Tramadol is a prescription medication used to treat severe pain. It works alone or in combination with other drugs to treat chronic pain. Originally, this painkiller was not as tightly regulated as drugs classified as opiates.
However, after the medical community recognized Tramadol abuse and addiction, the FDA changed the drug’s classification in 2014.
The FDA now considers it a controlled substance, which means it has medical uses but there is at least a moderate risk of misuse or addiction. This includes limiting the number of refills available and requiring a new prescription every six months.
Despite its risk of misuse and addiction, tramadol is safer than many pain medications. The FDA officially classified it as a Schedule IV opioid analgesic drug. Doctors prescribe it to treat osteoarthritis and other painful conditions. It works by altering how your brain senses pain.
Like all drugs, tramadol produces side effects, including:
The side effects of tramadol are usually mild and typically ease in a few days of use. However, users of tramadol should speak to their doctor if any of these side effects are severe.
Some users of tramadol experience more severe side effects that require immediate medical attention, including:
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There is a risk of overdose when using tramadol. Overdose symptoms include:
There are mild occurrences of some of these symptoms when someone begins using tramadol. It’s important to contact your doctor if you have questions about symptoms or if you believe symptoms are severe and not related to your body initially adjusting to the medications.
Some tramadol users have a higher risk of overdose. For example:
The higher dose of medication the greater the likelihood of overdose. This is one of the reasons doctors usually begin with a smaller dose and increase it gradually as the patient responds.
The more often you take a drug the higher the risk of overdose. People using tramadol must keep careful track of their daily doses. This ensures they do not overdose due to forgetting if they have taken their daily dose.
People with a history of mental illness might accidentally or intentionally take too much tramadol. The use of this medication should be carefully monitored for people who previously struggled with managing their usage of medications.
Additionally, tramadol’s warning label includes a risk of suicidal ideations. This is especially of concern when the drug is prescribed to people diagnosed with depression or who previously attempted suicide.
Tramadol is addictive, though not as highly addictive as other pain medications. However, people with a history of substance misuse or addiction have a risk for misusing tramadol. Mixing this drug with alcohol or other drugs also poses a risk of overdose.
Using too much tramadol puts a person at risk for a variety of different symptoms. For example:
A dose of more than 2,000 mg of tramadol can result in an overdose. This is at least five times the recommended daily dose of the drug. Smaller doses pose less of a risk of overdose, but how someone ingests the drug plays a role.
The faster the dosage makes it into your bloodstream, the higher the risk of overdose.
They can be. Tramadol overdose typically triggers serotonin syndrome. It might not result in immediate death, but too much serotonin makes you sick and can be fatal over time.
Symptoms of serotonin syndrome include:
Mixing tramadol with other medications, including antidepressants and antipsychotics, increases the risk of serotonin syndrome.
There are several tools available for reducing the risk of opioid overdose. For example:
Both outpatient and residential addiction treatment programs are available for people with a tramadol addiction. In most cases, overcoming an addiction to tramadol requires detox, ongoing treatment, and access to relapse support.
Tramadol detox removes the drug from the body. The reduction in toxicity is performed on an inpatient or outpatient basis.
In most cases, doctors encourage tramadol users to slowly wean off the drug under medical supervision. This reduces the intensity of withdrawal symptoms and the risk of relapse. Medically supervised tapering off of a drug is almost always more effective than going “cold turkey.”
In addition to detox, tramadol-addicted individuals also focus on eliminating their psychological dependence on the drug. A variety of therapies help with this process, including one-on-one counseling, group therapy, and 12-step program participation.
People with co-occurring disorders must receive treatment for both tramadol addiction and the other issue.
For example, someone diagnosed with depression or anxiety must treat those conditions along with the addiction to the drug. If their co-occurring issue is an additional addiction, that should be treated as well.
Specific treatment options used to deal with tramadol addiction include:
You don’t have to overcome your addiction alone. Professional guidance and support is available. Begin a life of recovery by reaching out to a specialist today.
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Dhesi, Manraj, et al. “Tramadol.” PubMed, StatPearls Publishing, 2021, https://www.pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30725745/.