poor body image or eating disorders. Women with opioids addiction report lower expectations for their lives. Addicted women tend to have less education, fewer marketable skills and less job experience than males.  Addicted women are more likely than addicted males to have attempted suicide.

Women ask for help more frequently than men do but females do not stay in treatment as long. Many women feel treatment program focuses on males with opioids addiction and, as a result, are not effective for women.

Women struggle to overcome additional barriers to recovery, such as being able to afford quality treatment for their meperidine addictions or finding childcare while the mother is in rehabilitation.

Treatment Options

The American Society of Addictive Medicine warns that addiction to substances such as meperidine can cause "disability or premature death, especially when left untreated or treated inadequately." Without proper medical treatment, many people battle dangerous cycles of recovery and relapse.

Treatment consists of two parts: detoxification and rehabilitation. Detoxification is the medical process of lowering the level of opioids in the body. A person going through detoxification usually experiences five or more days of intense withdrawal symptoms as his body adjusts to lower levels of meperidine.

Rehabilitation focuses on restoring the neurological function disrupted by opioid addiction. This phase of treatment includes behavior modification and counseling that teaches the addicted person how to live without meperidine.


Some people try self-detoxification to end an addiction to meperidine. This is sometimes called "going cold turkey," which refers to the cold, clammy, pale skin with goose bumps that addicted people experience as they go through detox.

Those who try self-detoxification experience the full brunt of withdrawal symptoms, and face an increased risk for suffering complications associated with the flu-like symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms, known in the medical world as opiate abstinence syndrome, often come in two waves several hours after the last dose of meperidine. Early symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle Aches
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Watery Eyes
  • Yawning

After a day or two, the individual will experience symptoms including:

  • Abdominal Cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated Pupils
  • Goose Bumps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

The goal of self-detoxification is to last five or more days, with the worst symptoms occurring on or about the fourth day. Many people succumb to overpowering physical and mental withdrawal symptoms and take another dose of meperidine just to ease the discomfort.

Some people create treatment plans that include medicine to ease withdrawal symptoms. One such treatment is The Thomas Recipe, which includes valium or some other benzodiazepine to calm the person down and help him sleep. Imodium eases diarrhea while mineral supplements relieve muscle aches. On or about the fourth day, the individual awakens with overwhelming malaise and lack of energy that makes it difficult to move around. The patient takes L-Tyrosine with B6, which gives him a surge of energy.

While the Thomas Recipe eases withdrawal symptoms a bit, the individual is still at risk for complications such as aspiration, dehydration and relapse. Relapse to opioid abuse may result in life threatening overdose. Tolerance to meperidine drops throughout the detoxification process; as a result, he can overdose on a smaller amount of meperidine than he used to take before attempting detoxification.


Meperidine addiction may result in overdose, which can be fatal. Symptoms of meperidine overdose include:

  • Breathing that Stops
  • Cold, Clammy Skin
  • Confusion
  • Extreme Drowsiness
  • Fainting
  • Pinpoint Pupils
  • Shallow Breathing
  • Weak Pulse

Meperidine overdose is a serious, life threatening medical emergency requiring immediate care. In the emergency department, doctors give the patient naloxone and other medications to reduce meperidine to safe levels. Nurses establish an airway to help the patient breathe and monitor his vital signs. Nurses may empty the patient's stomach or administer charcoal to absorb excess meperidine. If necessary, nurses and doctors perform life-saving measures such as CPR.

Some people with a meperidine addiction who are in otherwise stable condition might benefit from Drug Replacement Therapy, or DRT. Patients in DRT replace illegal drugs with medications such as methadone, Suboxone or buprenorphine. DRT medications act similarly to opioids, so the patient does not experience withdrawal symptoms, but DRT drugs do not cause euphoria - the patient does not get high on them. This allows a person with a meperidine addiction to put off the detoxification stage while he begins behavioral modification. After the patient learns how to live without meperidine, he weans himself from the replacement drug.

Many patients passionately support DRT because it allowed them to work and live at home during treatment. Opponents of DRT say it is merely trading one addiction for another. Many people have trouble quitting the replacement drug. Harvard Medical School cites estimates that 25 percent of methadone DRT patients eventually abstain, another 25 percent continues to take the DRT drug and 50 percent go on and off methadone.

DRT is just one kind of Medication-Assisted Treatment, or MAT. Medications reduce the overpowering symptoms of withdrawal, enabling the patient to tolerate the process long enough to successfully detoxify his body.

Rehabilitation professionals say that MAT is an important and effective treatment approach because it:

  • Improves Survival Rates
  • Increase Retention in Treatment
  • Decreases Illicit Opioid Use
  • Decreases The Risk for Hepatitis and HIV
  • Decreases Criminal Activities
  • Increases Employment
  • Improves Birth Outcomes for Pregnant Women Battling Addiction

Standard MAT involves a hospital stay. Doctors administer naloxone and other medications to reduce meperidine levels, and other medications to ease the ensuing withdrawal symptoms. While standard inpatient MAT relieves the strength and duration of symptoms a bit, patients still face a lengthy, uncomfortable and demoralizing battle that leaves psychological scars that can interfere with rehabilitation. Medically assisted detoxification is only the first stage of addiction treatment and by itself does little to change long-term drug abuse or meperidine addiction.

Rapid detox is cutting-edge and well-established approach to treatment, thought by many to be the most humane form of detoxification available today. During rapid detox, board certified anesthesiologists administer the standard detoxification and anti-withdrawal drugs alongside sedatives and anesthesia, so that patient dozes in a pleasant "twilight sleep." When the patient awakens, she will have no memory of the grueling detoxification process. Instead of a few days, she is ready for meaningful behavior modification in a few hours.


Because meperidine addiction is a neurological disease that manifests itself through behaviors such as craving and drug-seeking, behavioral modification is essential for recovery. Addiction is a complex but treatable disease; each person experiences addiction differently, therefore no single treatment is appropriate for everyone. Effective treatment addresses the individual's multiple needs, not just her drug abuse. Many who suffer addiction to meperidine or other drugs have other mental disorders, legal trouble, social problems or relationship issues that compound addiction and increase the risk for relapse.

Treatment programs should assess patients for diseases such as HIV/ AIDS, hepatitis B and C, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases. Rehabilitation programs should include counseling to help patients modify or change behaviors that place them at risk of contracting or spreading infectious diseases.

Individual counseling, group therapy and other behavioral modification programs are commonly used to treat drug abuse. Treatment needs to be readily available to encourage maximum participation. Remaining in treatment for an adequate amount of time is critical to prevent relapse. Rehabilitation professionals need to monitor the patient's treatment course and progress to make sure treatment meets the individual's needs. Relapse is common and professional monitoring reduces the risk for return to meperidine abuse.