Drug Profile: Tramadol

Drug Abuse and Addiction . - Tramadol

Is Tramadol a Narcotic – Is Tramadol an Opioid?

Tramadol is a habit-forming drug that is often prescribed for the purposes of pain management. But tramadol also poses serious side effects and high risks for addiction. The drug is both a type of opioid and a narcotic, abuse of which can lead to overdose and life-threatening complications.

Identifying Tramadol

The effects and composition of TramadolMost of the time, doctors prescribe tramadol as a painkiller for moderate to severe pain levels and following surgery or a significant injury. Sometimes the drug can also be helpful in treating those with chronic pain of the kind that occurs with conditions like fibromyalgia.

Tramadol is available under certain brand names including Ultram, Ultram ER, Ryzolt and ConZip, and can occur in different generic variations as well. (Tramadol is the main generic version.) Combinations that mix acetaminophen and tramadol sometimes sell under the brand name Ultracet.

Is tramadol a street drug? It can be. On the street, illicit users may call it “ultras,” “chill pills” or “trammies.”

Because of the various types and brands of this medication, it is available in several styles and shapes. Most often, doctors prescribe it in pill form. The pills are available in 50 mg doses. They tend to be oval-shaped, white pills. However, tramadol hydrochloride, another combination, is a white, round pill. Other colors and shapes are possible depending on the generic product used. Some forms of the drug are available as capsules.

What Does Tramadol Do?

Doctors prescribe tramadol as a pain treatment, most of the time for severe pain. The drug works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain. This, in turn, helps to reduce the intensity of the pain signals the brain feels, decreasing any discomfort the user feels.

Though tramadol can be highly addictive, it is one of the least potent opioid painkillers. As a result, it may not provide the highest level of pain relief for some people.

Doctors typically prescribe it as an extended-release medication. This allows the medication to slowly release into the body over a period of time, providing a small amount of pain relief for hours.

How Long Does Tramadol Stay in Your System?

Most of the time, doctors prescribe it to patients to take as needed. For those with a chronic condition, routine use of the drug is possible. In this case, patients take it every four to six hours. Extended-release pills can provide help for over a 12 to 24-hour period. The drug remains active and present in the system for between 6 and 24 hours— sometimes longer depending on dosage. The drug can be detected through toxicology screening for much longer.

Addiction to Tramadol

Because of its classification as an opioid, tramadol is a high-risk drug to use. As noted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an estimated 130 people die each day in this country from using opioids. In 2017, 47,000 people died as a result of taking opioids. Tramadol is among the drugs that can cause overdose and death, both with one-time use and with chronic use.

Understanding Addiction to Tramadol

For prescribing doctors treating patients’ pain, tramadol has often seemed like the safer alternative to other opioid painkillers in the same class. However, as the World Health Organization noted, tramadol has the same level of addiction potency as that of oxycodone. In those who use it, the drug creates cravings similar to those produced by oxycodone.

It’s also important to know that tramadol can create drug-seeking behaviors in individuals whether a person uses it just one time for pain relief or over a longer period. It is also perfectly possible to develop a tolerance for tramadol, meaning that a person may be more prone to taking more and more of the substance in order to get the same high. Chemical dependency and addiction can soon set in.

What Are the Dangers of Abuse of Tramadol?

Is tramadol bad for you? How does tramadol make you feel? These are questions many people ask. Tramadol can create feelings of euphoria that are like a “high”— and, in turn, drug-seeking behavior that can lead to addiction. Yet, tramadol can do more than just give way to addiction; it impacts a person’s health and mental wellbeing as well.

What Are the Short-Term Symptoms of Tramadol Abuse?

How to Identify TramadolInitially, tramadol can offer mild to moderate pain treatment. Yet, over the course of several uses, it can cause a number of more intense side effects. The most common side effects include:

  • Sleepiness or unexplained fatigue
  • Drowsiness
  • Feeling weak
  • Changes in appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Slurred speech

Patients should ask their doctor if they have any type of symptoms that impact overall coordination or day-to-day function. Most of the time, symptoms worsen for those who take a large dose of the medication.

What Are the Long-Term and Severe Symptoms of Tramadol Abuse?

Many people who wish to create the high caused by tramadol need to consume a higher level of the drug on a consistent basis. This increases the risks for overdose as well as creating risk factors for long-term dependency. Higher risk side effects include:

  • Confusion
  • Rigid, painful muscles
  • Agitation
  • Tremors
  • Lack of coordination
  • Lack of focus
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Slowed heart rate

If these complications occur, individuals should seek out treatment immediately. This may mean going to your nearest emergency room.

What Are Signs That Someone Is Abusing Tramadol?

Facts - Tramadol the drugRecognizing the potential for tramadol addiction is important. Because many perceive this drug as less of a risk than other types of opioids, it is easy to overlook the impact it can create. Some signs of potential abuse of this drug include the following:

  • Mood swings, especially when the drug is not accessible
  • Social and relationship problems, including angry and frustration
  • Visiting numerous doctors to obtain more tramadol, a.k.a. “doctor shopping”
  • Neglecting other responsibilities at home
  • Needing to take more of the drug to get the same results
  • Vomiting for large doses, which is common in tramadol overuse
  • Inability to feel happy, a sense of apathy

Treatment for Tramadol Addiction

Those with a tramadol addiction need to seek out care. The first step is to stabilize the individual. In an overdose situation, this includes emergency room treatment. Though many with an addiction to tramadol may try to stop taking the drug on their own, this is not always possible.

Withdrawal from Tramadol

Some individuals will experience significant withdrawal from tramadol. Withdrawal may include pain, anxiety, depression, and sweating. In many cases, treatment in a medically supervised detox center may be necessary in order to ensure a safe and complete withdrawal. In some cases, tramadol can cause life-threatening risks during withdrawal, including seizures— hence the recommendation to seek professionally supervised detox and stabilization.

Inpatient Care

Following supervised detox, inpatient treatment is the gold standard in care for anyone with tramadol addiction. Inpatient care, meaning 24/7 residential treatment consisting of highly supervised medical and clinical treatment, is the highest level of substance abuse care. This may last one to four weeks, or longer, depending on the individual’s unique needs.

Ongoing Treatment

After a patient is stable, he or she is likely to go back to their life and daily needs. However, ongoing outpatient treatment is still beneficial and most often necessary. This will include a focus on treatment related to addiction, such as how to overcome use and minimize relapse. Cognitive therapy treatment is one type of option many doctors use. Additionally, a 12-step program may be helpful.

Some people using tramadol may also have mental health disorders. Effective treatment will address these conditions as well. Most people benefit from both individual and group therapy sessions. Family treatment may also be beneficial to many patients.

Seeking Treatment for Tramadol Addiction at FHE Health

If you are struggling with an addiction to tramadol or another opioid, seeking immediate medical care and counseling is essential. At FHE Health, you can get comprehensive detox, residential and outpatient treatment for this drug. To learn more about our options, call (844) 299-0618 to speak to our compassionate counselors. We’re available 24/7.

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