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Can You Overdose on Demerol? Signs & Symptoms to Look For

Peter Manza, PhD profile image
Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD • Updated Aug 23, 2023 • 7 cited sources

Signs of Demerol overdose include extreme drowsiness, shallow breathing, weak pulse, low blood pressure, pinpoint pupils, muscle weakness, cold skin and potential coma. A Demerol overdose can be life-threatening.

While Demerol, a potent opioid pain medication, can be effective for pain management when used as prescribed, it is important to be aware of the potential risks associated with Demerol misuse and long-term use.[1] 

Taking too much Demerol can lead to serious complications, including respiratory depression, cardiac arrest and even death. 

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of Demerol overdose early in the process and immediately reaching out for medical help is essential to saving the life of the person in crisis.

Can You Overdose on Demerol?

It is not only possible to overdose on Demerol, but the potential for overdose on the drug is exceptionally high, especially if the substance is being used outside of the prescription of a doctor.[1]

An opioid medication, Demerol use under the best of circumstances can depress the respiratory system and trigger a medical emergency. When consumed in large amounts, it is very easy for Demerol use to cause death.

If you or someone you love has a prescription for Demerol for pain management, it is critical to adhere strictly to the prescribed dosage provided by your healthcare provider and to address any concerns with use immediately so the dose can be adjusted.

Signs & Symptoms of Demerol Overdose

Identifying the signs and symptoms of a Demerol overdose is an absolute necessity for timely intervention. 

Some of the signs that indicate a serious medical emergency is occurring include the following:[1], [2]

  • Profound lethargy: The person may become excessively sleepy or find it challenging to stay awake.
  • Impaired breathing: Breathing may become abnormally slow or shallow, potentially leading to inadequate oxygen supply.
  • Faint pulse: The pulse, which is typically felt as a steady rhythm in the arteries in the neck, may become weak or difficult to detect.
  • Hypotension or low blood pressure: Blood pressure can drop significantly, leading to dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting.
  • Miosis or constricted pupils: The pupils, which are usually responsive to changes in light, may become small and constricted even in dim environments.
  • Muscle weakness: A feeling of weakness or reduced strength in the muscles may occur, making it difficult to move or perform tasks.
  • Cold and chilly skin: Skin may feel cold to the touch and become excessively moist or sweaty.

In severe cases of Demerol overdose, the following symptoms may develop:[1],[3]

  • Loss of consciousness: The person may become unresponsive and unable to be roused even with loud noises or shaking.
  • Stopped breathing: Impaired breathing can turn into a cessation of breath at any moment during overdose.
  • Coma: Prolonged unconsciousness, or coma, can occur, rendering the person unresponsive to stimuli.
  • Death: In extreme cases, a Demerol overdose can be fatal due to respiratory depression, cardiovascular collapse, or other medical complications triggered by large amounts of the substance built up in the body.

If someone exhibits any symptoms of Demerol overdose, seek immediate emergency medical help by calling 911.

How Much Demerol Can Make You Overdose?

The threshold for a Demerol overdose can vary based on factors like the person’s tolerance, body weight and overall health, but it’s important to remember that Demerol is a strong opioid drug. Overdose can occur in first-time users, just as it can in people who have a long-standing history of opioid misuse. 

The risk of overdose escalates significantly when larger amounts of Demerol are taken alone or in combination with other central nervous system depressants like alcohol or sedatives.[4] 

Other medications, including medications prescribed for mental health and chronic health problems, can negatively interact with Demerol as well, which is why it is important to avoid taking any substance outside of the care and supervision of a medical professional.

What to Do if You Are Experiencing Demerol Overdose Symptoms

It is unlikely that you will be able to help yourself if you are in the throes of a Demerol overdose, but if you realize right away that you have taken too many doses in a short period of time or have accidentally taken too high of a dose, it is recommended that you take these steps:

  1. Contact emergency services. Without delay, call 911 to request immediate medical assistance. Give the operator the details of your condition, including symptoms and information on the potential drug overdose. Stay on the line until help arrives.
  2. Do not attempt to manage the situation on your own. Do not try to manage the situation on your own. It is critical that you seek professional medical help as soon as possible.
  3. If you have naloxone on hand and a friend nearby, solicit their help. Naloxone is a drug administered by emergency medical professionals to reverse an opioid overdose in progress. If you have a dose of this medication and a friend who can give it to you, direct them to remain on standby in case you lose consciousness or stop breathing. People who are overdosing are generally unable to administer naloxone themselves. 
  4. Stay conscious and responsive. If you can, try to stay awake and responsive while waiting for emergency responders. Avoid substances or activities that could worsen your condition, which means no eating or drinking, getting in the shower, or leaving where you are.[5]
  5. Provide information. When medical professionals arrive, answer their questions about the drugs you have taken, including the dosage if possible, along with any pertinent medical history or concurrent medications. Go with them to the hospital if they suggest that as an option to make sure you are okay.

The Use of MAT & Drugs Like Suboxone to Help With Opioid Use Disorder

One of the best ways to avoid Demerol overdose or overdose on any opioid when opioid use disorder is an issue is to take advantage of a Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT) program.[6]  MAT will help you to stop misusing Demerol and all opioids immediately. The medications used for MAT are FDA-approved to assist you in the management of opioid withdrawal symptoms and cravings. 

Suboxone is the gold standard for MAT, as it contains buprenorphine (a partial opioid agonist) and naloxone (an opioid antagonist) to reduce cravings, manage withdrawal symptoms and discourage misuse of substances. 

Suboxone offers stability during the early phase of recovery and beyond. If cravings and other withdrawal symptoms are managed, you are better able to focus on the work you are doing in therapy, building skills that are necessary for long-term recovery.

It is important to remember that medications like Suboxone are most effective as part of a comprehensive treatment plan that integrates counseling, support groups and other psychosocial interventions. Professional medical supervision is recommended to ensure MAT is the right program for you.

Bicycle Health Offers Suboxone Treatment

Bicycle Health is a healthcare provider that specializes in offering telemedicine services and Medication for Addiction Treatment to people seeking care for opioid use disorder.[7] 

Convenient and innovative, we connect people in recovery with a dedicated team of medical professionals through secure video appointments, so they can receive comprehensive assessments, personalized treatment plans and ongoing support from the comfort of their own homes. 

Our comprehensive care model goes beyond just prescribing medication. We also prioritize counseling and behavioral therapies in addition to Suboxone treatment to support long-term recovery that makes sense for each person’s individual needs and experience.

Through regular therapy sessions and attention to detail at Bicycle Health, patients will be able to develop coping strategies, build resilience and gain the necessary skills to maintain sobriety.

Our mission is to provide compassionate, evidence-based care to people who are struggling with opioid use disorder. The ultimate goal is for patients to create happier, healthier and more fulfilling lives in recovery from OUD. 

At Bicycle Health, getting on the path to recovery is easy, and it’s even easier to maintain. Call now to find out how MAT can help you to stop misusing Demerol and avoid overdose for good.

Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD

Peter Manza, PhD received his BA in Psychology and Biology from the University of Rochester and his PhD in Integrative Neuroscience at Stony Brook University. He is currently working as a research scientist in Washington, DC. His research focuses on the role ... Read More

  1. Meperidine. U.S. National Library of Medicine. July 2022. Accessed May 2023.
  2. Pupillary Responses. Stanford Medicine. Accessed May 2023.
  3. Coma. U.S. National Library of Medicine. February 2023. Accessed May 2023.
  4. Sedatives, Also Known as Depressants. University of California, Davis Student Health and Counseling Services. Accessed May 2023.
  5. How Drugs Can Kill and How to Stop Them. Learn.Genetics. Accessed May 2023.
  6. Information About Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT). U.S. Food and Drug Administration. May 2023. Accessed May 2023.
  7. Telemedicine in the United States: An Introduction for Students and Residents. U.S. National Library of Medicine. November 2020. Accessed May 2023.

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