The Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR) established guidelines for the use of meperidine (demerol), a common inpatient analgesic. These guidelines define standards of care for acute and chronic cancer pain management and address many of the problems with meperidine and its metabolite, normeperidine. The purpose of this study was to determine whether meperidine was prescribed in compliance with AHCPR guidelines, whether patients exhibited any adverse reactions to meperidine, and to determine the analgesic efficacy of meperidine. Three hundred inpatient charts were reviewed and identified meperidine as the primary analgesic in 157 nonobstetric inpatients. Age, sex, weight, dosing interval, route of administration, duration of meperidine use, serum chemistry values, primary diagnosis, associated medical conditions, and medications concurrently being taken with meperidine were the parameters analyzed. An interview was conducted to ascertain medical and drug history, chronicity of pain syndromes, analgesic drug history, and analgesic efficacy. A visual analog scale for pain (range = 0 to 10) and an analgesic satisfaction survey (range = 1 to 5) were used. Of 157 patients, 124 (79.8%) were in conflict with AHCPR guidelines. The most frequent conflict was found to be suboptimal dosing regimen and treatment of chronic pain. Often concurrent analgesics were given with the meperidine to achieve adequate analgesia. Higher analgesic satisfaction scores were noted when meperidine was given with concurrent analgesics. Meperidine also was administered to patients in renal failure or with medications contraindicated with meperidine use. No significant adverse effects were noted with meperidine use in this sample population other than an increased incidence of confusion in the elderly population.