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Addiction and Substance Abuse

Demerol

02/22/2008

Question:

I had a T&A and was prescribed demerol. How long does that stay in your system?

Answer:

I am unsure what you mean by "T&A", but I will try to answer your question.

Demerol (meperidine) narcotic pain reliever is indicated for the treatment of moderate to severe pain. The main effects of meperidine, like pain relief and sedation, are usually felt for 2 to 4 hours in most patients. Meperidine has a normal half-life of less than four hours. This means that most people should be able to clear virtually all meperidine from the body in a day or so. Meperidine's metabolites may take longer to clear and can actually build up and cause toxic reactions in patients with reduced kidney function. In addition, some drugs, like Tagamet (cimetidine) and Dilantin (phenytoin), interact with meperidine and can change its half-life.

Many people with your sort of question are concerned about a drug being detected on a urine drug screen (UDS). Over the years, urine drug screens for abuse drugs have become very common in the workplace. Meperidine is a schedule II controlled substance in the United States. This means that it is considered a high risk as an abused drug. If this is your real question, there are a few things you should know.

While commonly only detectable for a day or so, some patients may have detectable meperidine on a UDS for up to nine days after discontinuing its use. Legitimate meperidine use i.e. as prescribed by a physician is ok, but you need to let the tester know that you have a legitimate prescription for the medicine. There should be a place on the UDS form to list the medicines you take.

Finally, even legitimate use of meperidine may affect your ability to perform your job safely. Because of this, your employer may not allow you to work while taking meperidine. If taking meperidine is the only thing preventing you from going back to work, ask your doctor about non-narcotic alternatives to meperidine, like some of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Response composed in part by Jennifer Hendricks, a pharmacy student from the University of Cincinnati College of Pharmacy

For more information:

Go to the Addiction and Substance Abuse health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Robert James Goetz, PharmD, DABAT
Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati