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The Dangers of Demerol

Posted on July 2, 2009 in Addiction in the Media, Featured

By Leslie Thompson

“Demerol, Demerol. Oh, God, he’s taking Demerol” are very poignant lyrics from Michael Jackson’s 1997 song “Morphine.” With Jackson’s shocking death on June 25, 2009, many questions have arisen, the most popular one being whether he died from a drug overdose. Jackson had a long and tumultuous affair with prescription drugs during the course of his life, and as more information surrounding his death surfaces, it is appearing more likely that drugs did in fact end his life. But what exactly is Demerol aside from Jackson’s drug of choice?

Demerol is the brand name for the narcotic meperidine (also known as pethidine) and it is a member of the opioid class of drugs. It is used as a pain reliever for moderate to severe pain and produces similar results as morphine. The narcotic is only available by prescription and comes in tablet, syrup, or injectable forms. Individuals who have taken the drug often experience a euphoric feeling and a great sense of pleasure as the drug blocks pain by attaching to opioid receptors found in the spinal column and brain. Common side effects of Demerol include lightheadedness, sedation, nausea, and dry mouth.

Like most pain-relieving narcotics, Demerol is a highly addictive and habit-forming drug and should only be taken as prescribed. The length of time a patient uses Demerol also needs to be closely monitored by a physician because extended use of the drug can build up the user’s tolerance, thus requiring larger doses to achieve the same pain relief. Long-term usage also increases the likelihood of a physical and mental addiction to the drug.

Reports have surfaced that Michael Jackson was receiving daily injections of Demerol, but why? Sources close to the family have said that Jackson had been taking the drug as early as 1984 when he suffered burns while filming a commercial. Over the subsequent years, Jackson may have been prescribed the drug to treat additional injuries he sustained while performing, which include a broken leg and a broken vertebra.

Signs of a Demerol overdose include abdominal cramps, vomiting, hypotension, and respiratory depression. In severe cases cardiac arrest, circulatory collapse, and even death may occur. An individual who overdoses on Demerol can survive depending on the dosage of the drug they consumed and whether they are treated promptly. However, if an individual has consumed multiple drugs in addition to Demerol, particularly antidepressants, it can be a deadly combination.

Is this what caused Michael Jackson’s untimely death? Toxicology reports are still pending, but medical experts have already ruled out foul play, leading many to believe that drugs are indeed the culprit.

“Demerol, Demerol. Oh, my, Oh, God, it’s Demerol”…Was Jackson’s life imitating art or was it the other way around?

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