Demerol is an opioid pain reliever that users have described as a “warm blanket.” Known generically as meperidine, Demerol is available both in intravenous and tablet forms. While it can be effective as a short-term pain reliever— for example, during surgery— Demerol is not intended for long-term use and has the potential to be highly addictive. Demerol withdrawal causes unpleasant symptoms, making it hard to tolerate the withdrawal process alone. Read on to learn more about Demerol withdrawal and how to get help.
Withdrawal symptoms are very uncomfortable, but they usually aren’t life-threatening, especially if the patient detoxes under medical care.
Like withdrawing from other opioids, Demerol withdrawal symptoms usually start about six to 30 hours after last using the drug. The worst of the symptoms occur around 72 hours after the last time you take the drug. The most uncomfortable part of the withdrawal process is typically the first week of Demerol withdrawal. Demerol withdrawal symptoms can last up to about a month. Some symptoms may continue for a few months after you stop using.
Symptoms that may last longer include physical cravings for the drug and emotional symptoms such as anxiety. These behavioral symptoms can be difficult, especially after long-term opioid use. This is a necessary and often difficult process known as post-acute withdrawal (PAW) that the body must go through as it detoxes and readjusts.
Demerol withdrawal can be difficult and uncomfortable. The physical symptoms may feel like a bad case of the flu, causing you to crave the drug. Because of this, it’s important to get professional help because quitting “cold turkey” can actually put you at risk of complications or abandoning the withdrawal process. Participating in a professional, medically-assisted detox program ensures that you are carefully monitored in a safe environment. This way you are supported and protected while your body goes through the difficult, and sometimes painful, detoxification process as it eliminates the physical need for the drug.
The doctors and nurses on your medical team can administer medications such as buprenorphine to help relieve the cravings. The team will also make sure your body has enough vitamins, fluids, and electrolytes. During this challenging time, you will also receive professional mental and emotional support to help ensure a successful withdrawal process.
While it’s possible to detox and go through the Demerol withdrawal process at home, it can be very difficult to do it alone. Having the emotional support of family and friends is helpful, but often professional help is key to managing the withdrawal process successfully. Professional addiction treatment usually includes three basic levels: detox, residential and/or partial hospitalization, and outpatient services. Going through all stages of treatment—known as the full continuum of treatment— will position you better to be successful in your recovery. Stages of opioid addiction treatment include:
Detox is the initial stage of withdrawal treatment. Medical stabilization is the goal of this stage. Depending on the severity of your addiction, this stage will last about three to seven days.
When you arrive, your medical team—which includes doctors, nurses, and support staff—will give you a complete medical assessment to determine not only your level of addiction but also your overall health and any additional medical needs you may have. The assessment will include a medical exam and urine or blood tests to screen for drugs. Depending on these results, your physician may also require additional testing such as: additional blood tests, including a CBC (complete blood count), chest X-ray, ECG (electrocardiogram), and testing for other diseases.
After your doctor reviews your test results, a detox plan will be created for you. Then you will begin the detox process under the care of your medical team. Detoxing from opioids like Demerol often includes a combination of detox drugs, such as buprenorphine, and emotional support as you begin to enter addiction therapy. During this time, you will be under 24-hour supervision.
Your treatment plan will also include emotional support as you begin addiction therapy because many people also experience anxiety, depression, and other emotional and psychological challenges as they detox.
Detox focuses on eliminating the physical need for the drug. The next stage is to continue treatment in either an inpatient or residential, facility or to move into a partial hospitalization program. If you have any co-occurring medical conditions or additional addictions, your doctor may recommend that you continue with inpatient care a little longer. During this stage, you’ll live full-time at the residential treatment center while undergoing a rigorous, structured treatment program at least five days a week.
The next stage after completing the detox stage and/or inpatient care is to continue treatment in a partial hospitalization program (PHP). You’ll live at a transitional living facility during this stage while undergoing a supportive, rigorous, and structured treatment program five days a week for six hours each day. You will be able to focus solely on your recovery and participate in individual, group, and family therapy programs to address your emotional and mental health needs. During this stage, the goal will be to learn positive life skills, coping mechanisms, and techniques to help prevent relapse so that you will be better prepared for long-term recovery. This training will help you begin the process of returning to your life outside the treatment center.
As you progress through each stage of the full continuum of treatment, you will build the skills and resources you need to cope and avoid relapsing. After you have completed the PHP stage, you will move into the intensive outpatient program (IOP) stage.
Sometimes outpatient treatment is used as standalone addiction therapy, but it is also a key part of a full continuum of treatment. Your therapy sessions at this stage won’t be as frequent and the program will be more flexible. You will still attend intensive therapy sessions and continue with medication management, if needed. This stage of treatment will help you continue to be accountable for your recovery. It will also include periodic weekly testing. The main focus of IOP is continuing to build coping skills to prevent relapse.
After you complete the treatment program, you will have the opportunity to join other treatment center alumni during weekly support groups and social events. Meeting other program graduates can help you develop new friendships and build social support with others who understand the recovery process. Your new support network can be a great way to help you grow and stay focused on your recovery as you continue to adjust to life after the treatment program and take on new responsibilities.
If you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed about starting the Demerol withdrawal process, contact the staff at Ocean Breeze Recovery for the guidance and support you need to start your recovery. Our admissions specialists are available for free and confidential help. They will walk you through the process and answer any questions you may have. Then you will know what to expect from our evidence-based services. After you speak with a specialist, you will feel prepared to make an informed decision about your plans for treatment. Our specialists can also check with your private health insurance to see if your treatment costs will be fully covered. Remember, you don’t have to do this alone.
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