Ultram is a synthetic opioid that is prescribed to treat moderate-to-severe forms of pain. Other brand names for Ultram include “Conzip,” “Ultracet,” “Ryzolt,” and “Rybix.” Like other opioids, Ultram can be habit-forming, so prescribing physicians must carefully monitor patients who take this drug, or prescribe it in conjunction with other medications. Because the drug has traditionally been associated with lower rates of addiction in comparison with other opioids, doctors have often favored its use to treat patients combating pain. However, studies have demonstrated that abuse of Ultram and its generic form, tramadol, is increasing. It’s therefore essential for individuals to understand Ultram, its uses, and its risks before taking this drug.
Introduction to Ultram
Ultram is a prescription opioid drug that works similarly to other opioid-based analgesic medications. It reduces pain by changing the way the body experiences and then responds to pain signals. Ultram works much like morphine does in the body, but it is far less potent. Its reduced potency makes it a better option for treating chronic pain conditions such as arthritis, migraines, and fibromyalgia. In theory, reduced potency means reduced risk for addiction. However, the risk for abuse is present as recent statistics demonstrate.
Even so, the Drug Enforcement Agency has listed Ultram as a Schedule IV controlled substance. Other Schedule IV substances include drugs like Xanax, Valium, Klonopin, and Ativan. The risk for dependence is higher among individuals who have experienced previous opioid dependence, but anyone taking an opioid-like Ultram faces a risk for dependency. Doctors wrote more than 41 million prescriptions for this drug in 2017, but in the last decade, emergency rooms have witnessed a 250% increase in visits related to Ultram misuse or abuse. The increase is leading many doctors to revisit their views about prescribing this powerful narcotic.
How Does Ultram Treat Pain?
Ultram works by flooding the brain’s receptors to deaden the feeling of pain. People typically take this drug in pill or capsule form. There are also extended release tablets that doctors may prescribe to treat pain associated with surgery or a chronic health condition. The drug helps to control pain by increasing levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters like norepinephrine and serotonin are associated with mood; increased levels of these neurotransmitters induce “feel-good” sensations and enhance the patient’s feeling of wellbeing.
How Long Does Ultram Stay in the Body?
The amount of time Ultram stays in the system depends on whether the tablets are slow release or what the actual dose is. Generally speaking, Ultram may be detected in the urine for up to four days but can be detected in hair follicles for as long as 90 days. A person’s metabolism, chemistry, hydration level, and body mass will also affect how long the drug stays in the body.
Does Ultram Cause Side Effects?
Ultram, like other narcotics, is associated with a wide array of possible side effects. These include:
- Rash or hives
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weakness and lethargy
- Loss of appetite
- Reduced sex drive
- Irregular menstrual cycle
- Erectile dysfunction
- Muscle ache
- Anxiety and depression
Higher doses of Ultram can induce other side effects, some of which may require emergency room care. Severe side effects of Ultram use / abuse can cause irregular heartbeat, seizures, loss of consciousness, respiratory failure, and death. Ultram can also pose serious health risks if taken with alcohol or other drugs like MAOIs that include tranquilizers or sedatives.
Ultram and Dependency
People using Ultram can develop a physical dependency on the drug. Though doctors try to minimize these risks with their prescribing practices, dependency can still occur. A person who becomes physically dependent on Ultram will begin to experience withdrawal symptoms— possibly even before their next dose is due. Common withdrawal symptoms to this drug include:
- Blurry vision
- Mood disturbance
- Suicidal thoughts
- Cravings for the drug
People who are prescribed this drug and who are under a doctor’s care can still develop a physical dependency to it. That’s why it’s important to tell your doctor about any changes you feel when taking the drug or if any withdrawal symptoms are present. Your doctor may choose to carefully wean you from the drug and prescribe a different one.
Physical dependency is one aspect of substance addiction. A person can be physically dependent on Ultram without being addicted to it. Addiction involves multiple dependencies that include physical, psychological, and behavioral aspects. Choosing not to tell your doctor about any withdrawal symptoms, increasing your dose without your doctor’s permission, and/or taking the medication sooner than prescription instructions state could indicate an abuse problem. Seeing other doctors to obtain this drug or obtaining it illegally are also indications that an abuse or addiction problem could be present.
Dangers of Ultram Abuse and Addiction
Like other opioids, Ultram can pose life-threatening dangers. Taking too much of this drug or taking it in conjunction with other drugs and alcohol can lead to overdose and death. However, overdose isn’t the only health concern. Abusing Ultram can lead to temporary and permanent physical and mental health concerns. People who abuse Ultram or who are addicted to this drug can develop mental health conditions like depression and anxiety and physical health problems like kidney damage, liver damage and failure, and irregular heartbeat. Long-term use of opioids like Ultram can also cause fertility damage.
People who buy Ultram on the street face other life-threatening risks. Like street versions of fentanyl, black-market Ultram may be manufactured for greater potency or it may contain other potentially dangerous—even lethal—drugs. It’s never advisable to take Ultram that has not been expressly prescribed to you by your physician and obtained from a licensed pharmacy.
Does Ultram Get Individuals ‘”High?”
The simple answer is: yes, Ultram can cause a person to experience a high. Taking Ultram can induce a feeling of euphoria. Taking a higher dose than what is prescribed, injecting or snorting the drug, or taking the drug with other substances like alcohol can increase the feeling of euphoria that people feel. However, this high is also associated with increased risk for overdose, which can have life-threatening results. When taking the drug as directed, people are unlikely to feel high. In fact, less than one percent of people who are prescribed this drug and take it in accordance with their doctor’s instructions report feeling high after taking it.
Treatment for Ultram Addiction
Like other opioid addictions, Ultram addiction is serious and requires professional help. Typically, the first step in the Ultram recovery process is medical detox. This might be performed on an inpatient or outpatient basis. During the detox process, the individual will be carefully weaned of the Ultram. Healthcare providers are likely to prescribe medications during detox to help reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms or to reduce cravings for the drug.
It’s important to remember that medical detox only targets the physical aspect of the addiction. Without treating the mental and behavioral dimensions of Ultram dependency, a high degree of risk for relapse remains. After a patient completes a program of detox treatment, they should begin treatment that targets these other aspects of their addiction.
FHE Health offers a wide array of behavioral health and addiction therapies for individuals who are addicted to opioids like Ultram. By consensus, the medical community regards addiction as a chronic illness; this means that it must be managed throughout the individual’s life to prevent relapse where possible. The most effective way to manage addiction is with abstinence. FHE Health features evidence-based therapies and treatments designed to help people successfully manage their addiction to Ultram or other drugs. If you think you have an abuse or addiction problem in association with Ultram or another substance, discuss your treatment options with FHE Health today.