Signs, Symptoms, and Risks of Tramadol Addiction

By The Fix staff 01/21/15

Signs, Symptoms, and Risks of Tramadol Addiction

Tramadol Addiction

Do you know someone with a Tramadol addiction? Watching a friend or family member abuse drugs can be upsetting, to say the least, but staying educated is the first step toward helping. Read below to find out about Tramadol abuse, side effects of the drug, risks of dependency, withdrawal symptoms, and how to administer treatment. 

Tramadol Addiction

Natural opiates are acquired by processing the dried "milk" of the opium poppy plant. Synthetic opiates, on the other hand, are formulated in labs to create a product with an identical chemical structure. These drugs––both natural and synthetic forms––compose a group of painkillers called opioids that alleviate the symptoms of discomfort associated with pain.

Tramadol is a synthetic opioid analgesic––or pain reliever––which has been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration to treat moderate to severe pain in adults. Analgesics like Tramadol bind to receptors throughout the central nervous and the gastrointestinal systems. The narcotic, also known as a CNS depressant, dulls or eliminates the sensation of pain signaled to the brain.

According to the DEA, Tramadol has more than one name, including its chemical name, 2-[(dimethylamino)methyl]-1-(3-methoxyphenyl)cyclohexanol, and its trade name, Ultram. The prescribed pain medication should be administered orally in tablet form, dosed between 50mg and 100mg, at a rate of every 4 to 6 hours, as needed. Dosages should not exceed 400mg in a single day. In 2014, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration listed Tramadol under the Schedule IV classification for controlled substances because of its abusive potential.

Signs of Tramadol Addiction

According to the DEA, U.S. retailers distributed approximately 43.8 million Tramadol prescriptions in 2013. About 20,000 emergency room visits were due to nonmedical Tramadol use in 2011. Additionally, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimated that approximately 3.2 million Americans age 12 and up took the drug for nonmedical purposes in 2012. 

Tramadol is associated with the following behaviors that indicate addiction:

  • Development of cravings when not using the drug

  • Development of tolerance effects or requiring more and more of the drug to achieve the same effects

  • Use for nonmedical purposes

  • Inability to control use

  • Continually taking the drug regardless of the harm it causes, physically or psychologically

  • "Drug seeking" behavior such as constantly "losing" prescriptions, arriving at clinics at the end of business hours, refusing examinations, or tampering with medical records or prescriptions

  • "Doctor shopping"

  • Failing to perform as expected at work or school due to drug-related impairments

  • Neglecting friends and family in order to use or obtain drugs

It is important to note that these behaviors are not exclusive to those with a history of substance abuse. it is possible to develop an addiction to Tramadol despite having no previous addictive relationship with opiates or any other substances. However, according to the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, a history of drug addiction does increase the likelihood of abuse. 

Individuals who take Tramadol for longer periods or in greater dosages than is prescribed by a physician are at risk of dependency. Misuse of this narcotic over a period of time can lead to drug overdose or, even worse, death. 

Long-term Tramadol Addiction Side Effects

  • Decreased breathing rate

  • Weakened immune system

  • Heightened risk of infectious diseases

  • Constipation

  • Dizziness

  • Headache

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Intense drowsiness

  • Collapsed veins or clogged blood vessels

  • Coma

The University of Utah Health Library notes that yet another sign of a developing  dependency opioids is the experience of Tramadol addiction withdrawal symptoms after suddenly stopping its use. If Tramadol is discontinued abruptly, a user may experience: insomnia, sweating, anxiety, nausea, diarrhea, muscle pain, piloerection, and, occasionally, hallucinations.

While the above-listed symptoms tend to occur in most users who experience Tramadol addiction withdrawal, some users also endure atypical symptoms including unusual sensory phenomena, confusion, derealization, and delusional behavior, as well as visual, auditory, and tactile hallucinations. These atypical withdrawal symptoms may require intensive medical treatment to overcome. 

Tramadol Addiction Detox

Due to the danger and potential psychological damage of both typical and atypical Tramadol withdrawal effects, physicians are encouraged to gradually reduce the dosage of the drug over time, instead of allowing abrupt cessation. This should be done under the supervision of a medical provider, never alone. In addition to the dangers of experiencing withdrawal on one’s own, a doctor or other caretaker may be able to provide additional help, in case of irregular symptoms: a study in Drug and Alcohol Dependence suggests the administration of a low dose benzodiazepine to alleviate discomfort.

Withdrawal can be accompanied by intense cravings that prompt a recovering addict to relapse and start taking the drug again, simply to relieve those symptoms. In fact, whenever sudden discontinuation of opiate use occurs, the user is at high risk for further abuse. If you are currently addicted to Tramadol and want to stop using the drug, you are advised to do so carefully and following the Tramadol addiction detox regimen provided by your doctor. 

Tramadol Addiction Rehab

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 52 million individuals over the age of 12 in America have used prescription pills for non-medical purposes (i.e. abuse) in their lifetime. Further data shows that, in 2010, there were enough prescriptions for painkillers handed out by physicians to medicate every adult in the U.S. every 4 hours for a whole month. In that same year, data collected revealed that there were 5.1 million prescription painkiller abusers in America.

These staggering statistics unveil the large problem that prescription painkillers are creating for those who take them and those recovering from them. The availability of these drugs makes it markedly more difficult to become clean, the main reason why it is recommended for Tramadol abusers to admit themselves into a Tramadol addiction rehab program for the best chances of long-term success. 

Other data from NIDA shows that 5.9% of admissions to publicly funded substance abuse treatment programs in 2008 were due to opiate abuse. Of the 1.8 million admissions for rehab, 59.8% of those admitted were White and 14.8 percent were within the age group of 25-29. As a result, this age group is particularly at risk for abuse.

If you are currently being prescribed opiate pain relievers like Tramadol and feel that you have developed a dependence on them, reach out to a local qualified Tramadol addiction rehab center for help today. 

Opiate Use in Recovery

The easiest path for anyone concerned about abusing opioid pain relievers is avoiding these drugs completely. However, it is likely that, somewhere in your future you might require the need for opiate painkillers once more. Should you need to take these drugs in the future, do so under the close observation of the physician who prescribed them. Maintain the dosage as it has been prescribed and only take what is necessary to alleviate your pain. 

Keep in mind that opioid pain relievers should only be used for brief amounts of time to treat moderate to severe pain symptoms. These drugs alter the brain's chemical structure after extended abuse. Therefore, you are not only putting yourself at risk for continued dependency, but also potentially harmful and irreversible neurological problems.

All opioid analgesics include this chance of dependency, which is why they are categorized as Schedule IV drugs. Even though they have an accepted medical use, there is still a relatively low potential for either physical or psychological dependency. Therefore, an opioid addict’s best chance of recovery lies in his or her avoidance of future drug uses and exploring of other non-pharmacological methods of pain relief.

If you have chronic pain and are trying to avoid using opiate pain medications, ask your physician about the following alternative treatments for pain, described by AARP The Magazine:

  • Dietary supplements, like glucosamine and chondroitin, which might help to alleviate pain associated with conditions like arthritis

  • Acupuncture, which has been found to relieve pain symptoms associated with various illnesses

  • Herbal and natural supplements

  • Spinal manipulation

  • Physical therapy

  • Yoga 

  • Pilates

  • Nutrition––diets rich in fish and flaxseed include an abundance of Omega-3 fatty acids that relieve inflammation

  • Biofeedback

  • Massage

Remember, an individual prone to addiction, such as a recovering addict, will be putting his or her sobriety at risk if they begin taking prescription drugs like Tramadol again. If you are currently taking these drugs and are afraid of becoming addicted or if you realize that you have become addicted, seek out the help of an experienced substance abuse treatment provider today.

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