Tramadol Addiction Treatment
Tramadol Addiction, Side Effects, Dangers, Usage, Overdose, Detox Treatment & Addiction Rehab
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What Is Tramadol?
Tramadol is an opioid pain reliever that is typically used after surgery to alleviate pain. It is sometimes used to reduce dental pain. Aside from its analgesic properties, tramadol also prevents the reuptake of norepinephrine and serotonin, resulting in mood changes. Using tramadol for more prolonged periods can change your brain chemistry, and make tramadol detox more challenging. This is the result of having chemical dependence on tramadol.
There are a large number of other drugs that may interact with tramadol, that is why it is important to always tell your doctor about other medicines you are taking and avoid developing a dependence on tramadol.
As you become more dependent on tramadol, your body behaves like it needs tramadol to thrive. Hence, when you suddenly stop using it, you’ll experience physical and psychological effects such as intense cravings and irritability. Experiencing tramadol detox can make it complicated for you to think well and makes you tempted to use tramadol excessively. If you want to heal yourself from this, you need to eliminate tramadol’s dependence on your mind and body. Tramadol detox is the only process to do it.
According to MedinePlus.gov, tramadol comes as a tablet, a solution (liquid), an extended-release (long-acting) tablet, and an extended-release (long-acting) capsule to take by mouth. The regular tablet and solution are taken usually with or without food every 4 to 6 hours as needed. The extended-release tablet and extended-release capsule should be taken once a day. Take the extended-release tablet and the extended-release capsule at about the same time of day every day.
If you are taking the extended-release capsule, you may take it with or without food. If you are taking the extended-release tablet, you should either always take it with food or always take it without food. Take tramadol exactly as directed. Do not take more medication as a single dose or take more doses per day than prescribed by your doctor. Taking more tramadol than prescribed by your doctor or in a way that is not recommended may cause serious side effects or death.
What Is Tramadol Used For?
Tramadol is a prescription Opioid Painkiller for moderate pain. It’s often used for pain after surgery or for chronic pain from conditions like fibromyalgia. Tramadol most often comes in 50mg, 100mg, 150mg, 200mg, and 300mg tablets and is taken orally. Tramadol should never be taken in combination with other Opioids. Brand names of Tramadol include:
- Ultram ER
Common street names for Tramadol include Trammies, Chill Pills, and Ultras. As a Narcotic Painkiller, Tramadol has the potential for abuse and can be dangerous in large doses. Tramadol works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain, which relieves pain. Although it is effective at treating mild to moderate acute or chronic pain, Tramadol is one of the least potent Painkillers available. However, Tramadol can still be addictive, especially when taken for a long period of time or when taken in larger doses than prescribed.
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How Tramadol Is Used Illicitly?
Tramadol use is on the rise. According to government statistics, tramadol prescriptions increased by 88% in just five years, from 23.3 million in 2008 to 43.8 million in 2013. With all that tramadol floating around, more and more people are finding themselves in trouble. Between 2005 and 2011, the number of tramadol-related emergency room visits involving abuse or misuse increased by 250%.
Regardless of whether you are abusing it or taking it therapeutically, tramadol can cause tolerance and dependence. When you become physically dependent on a drug, you experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking it without going through a medically-supervised tramadol detox.
During tramadol withdrawal, you can expect to feel flu-ish and sick to your stomach. You may sweat and have chills. You might have trouble sleeping and feel much more irritated and aggravated than usual. You might also experience varying degrees of anxiety and depression. Tramadol withdrawal symptoms typically begin within one or two days of your last dose and usually resolve in about a week.
In most cases, the symptoms of tramadol withdrawal are going to be less intense than those that occur with other opioids, like heroin and oxycodone. Tramadol’s effects on the opioid receptors are comparatively mild, which means that it will be easier for your brain to adjust to its absence.
Your withdrawal experience will also depend on the factors that led you to become dependent on tramadol in the first place, such as your level of pain and history of substance abuse. An opioid use disorder or addiction presents additional complications. If you want to heal yourself from this, you need to eliminate tramadol’s dependence on your mind and body. Tramadol detox is the only process to do it.
Tramadol is often prescribed because it has less addictive potential than other Opioid Painkillers. While most Painkillers are Schedule II substances under the Controlled Substances Act, Tramadol is a Schedule IV substance. Tramadol is abused for its calming and euphoric effects. People who abuse Tramadol usually feel relaxed and happy. People with severe pain may also take higher doses of the drug, which puts them at higher risk of serious side effects, including seizures and respiratory depression.
Frequent Tramadol users may become addicted and graduate to harder Painkillers or illicit drugs to satisfy their cravings. As a Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressant, Tramadol slows down lung and heart function. Those who take very large doses of Tramadol (much higher than what would be prescribed) can stop breathing altogether and may experience a fatal overdose. Symptoms of Tramadol overdose can include:
- Respiratory depression
- Abnormally low blood pressure
- Slow heart rate
- Sweaty or clammy skin
- Weak muscles
- Pinpoint pupils
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Short-Term Effects of Tramadol
Tramadol works by modifying the processing of pain signals traveling between the nerves and the brain. However, it has several different targets in the nervous system—each imparting contributions to tramadol’s pain-relieving and, sometimes, mood-altering properties. However, two well-known effects of tramadol are considered to be the most relevant for its ability to relieve pain and encourage abuse.
First, like heroin, codeine, and all other opiate analgesics, tramadol binds to opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord. These receptors are responsible for both the pain-relieving effects that patients need and, at higher doses, the euphoric effects that abusers seek.
Because tramadol is much less potent than other commonly abused narcotics when it is injected, it was thought to be a safe alternative to other painkillers like morphine. However, when taken by mouth, tramadol is converted into another compound called O-desmethyl tramadol, which is a much more potent activator of opioid receptors than tramadol itself. As a result, users may get high on tramadol, even if that was not their intention when they first started taking the drug.
The second important mechanism of tramadol is that it raises the brain levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine, similar to antidepressant drugs like venlafaxine (Effexor). Ultram’s effects on serotonin and norepinephrine signaling in the brain are thought to be partially responsible for the drug’s ability to reduce depressive and obsessive-compulsive symptoms in patients taking it. These effects on mood may cause some patients, like the women quoted above, to take tramadol in larger doses and more often than prescribed, putting them on a path to dependence.
Short-term effects of tramadol include:
- Lack of pain. Tramadol is a painkiller; it modifies the transmission of pain signals to the brain so that you experience less intense pain while you are taking it.
- Elated mood. Tramadol works in a similar way to many antidepressant medications in that it increases the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in your brain. This may lead to feelings of euphoria and well-being. For some individuals, these pleasant symptoms serve to reinforce a pattern of continued tramadol use.
- Anxiety reduction. Tramadol helps some users feel relaxed and calm because of the way it changes brain chemistry.
These symptoms and signs can contribute to a developing tramadol addiction, especially if the individual in question is concurrently experiencing depression and/or anxiety issues.
Long-Term Effects of Tramadol
An increasing number of practitioners shy away from prescribing Tramadol for long-term use due to knowledge of the undesirable effects that are experienced when this drug is used over a long period of time becomes more common. These effects may vary, but they often include:
- Tolerance: As tramadol works by changing a person’s brain chemistry, there is a risk of developing tolerance to this drug. As the body adapts to tramadol’s presence, users need larger doses of the drug to feel its painkilling and euphoric effects.
- Physical dependence: Along with tolerance, many users experience physical dependence if they use tramadol for a long period of time. Their bodies adapt to the presence of the drug and soon require tramadol in order to function properly. If a dependent individual stops taking tramadol, they may become physically ill due to the onset of a withdrawal syndrome.
- Cognitive decline: Many opioid drugs are associated with cognitive impairment and slowed reaction times. Complex tasks may become more difficult with the long-term use of tramadol, and users may present a danger to themselves or others when driving.
The side effects of tolerance and dependence may ultimately lead to a tramadol addiction. Like other kinds of prescription drug abuse, many individuals struggling with an addiction to tramadol need not obtain their drug from an illicit market to continue their cycle of dependence; they begin taking it as prescribed and then take a larger dose on their own when the medication stops working. People may, at some point resort to methods such as “doctor shopping” or prescription forgery to guarantee an uninterrupted supply of the pharmaceutical they find themselves hooked on.
Can You Get Addicted to Tramadol?
Drug addiction is characterized by a strong, uncontrollable desire to continue taking the drug despite medical or social consequences. When a person suffers from addiction, their life revolves around the drug and taking or finding more of it. An important distinction to make when talking about dependence and tolerance is that they aren’t necessarily synonymous with addiction.
For instance, a person who follows their prescribed orders for tramadol for some time may very well develop some tolerance and physiological dependence but not otherwise exhibit the compulsive behaviors associated with addiction. If a person is taking tramadol for chronic pain, they may develop a tolerance to the drug’s effects and need larger doses in order to achieve the desired effects. Tolerance can develop at different rates and severity depending on the individual user.
Long-term use of an opioid analgesic like tramadol can lead to physical dependence, meaning the body becomes accustomed to the presence of the drug and actually needs the drug in order to feel “normal.” Dependence manifests as withdrawal symptoms if the person abruptly discontinues taking tramadol or significantly reduces their dosage. Physical dependence to tramadol may not occur until after many weeks of continued use.
Anyone can develop a drug dependence, but those with substance abuse issues or a history of addiction face a higher risk. While clinical studies show that tramadol withdrawal syndrome is not particularly severe, it is possible for users to experience some uncomfortable symptoms.
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Tramadol Addiction Symptoms
Tramadol addiction can have serious negative effects on every aspect of your life and health. When an addiction develops, you may feel that you are unable to cope with everyday life without the drug and experience intense anxiety if you can’t obtain it. With continued use of the drug, you may experience physical symptoms of tramadol addiction, including insomnia, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and constant drowsiness.
Some people combine tramadol with other substances or take it in a way in which it was not intended, such as by crushing the pills and snorting the powder to enhance the effects. Tramadol should never be mixed with other sedative drugs or alcohol due to the potential for serious complications. When one or more depressant substances are combined, the consequences are often severe. The central nervous system will be affected, and this could result in breathing and heart rate slowing to dangerous levels. A severely depressed central nervous system can result in respiratory failure, cardiac arrest, and death.
As your tramadol addiction progresses, it will creep into every aspect of your life, with harmful consequences wherever it touches. You are likely to become preoccupied with the drug and your life will start to revolve around it. You may find yourself avoiding loved ones, neglecting your responsibilities and experiencing financial problems due to losing your job or performing poorly at work.
In addition, tramadol addiction can also lead to the use of illegal drugs, which in turn can result in drug addiction. This often occurs because a person is unable to acquire a tramadol prescription, so they buy illegal drugs instead to satisfy their cravings. This not only puts you in danger, as street drugs are notorious for containing all kinds of harmful substances, but it can also get you in trouble with the law.
Tramadol addiction in pregnant women is very dangerous as tramadol can cause severe and even life-threatening withdrawal symptoms that can occur in new-born babies.
Side Effects of Tramadol Addiction
The vast majority of tramadol abusers actually have a history of substance abuse (typically a substance other than tramadol), and many have been prescribed the medication legally for pain control purposes.
However, due to developed tolerance, users can become out of control and use far more tramadol than recommended, ultimately becoming addicted both physiologically and psychologically to the drug. Tramadol addiction can have adverse effects on the user’s social, occupational, and mental health.
Many tramadol abusers report strained family relationships, as well as troubles in the workplace and/or at school. Due to their perpetual need to obtain tramadol, many abusers report financial trouble associated with clinic visits or purchasing the drug illegally. Pregnant women may also experience trouble with their developing fetus while using tramadol, as the newborn may be physiologically addicted when born to a tramadol-addicted mother.
Can You Overdose on Tramadol?
Overdosing on any drug can be harmful to the body, but in the case of tramadol an overdose can be potentially fatal. Below are symptoms that could indicate a tramadol overdose:
- Cold and clammy skin
- Constricted pupils
- Slow heart rate
- Respiratory depression
Some of these symptoms may result in death if untreated. If you suspect that you or someone else has overdosed on tramadol, call 911 immediately. While it is possible to overdose on tramadol alone, mixing it with other substances can increase your risk of overdose. Some tramadol formulations (Ultracet and generic combination) contain acetaminophen, which may place the user at additional overdose risk due to acetaminophen toxicity and liver injury.
When a person develop a significantly severe tramadol dependence, a supervised medical detox may be the safest start to recovery. Even as an atypical, relatively low-potency opioid, because of the risk of an unpleasant withdrawal syndrome, it’s not recommended that users abruptly stop their use of the drug. Professional detox and treatment programs will help patients taper off the drug slowly while using behavioral therapies to address the root cause of drug abuse.
Tapering is the gradual process of slowly reducing the individual’s daily dose of a drug. This steady reduction, as opposed to an abrupt cessation of the drug, gives the body time to adjust to smaller and smaller amounts of the drug without going into shock. Depending on your level of addiction you might taper in a hospital setting, inpatient detox center, or outpatient detox program.
Your tapering schedule will be determined by a number of factors including how long you used tramadol, how much of the drug you were used to using, your health, your age, any co-occurring mental health issues, and whether you are abusing any other substances in addition to tramadol. In general, your doctor will decrease your dose by 10% each week, but if you have been using opioids for a very long time, your tapering may need to go even slower—perhaps a 10% decrease each month. If you are pregnant and tapering off of opioids, your care may need to be coordinated with specialists to minimize the risk to your baby.
After you have completed detox and you are stabilized, your doctor will refer you to the most appropriate next step for your treatment plan.