Updated on January 28, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
The opioid addiction epidemic doesn’t just involve illegal drugs like heroin — plenty of people have become addicted to prescription drugs that were initially meant to help patients. Unfortunately, many of the people who become addicted are patients themselves. Medications like Demerol have a host of harmful side effects and a risk of addiction and overdose.
Demerol is a branded medicine that contains the opioid meperidine. Doctors sometimes use it during medical procedures as an injectable painkiller for sudden, severe pain. In some cases, a patient receives a prescription for Demerol tablets or liquid to take as needed for sudden pain episodes. Unlike some other types of opioids, patients aren’t supposed to take Demerol on a regular basis.
Since patients take Demerol on an as-needed basis, they must completely follow their doctors’ directions. Even when taken as directed, opioids like Demerol can cause dangerous side effects, overdose or addiction. Side effects such as digestive issues, headaches and dizziness don’t indicate a problem as long as they go away. Meanwhile, more severe symptoms like breathing problems and fainting need urgent medical help.
Both normal use of Demerol and the misuse of it have a risk of addiction. However, misusing an opioid medication like Demerol makes the risk of dependence even higher than normal. Unfortunately, Demerol’s as-needed regimen makes it more difficult to keep track of proper dosage and timing.
If a patient doesn’t keep track of when they take their Demerol or feel like they “need more” to relieve their pain, they can sharply raise their addiction risk. Demerol can cause euphoria and extreme calm, which some patients still seek out even after they don’t need pain relief anymore.
While the medical industry tries to limit patient access to Demerol, many people still misuse and abuse it. In fact, ER visits caused by Demerol overdose increased by 111% percent between 2004 and 2008. Demerol addiction also impacts the medical community since it’s so easy to access in medical institutions. Once an opioid or its prescription gets to a doctor or patient, it can be diverted to the illegal market easily, compounding the issue.
Unlike other opioids, Demerol abuse poses the risk of neurotoxicity. It contains a metabolite called normeperidine known to be neurotoxic and can build up in an addict’s neural tissue, causing tremors, seizures and agitation.
Cannabis medicine can help us stop the increasing rates of addiction to Demerol and other opioids. It provides:
In other words, medical marijuana can treat the same symptoms as opioids, but without the dangers.
In the 2017 issue of the Harm Reduction Journal, Philippe Lucas presented an argument for using medical cannabis in the fight against opioid addiction. He gathered data from numerous scientifically sound studies supporting marijuana medicine’s ability to lower our society’s reliance on Demerol and other opioids.
Looking at this information, he concluded medicinal cannabis could improve our public health by:
Medical marijuana can help us stop the addiction epidemic sweeping the U.S. — we just need to give it a chance.
Interested in using medical cannabis as a solution for the opioid crisis? Read our guide to medicinal marijuana and opioid dependence for more information.
Check out our resources on specific opiates and medical marijuana: