Skip to Content

Meperidine

Generic Name: meperidine (me PER i deen)
Brand Name: Demerol HCl

Medically reviewed on December 12, 2017

What is meperidine?

Meperidine is an opioid pain medication, sometimes called a narcotic.

Meperidine is used to treat moderate-to-severe pain.

Meperidine may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.

Important Information

You should not use meperidine if you have severe asthma or breathing problems.

Do not use meperidine if you have used an MAO inhibitor in the past 14 days, such as isocarboxazid, linezolid, methylene blue injection, phenelzine, rasagiline, selegiline, or tranylcypromine.

Meperidine can slow or stop your breathing, and may be habit-forming. MISUSE OF THIS MEDICINE CAN CAUSE ADDICTION, OVERDOSE, OR DEATH, especially in a child or other person using the medicine without a prescription.

Taking this medicine during pregnancy may cause life-threatening withdrawal symptoms in the newborn.

Fatal side effects can occur if you use this medicine with alcohol, or with other drugs that cause drowsiness or slow your breathing.

Before taking this medicine

You should not use meperidine if you are allergic to it, or if you have severe asthma or breathing problems.

Do not use meperidine if you have used an MAO inhibitor in the past 14 days. A dangerous drug interaction could occur. MAO inhibitors include isocarboxazid, linezolid, methylene blue injection, phenelzine, rasagiline, selegiline, tranylcypromine, and others.

Some medicines can interact with meperidine and cause a serious condition called serotonin syndrome. Be sure your doctor knows if you also take stimulant medicine, herbal products, or medicine for depression, mental illness, Parkinson's disease, migraine headaches, serious infections, or prevention of nausea and vomiting. Ask your doctor before making any changes in how or when you take your medications.

To make sure meperidine is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have ever had:

  • any type of breathing problem or lung disease;

  • a blockage in your stomach or intestines;

  • a head injury, brain tumor, or seizures;

  • drug or alcohol addiction, or mental illness;

  • urination problems;

  • liver or kidney disease;

  • problems with your gallbladder, adrenal gland, or thyroid;

  • sickle cell anemia; or

  • abnormal curvature of the spine that affects breathing.

If you use meperidine while you are pregnant, your baby could become dependent on the drug. This can cause life-threatening withdrawal symptoms in the baby after it is born. Babies born dependent on habit-forming medicine may need medical treatment for several weeks. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.

Meperidine may pass into breast milk and may cause drowsiness or breathing problems in a nursing baby. Tell your doctor if you are breast-feeding.

How should I take meperidine?

Follow all directions on your prescription label. Meperidine can slow or stop your breathing, especially when you start using meperidine or whenever your dose is changed. Never take meperidine in larger amounts, or for longer than prescribed. Tell your doctor if the medicine seems to stop working as well in relieving your pain.

Meperidine may be habit-forming, even at regular doses. Never share this medicine with another person, especially someone with a history of drug abuse or addiction. MISUSE OF NARCOTIC MEDICINE CAN CAUSE ADDICTION, OVERDOSE, OR DEATH, especially in a child or other person using the medicine without a prescription. Selling or giving away meperidine is against the law.

Measure liquid medicine with the dosing syringe provided, or with a special dose-measuring spoon or medicine cup. If you do not have a dose-measuring device, ask your pharmacist for one.

Do not stop using this medicine suddenly after long-term use, or you could have unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Ask your doctor how to safely stop using meperidine.

Never crush or break a meperidine pill to inhale the powder or mix it into a liquid to inject the drug into your vein. This practice has resulted in death with the misuse of prescription drugs.

Store at room temperature away from moisture and heat.

Keep track of your medicine. Meperidine is a drug of abuse and you should be aware if anyone is using your medicine improperly or without a prescription.

Do not keep leftover opioid medication. Just one dose can cause death in someone using this medicine accidentally or improperly. Ask your pharmacist where to locate a drug take-back disposal program. If there is no take-back program, flush the unused medicine down the toilet.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Since meperidine is used for pain, you are not likely to miss a dose. Skip any missed dose if it is almost time for your next scheduled dose. Do not use extra medicine to make up the missed dose.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222. A meperidine overdose can be fatal, especially in a child or other person using the medicine without a prescription. Overdose symptoms may include slow breathing and heart rate, severe drowsiness, muscle weakness, cold and clammy skin, blue-colored skin or lips, fainting, or coma.

What should I avoid while taking meperidine?

Do not drink alcohol. Dangerous side effects or death can occur when alcohol is combined with meperidine.

This medication may impair your thinking or reactions. Avoid driving or operating machinery until you know how meperidine will affect you. Dizziness or severe drowsiness can cause falls or other accidents.

Meperidine side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Like other opioid medicines, meperidine can slow your breathing. Death may occur if breathing becomes too weak. 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:

  • weak or shallow breathing, slow heartbeat;

  • severe drowsiness, feeling like you might pass out;

  • confusion, mood changes, agitation, hallucinations;

  • tremors, muscle movements you cannot control, or a seizure (convulsions);

  • 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.

See also: Side effects (in more detail)

What other drugs will affect meperidine?

Narcotic (opioid) medication can interact with many other drugs and cause dangerous side effects or death. Be sure your doctor knows if you also use:

This list is not complete. Other drugs may interact with meperidine, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Not all possible interactions are listed in this medication guide.

Further information

Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Hide