Demerol is licensed to treat moderate to severe pain. The injectable form of the medication can also be used as anesthesia, for relieving pain during labor and childbirth, and for preoperative sedation. Healthcare providers may also occasionally recommend off-label uses of Demerol, such as for treating or preventing shivering. Although Demerol was once very popular, it is no longer commonly used.
Demerol® (meperidine hydrochloride) is a prescription analgesic (pain reliever). All forms of Demerol are approved to treat moderate to severe pain, and injectable Demerol is also approved for the following additional uses:
- Preoperative sedation (before a surgery)
- Anesthesia (when used with other medications)
- Pain relief during labor and childbirth.
Although Demerol has a long-standing tradition as a popular pain reliever, its use has fallen out of favor with most healthcare providers and hospitals. Demerol is rather short-acting (it usually provides pain relief for only two hours or so) but is transformed in the body into a toxic metabolite that lasts much longer in the body. If repeated doses of Demerol are needed, the toxic metabolite (normeperidine) builds up and can cause serious side effects (see Demerol Side Effects for more information).
For this reason (along with the awareness that Demerol has no specific benefits over other, safer opioids), many hospitals now recommend that Demerol injection be given only in the following situations:
- Prevention and treatment of rigors (shivering) caused by certain drugs or blood transfusions
- Treatment of shivering after surgeries
- Short-term treatment (less than 48 yours) of pain in people with normal kidney, liver, and central nervous system function if other opioids cannot be given (such as if the patient is allergic to other opioids).
It has also been recommended that Demerol be avoided in the elderly and that oral Demerol products be avoided altogether in almost all situations.