Meperidine: therapeutic use and toxicity

J Emerg Med. 1995 Nov-Dec;13(6):797-802. doi: 10.1016/0736-4679(95)02002-0.


Meperidine is a synthetic opioid analgesic frequently prescribed in the emergency department. Meperidine is most often administered intramuscularly or intravenously, due to its poor oral bioavailability, and is metabolized extensively by the liver. Analgesic effects usually last 3-4 hours with parenteral administration, and some adverse effects such as nausea may be reduced when meperidine is combined with antiemetic or antihistaminic medications. Although meperidine is often a preferred analgesic by both patients and physicians in the treatment of disorders such as migraine headaches, its analgesic efficacy has rarely proven superior to alternative parenteral pain medications in controlled trials. In addition, meperidine can precipitate monoamine oxidase inhibitor reactions, and during metabolism it is demethylated to normeperidine, a compound with significant central nervous system (CNS) toxicity. Meperidine should be considered a second line agent in the treatment of pain when opioid analgesics are required.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Meperidine / adverse effects
  • Meperidine / therapeutic use*


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Meperidine