Drug Use

What Is Tramadol?

Tramadol is an opioid and controlled substance used to treat moderate to low-level severe pain. It is sold under other brand names including Ultram, Ultram ER, Conzip, and is also available as generics. It comes in both immediate-release and extended-release tablets. It is also combined with acetaminophen in Ultracet for use as a pain reliever. This prescription drug is similar to opioid analgesics. This drug is mostly used when pain control is needed around the clock. Tramadol is addictive and its use should be monitored.

Some people believe that the use of tramadol doesn’t lead to, and while it isn’t as addictive as other opioids, tramadol is habit forming and addictive. For this reason, anyone taking this drug prescribed this drug for chronic pain or other reasons should follow their physician’s directions closely.

Tramadol can interact with other prescription drugs as well. The use of tramadol with certain serotonergic medications poses a risk of the patient developing serotonin syndrome. It's important to administer low doses of tramadol to avoid this. Naloxone and tramadol are also sometimes incompatible, as the naloxone blocks the effects of tramadol. Along with paying careful attention to your doctor's orders, it's also important to drug interactions when using any drug.

How Does Tramadol Affect The Body?

This Schedule IV tramadol drug is taken by tablet, capsule, or liquid and generally swallowed. However, some people who are abusing the drug crush the tablets or empty the capsules and snort it. Once consumed, the effects can usually be felt either immediately (snorting) or within about 20 to 40 minutes and last for about three to four hours. The length of this is dependent on numerous factors including the amount of dose, method of consumption, and factors unique to the individual consuming it.

Tramadol works in the brain and changes how the body responds to and feels pain. In addition to offering pain relief, tramadol also impacts how the body feels pleasure. When this drug is used over long periods of time or abused the brain changes. One of these changes is it loses the ability to deal with pain or feel pleasure without the drug. This is when dependence or addiction has set in.

Common Side Effects of Tramadol

Some of the side effects of tramadol are similar to that of other opioids, both prescription and illicit.

Short-term side effects can include:

  • Pain relief
  • Feelings of relaxation
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Diarrhea
  • Itchiness
  • Confusion

Long-term side effects can include:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Blood disorders
  • Ongoing fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Hallucinations
  • Breathing problems (shallow breathing)
  • Mood swings
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Anxiety

Because tramadol overdose is possible. It’s important to know the signs of an overdose. These can include severe body weakness, constricted pupils, slowed and/or shallow breathing, low blood pressure, cold or clammy skin, blueish tint on lips and/or fingernails, respiratory distress, and unconsciousness.

If you suspect you or someone else has taken too much tramadol, call for medical help right away. The sooner someone gets help for an overdose the better the chance of survival.

Signs and Symptoms of Tramadol Addiction

The signs and symptoms of tramadol addiction are similar to those signs for other addictions. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Fifth Edition (DSM-V) suggests certain criteria in diagnosing a substance use disorder (SUD). Within this diagnosis of an SUD, there are mild, moderate, and severe classifications.

The criteria talk about both physical and behavioral signs that someone has developed an addiction. These criteria are as follows:

  • Taking the drug in larger amounts or for longer periods of time than intended.

  • Trying to stop taking it or cut down but being unable.

  • Experiencing strong cravings for it.

  • Spending a lot of time either taking, getting, or recovering from using the substance.

  • Neglecting personal responsibilities like family, work, or school.

  • Experiencing problems in relationships from drug use but continuing to use.

  • Giving up activities previously enjoyed because it interferes with drug use.

  • Continuing use despite dangers involved to physical health, safety, and mental health.

  • Finding yourself in risky or dangerous situations related to the drug.

  • Developing a tolerance and needing more of the drug to get the same feelings.

  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when use stops or decreases.

The more of these symptoms you experience, the more severe the addiction. The DSM-V states that having at least two of these symptoms indicates an addiction. If you or a loved one are taking tramadol and recognize these symptoms, you may have developed an addiction. There are other signs more specific to tramadol addiction to be aware of if you’re concerned someone has an addiction to it.

Physical Symptoms

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Headaches
  • Constant drowsiness
  • Stomach issues
  • Sleep issues
  • Problems focusing

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Mood swings
  • Isolation
  • Depression
  • Change in friends and habits

Signs and Symptoms of Tramadol Withdrawal

When someone has become addicted to tramadol you’ll most likely notice that they seemed to have changed in some way. Their personality, mood, behaviors may seem different. This overall change in the person is important to look for in addition to the signs mentioned above.

One of the telltale signs of addiction is withdrawal when the person tries to stop. Some of the signs of tramadol withdrawal include:

Physical Symptoms

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Runny nose
  • Headaches
  • Body and muscle aches
  • Diarrhea, nausea, vomiting
  • High blood pressure
  • High respiration rate
  • Rapid heartbeat

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Moodiness
  • Agitation
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts

You shouldn’t stop using tramadol suddenly or cold turkey. This is particularly true if you or a loved one have been taking it for an extended period of time. Seeking treatment at an addiction treatment center that uses evidence-based therapies and has a detox program is recommended for effective tramadol addiction treatment.

Treatment for Tramadol Addiction

The first step in treating a tramadol addiction is medically supervised detox. Once the person has safely detoxed from tramadol, the next step is behavioral therapy. Both are essential to building the foundation for life-long recovery from addiction.

While most of the withdrawal symptoms from tramadol may not be seen as life-threatening, they can be and for this reason, safely detoxing under supervision is highly suggested. Some of the withdrawal symptoms can be very uncomfortable and many times during this acute phase is when individuals relapse. When you are in a supervised treatment center this lessens the chances of a relapse.

Many of the types of behavioral therapies effective with other opioid addictions are also helpful with tramadol addiction. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most commonly used types of therapies for SUD including tramadol abuse.

CBT works by challenging and changing certain beliefs and behaviors, regulating emotions, and developing new coping strategies for stress and triggers. In addition to this type of therapy, group counseling, family counseling, and support group involvement can be an integral part of a recovery program.

In addition to CBT, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and cognitive processing therapy have been helpful in treating various addictions including opioid and tramadol issues. It’s important to understand that true recovery involves healing the body, mind, and soul. Finding a treatment center that understands and supports that is key to long-term recovery.

Caron has helped many people with opioid addictions including tramadol to recover and go on to live happy, fulfilling lives. At Caron, we utilize medically-driven treatment to help people with addictions to tramadol and opioids successfully recover. We can help you or your loved one too. At Caron, we believe in Recovery For Life. If you want to learn more about our programs or talk to an admissions specialist call 1-800-854-6023.

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