Tramadol is an opioid medication, typically prescribed by doctors to treat mild to moderately severe pain. As one of the top 50 most prescribed drugs in the United States, more than 19 million people hold prescriptions and use the drug nearly every day. As an opioid, Tramadol is also highly addictive, and is abused on the street as well as by many of the people with prescriptions. Individuals without a proper REMS (Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy) or proper long-term monitoring may find that they become tolerant, dependent, and then addicted to their prescription pain pills. As a result, an estimated 2.1 million Americans are addicted to prescription painkillers like Tramadol. Many more purchase the drug on the street or abuse it because friends and family members have prescriptions, giving them easy access to a strong opioid drug.
If you or a loved one is struggling with tramadol, dependent, or addicted, it’s important that you understand the effects, risks, and detox and treatment. Taking the steps to get treatment for Tramadol addiction can be life-saving, so it is important to act.
Tramadol is an opioid drug, sold under brand names like Ultram, Ultram ER, ConZip, and RyZolt. As an opioid drug, Tramadol interacts with the opioid receptors in the brain, causing releases of dopamine, serotonin, and opioid interaction, or effectively triggering the brain’s reward system. Over time, the brain will adjust to increasing levels of opioid, which reduces the effect. This is known as tolerance. Individuals often simply increase their dose to maintain the effectiveness of the painkiller. Eventually, dependence, where the body goes into withdrawal when the drug is removed, develops. From there, many individuals can become addicted, developing problematic drug-seeking behavior. This means that even individuals who started out using an opioid painkiller according to their prescription can become addicted without necessarily doing anything wrong, but rather by simply trying to manage their pain.
While, in normal doses, most users would not get a high off prescription Tramadol, the drug can also be taken in higher doses, combined with other drugs such as alcohol or other opioids or ground and injected for a much more significant high. As a result, many places have issues with individuals illegally trafficking Tramadol, doctor-shopping, and illicitly purchasing Tramadol without a prescription.
Individuals may be addicted to Tramadol if they:
- Take or purchase Tramadol outside of their prescription
- Combine tramadol with other non-prescription drugs or alcohol
- Hide their drug use
- Show drug-seeking behavior such as stealing Tramadol
- Take Tramadol in instances when it could be dangerous, such as before driving a car
If you suspect that your loved one is abusing Tramadol, it is important to act. Tramadol addiction can be dangerous, with numerous effects including seizures that are damaging to short and long-term health.
Tramadol is a central nervous system depressant, which effectively slows the heart and lung functions when active. During normal prescription use, this effect is moderate. However, individuals with a substance use disorder often take many times the original prescription dose meaning that tramadol can put them in danger.
Individuals on a high dose of Tramadol will typically show signs including:
- Clammy skin
- Slowed breathing or respiratory problems
- Sleepiness or lethargy
- Pinpoint pupils
- Slow heart rate
- Low blood pressure
While Tramadol is regarded as generally safe for prescription use, even low-dose prescriptions can cause seizures. In higher doses, as many as 60% of abusers will eventually experience seizures, which can be deeply harmful to the individual. The drug is also well-known for causing serotonin syndrome, which includes symptoms such as agitation, sweating, diarrhea, fever, ataxia, and tremors or shivering.
Tramadol is a heavy depressant when taken orally, meaning that individuals can experience massive sedation when high. Rather than the euphoria of other opioids, Tramadol causes excessive sleepiness and relaxation, which can result in a coma and death. If your loved one is high on Tramadol and unresponsive, you should call emergency services to prevent overdose-related fatalities.
Detoxing from Tramadol is often more difficult than detoxing from a standard opioid such as hydrocodone, simply because withdrawal symptoms are more complex. Individuals can expect a relatively severe detox process, which should be medically monitored to prevent complications and self-harm.
Most individuals experience:
- Nausea and diarrhea
- Muscle aches and pains
- Hallucinations and sensory hallucinations
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Confusion or disorientation
- Mood swings
In most cases, individuals will experience a sudden onset of cold and flu symptoms such as headache, nausea, and runny nose and eyes. You’ll also likely experience cravings fairly quickly, from the early onset of symptoms (typically in about 24 hours for standard Tramadol and within about 72 for slow-release Tramadol). These symptoms typically last for 5-7 days and then begin to taper off.
While none of the symptoms of Tramadol withdrawal are particularly life-threatening, they can be severe and individuals may be prone to self-harm or to harming others by accident. During detox, most doctors will taper off Tramadol usage to reduce the severity of symptoms and protect the patient.
Getting treatment for Tramadol addiction means seeking out a rehab center, going through an accredited drug detox program, and then attending therapy. In most cases, Tramadol addiction treatment will include a range of treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or an equivalent, counseling, group therapy, group counseling, and complementary treatments.
Tramadol addiction treatment often has to take the individual’s pain into consideration during treatment. Many tramadol users have prescriptions for long-term chronic pain and getting by without painkillers is simply not an option. Others suffer from co-occurring disorders (known as dual diagnosis) and must manage mental disorders such as anxiety alongside addiction. If your loved one suffers from any of these problems, your addiction treatment center must be able to manage the symptoms and treat addiction alongside chronic pain or a co-occurring disorder.
Whether your loved one is dependent on Tramadol after a long period of prescription use, is abusing the drug by combining it with alcohol, or is acquiring it illicitly, Tramadol abuse and addiction are dangerous. Getting your loved one into drug addiction treatment will help, because rehab will give your loved one the tools to recover, to be happy without drug abuse, and to build the foundations for a stable and happy life.
Contact South Coast Counselling at 1-844-330-0096 and find the help you need or help an addicted loved one get the help they need. All calls are confidential and there is no obligation.