- What Is Tramadol?
- How Do I Know if I May Be Addicted?
- Dealing With the Withdrawal Signs and Symptoms of Tramadol
- How Can I Be Treated for Tramadol Withdrawal?
- Tramadol Withdrawal Resources
Tramadol (sometimes sold as Ultram, ConZip, or Ryzolt) is an opioid analgesic used as a pain reliever for a range of medical issues. It is popularly prescribed as an alternative to other opioids, like morphine or oxycodone, because it is less potent.
Compared to morphine, tramadol is less likely to become addicted. However, addiction is possible, and rates of addiction are rising. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “tramadol-related ED visits involving misuse or abuse increased about 250 percent from 6,255 visits in 2005 to 21,649 in 2011.”
People who take tramadol for even a short time may experience withdrawal symptoms after stopping. However, abuse or long-term use can lead to far more severe withdrawal symptoms that can lead to hospitalization. These withdrawal experiences are a common sign of a possible addiction to the drug.
If you are concerned that you or someone you care about has become addicted to tramadol, speak to a rehab center in your area today. They can provide you with education, advice, and treatment options for your specific circumstances.
What Is Tramadol?
Tramadol is an opioid analgesic similar to morphine or codeine. The drug works by activating receptors in the brain to block pain pathways. Unlike morphine, tramadol can also interact with serotonin and norepinephrine, affecting mood.
Constant excitement of these receptors can cause the brain to require higher levels of drugs to continue excitement. This is known as dependence. Drugs that interact with opioid receptors not only block pain but also produce an effect of euphoria. This feeling can become psychologically addictive. This combination of dependence and psychological addiction is the primary cause of tramadol addiction.
Tramadol is often sold under brand names, some of which include:
- Ultram ER
Tramadol comes in 50mg, 100mg, 150mg, 200mg, and 300mg tablets. The higher the dose of tramadol, the greater risk there is of dependency, abuse, and addiction.
Common and Rare Side Effects of Tramadol
Side effects occur for more than five percent of people who take tramadol. Experiencing these side effects does not mean you are addicted to the drug or should be worried that you are. Most of these side effects disappear after use but can reappear if the drug is abused.
Common side effects of tramadol include:
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Constipation or Diarrhea
More serious side effects are very rare but should be taken seriously. If you experience any of the following, cease taking tramadol and speak to your doctor:
- Tremors or shakes
- Fast heartbeat or breathing
- Difficulty urinating.
To learn more about the signs and symptoms of tramadol addiction, click here.
How Do I Know if I May Be Addicted?
It is useful important to know the common signs of addiction, and to be able to recognize these signs in yourself and others.
Signs and indications of tramadol addiction include:
- Seeking tramadol outside of prescriptions.
- “Doctor Shopping” (seeing multiple doctors for the same problem).
- Mood swings.
- Hiding medication.
- Neglecting family, friends, and work.
- Choosing to buy tramadol instead of paying bills.
- Obsessively talking about or thinking about tramadol/pain relief.
To learn more about the signs and symptoms of tramadol addiction, please read our article on tramadol addiction.
Dealing With the Withdrawal Signs and Symptoms of Tramadol
Typically, withdrawal symptoms for opioid medications occur in two stages: early and late withdrawal. What you experience can rely heavily on your age, how long you have been taking tramadol, and how much of it you have been taking.
Early-stage withdrawal symptoms can occur even for people who have only taken tramadol once or twice. They are often mild and may even go away within hours. Early-stage signs and symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Muscle aches
- Agitation and fast heart rate
If you have been taking high doses of tramadol, however, or have been taking it for years, you may end up with severe, late-stage withdrawal symptoms. These can be quite serious and may even require hospitalization. Late-stage signs and symptoms can include:
- Vomiting and Diarrhea
- Severe Stomach Cramping
- Confusion and Hallucinations
- High blood pressure and trouble breathing.
Atypical Presentations of Withdrawal
Tramadol is different from other opioids like oxycodone because it works by two different pathways. As well as exciting the opioid receptors, it also affects serotonin and norepinephrine. Because of this, withdrawal symptoms can be different altogether.
Atypical symptoms of tramadol withdrawal may include:
- Depression and suicidal thoughts
- Panic and paranoia
- Extreme anxiety
- Numbness or nerve pain
- Depersonalization (the feeling of being detached from one’s body or mental processes)
How Long Does Tramadol Withdrawal Last?
Everyone experiences tramadol withdrawals differently, but there are some factors we know for certain affect how long withdrawal may last. If you take tramadol as prescribed, for example, withdrawal symptoms will last for less time than if you take much more, or take it via an alternative method (e.g., smoking or injecting). Withdrawal timelines can also change based on general health, age, other substances you may take regularly, and even family history.
Typically, withdrawal symptoms will begin to appear within twelve hours of ceasing the medication. For someone who has been taking tramadol for months, or abusing the amount they use, withdrawal can take longer than two weeks to fully subside.
Major physical symptoms occur first, and it is the first three days that can be the most painful, both physically and emotionally. However, cravings may continue for many days after, as can confusion and anxiety. Physical symptoms rarely persist after two weeks, but feelings of depression and anxiety may continue for months.
In some cases, tramadol abuse may cause long-term mental illness for years after ceasing the medication. In these cases, signs of mental illness are not caused by withdrawal, but the dependency associated with addiction.
Does Experiencing Withdrawal Mean I’ve Been Addicted?
Withdrawals can happen to anyone who has a prolonged use of a medication, even when they are not abusing it. However, severe withdrawal symptoms (like those discussed in Late-Stage Withdrawal) generally occur only in patients who have been on the medication at higher than prescribed levels, and for the long term.
How Can I Be Treated for Tramadol Withdrawal?
Mild tramadol withdrawal often subsides within days (at the longest) and is best treated with rest and lots of water.
The severe withdrawal associated with addiction to tramadol sometimes requires medical intervention. Under the guidance of professionals in rehabilitation clinics, patients can be placed on other medications like buprenorphine or methadone. These drugs interact with receptors in a similar way to tramadol, but without offering the same euphoric experience.
Medical intervention should always occur with counseling, as research has consistently shown that it is the combination of the two that produces the best results when trying to stop using opioids.
When Might Rehab Be Appropriate?
Rehabilitation clinics are shown to be highly effective at beginning the process of addressing drug abuse. They can offer medical help when dealing with withdrawal, but also expert counseling, education, and preparation for long-term handling of addiction.
People who attend rehab are more likely to continue treatment than your average asthmatic is to continue using their inhaler. Addiction is a long-term illness that continues long after ceasing the drug, and continued help can be offered by rehab teams after you leave.
You should not be ashamed to seek treatment from a rehabilitation clinic. Every year, over two million Americans seek help for their addiction. Addicts who attempt to quit “cold turkey” and without help are 30% less likely to succeed, and 50% more likely to relapse.
Tramadol Withdrawal Resources
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