Drugs Home > What Is Meperidine Used For?

Meperidine is licensed to relieve moderate to severe pain. Injectable forms of this medicine are also approved for controlling pain during labor and childbirth and can be used as anesthesia or used for preoperative sedation. Healthcare providers may also occasionally recommend off-label uses of meperidine. Using this pain reliever as an epidural or to treat or prevent shivering is considered an off-label use.

What Is Meperidine Used For?

Meperidine hydrochloride (Demerol®) is a prescription analgesic (pain reliever). All forms of meperidine are approved to treat moderate to severe pain, and injectable meperidine is also approved for the following additional uses:
  • Preoperative sedation (before a surgery)
  • Anesthesia (when used with other medications)
  • Pain relief during labor and childbirth.
Although meperidine has a long-standing tradition as a popular pain reliever, its use has fallen out of favor with most healthcare providers and hospitals. Meperidine is rather short-acting (it usually provides pain relief for only two hours or so) but is transformed in the body into a toxic metabolite that lasts much longer in the body. If repeated doses of meperidine are needed, the toxic metabolite (normeperidine) builds up and can cause serious side effects (see Side Effects of Meperidine for more information).
For this reason (along with the awareness that meperidine has no specific benefits over other, safer opioids), many hospitals now recommend that meperidine injection be used only in the following situations:
  • Prevention and treatment of rigors (shivering) caused by certain drugs or blood transfusions
  • Treatment of shivering after surgeries
  • Short-term treatment (less than 48 yours) of pain in people with normal kidney, liver, and central nervous system function if other opioids cannot be given (such as if the patient is allergic to other opioids).
It has also been recommended that meperidine be avoided in the elderly and that oral Meperidine products be avoided altogether in almost all situations.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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