How Addictive is Tramadol? Tramadol Abuse Explained

Several neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, seizures, and serotonin syndrome have all been associated with the long-term use of tramadol. Having this in mind, you may be wondering—“is tramadol addictive?”

This has been studied for nearly 30 years, and over time, the conclusion has slightly changed. During their studies, researchers have learned more about tramadol and its associated side effects and risks. Even when used exactly as prescribed, stopping the use of tramadol can result in withdrawal symptoms, cravings, and a potential relapse.

If you want to know more about tramadol abuse and learn how to overcome it, this article is a great starting point. Keep reading to get all the answers you need!

What is Tramadol? 

Tramadol is a prescription pain medication, usually prescribed after surgery or to individuals suffering from chronic pain conditions. You may recognize it by one of its more commonly used brand names, such as Ultram, ConZip, or Ryzolt

This medication is considered an opioid now, but that hasn’t always been the case. This drug was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1995, and it was not considered an opiate at that time. 

Over time, it became clear that this substance acted similarly to opioids like oxycodone and morphine, and incidents of abuse and addiction became more common.

However, it wasn’t until 2014 that the FDA designated tramadol as a controlled substance. Since then, it has been regulated more strictly when being prescribed to patients. Although the potential for abuse and addiction is present, tramadol is considered to be safer in comparison to the majority of other controlled substances.

The medication has been classified as a Schedule IV drug because it is considered to have a low abuse potential and is useful in the medical treatment of pain. Unlike tramadol, drugs like heroin are classified as Schedule I drugs because they have such a high abuse potential and absolutely no acceptable medical use. 

Effects of Tramadol

While tramadol is frequently prescribed because of its low abuse potential, it is also frequently misused because of the euphoric and calming effects it can have. Still, whether you’re abusing it or using it as directed, this medication can always cause the following side effects: 

  • Seizures
  • Respiratory depression
  • Decreased appetite
  • Drowsiness
  • Unconsciousness
  • Confusion
  • Coma
  • Gastrointestinal issues like nausea and vomiting
  • Depression/Anxiety
  • Changes in behavior
  • Dry mouth
  • Irregular heartbeat

The length of time that these side effects will last after the most recent use depends on the form of tramadol that was taken. If you have taken the immediate-release formulation of the drug, the effects will last for approximately 4 to6 hours. But, if you have taken the extended-release version of the drug, the effects are likely to last anywhere from 12 to 24 hours. 

Serotonin Syndrome 

Serotonin is a chemical that is naturally produced by the body in order for the brain and nerve cells to function properly. However, if too much serotonin is present in the body, an individual can experience symptoms that can range from potentially dangerous to life-threatening. 

Tramadol is a substance that includes SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). In some cases, the use of this medication can lead to an individual experiencing notably high levels of serotonin, and this occurrence is referred to as serotonin syndrome. Some common symptoms of this condition may include:

  • Shivering
  • Goosebumps
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Pupil dilation
  • Excessive sweating
  • Restlessness/Irritability
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Loss of coordination
  • Fever
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness

Mixing Tramadol With Other Drugs

When a person is abusing several drugs at one time, this is referred to as polydrug use. An individual may use additional substances in order to increase the high or the level of pain relief that they would usually achieve by taking tramadol alone.

It is extremely dangerous to combine tramadol with opioids, alcohol, or sedative-hypnotic drugs. This is because, like tramadol, they are central nervous system (CNS) depressants. This means that you are significantly increasing your chances of respiratory depression, seizure, overdose, coma, and even death if you combine this medication with the above-mentioned substances. 

Potential drug interactions are the reason that you should always be sure to inform your doctor of any other medications, vitamins, or supplements that you are taking. It is also important not to take any prescription medication that hasn’t been prescribed to you personally to avoid any potentially dangerous drug interactions. 

is tramadol addictive

Tramadol Addiction vs. Dependence

The terms addiction and dependence are frequently used interchangeably, but they don’t necessarily mean the same thing. When looking at the bigger picture, dependence is just one part or sign of addiction. 

The term ‘addiction’ is generally used when discussing the harmful behaviors and mental illnesses associated with drug abuse. While it can be defined by a lot of its negative signs and symptoms, there is also a medical, biological root cause that leads someone to become addicted to a specific substance. 

Meanwhile, the term ‘dependence’ is typically used to refer to the physical aspect of addiction. It’s all about the physical tolerance that someone has to a certain drug and the physical symptoms of withdrawal that they experience when they’re not using it as much as they have become accustomed to. 

Signs of Tramadol Addiction

When an individual takes an opioid for extended periods of time, they begin to build their tolerance to it and become dependent upon it. This can happen even if the drug has been prescribed by a licensed medical professional. 

Is tramadol an addictive drug? Or, more precisely—is one tramadol a day addictive? The answer to this is yes. Even though it’s considered to be one of the safer opioid options in regard to addiction potential, this is still a possibility. When someone uses a drug and experiences the positive feelings associated with euphoria, it triggers the brain’s reward system, which then encourages repeat use.

As someone builds up their tolerance to a drug, they begin to require a higher dosage to achieve the same results, whether that be pain relief or euphoria and relaxation. This is what often leads to the misuse of tramadol, which can lead to overdose or even death in severe cases. 

Tramadol Addiction Signs

When someone becomes addicted to tramadol (or any other opioid), there are some common signs. These include:

  • Taking the medication in a way other than as prescribed 
  • Experiencing difficulty reducing dosage or stopping use altogether 
  • Spending the majority of time searching for, obtaining, and using the drug 
  • Experiencing intense cravings or strong urges to use the drug
  • Falling behind on obligations at home, school, or work due to frequent substance use 
  • Ignoring personal problems caused by substance abuse and continuing use anyway 

Tramadol Withdrawal Symptoms

Once someone has become dependent on a drug and has built up a tolerance to it, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to stop using that substance. This is because they will likely begin to experience negative side effects that can be both uncomfortable and dangerous once the drug begins to leave their body. This process is called tramadol withdrawal.

Symptoms of tramadol withdrawal may include:

  • Tremors/Shivering
  • Anxiety/Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Hallucinations
  • Agitation/Irritability
  • Headaches
  • Confusion
  • Restless legs
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Excessive sweating
is tramadol addictive

Tramadol Withdrawal Duration

The severity and length of withdrawal can depend on several factors, including the dosage that you’ve been taking. It’s also important to determine whether or not your body has become physically dependent on the drug. 

The onset of withdrawal symptoms can occur anywhere from 8 to 24 hours after the last dose was taken. In most cases, they will persist for up to 10 days if left untreated. 

The intensity of withdrawal symptoms can be lessened by tapering off the medication instead of stopping it all at once. It is always recommended that you consult with your physician before making any adjustments to your medications.

What to do in Case of Relapse

A relapse typically happens when an individual has stopped using tramadol but is ultimately unable to stay drug-free after a period of time. This is most likely to occur a few weeks or months after your last drug use. 

In order to avoid the risk of tramadol relapse, it is crucial to address the dependency correctly the first time. Proper and proven medical treatment to address your tramadol dependency can ensure success without the fear of relapse. 

ANR Treatment for Opioid Addiction

If you or someone you love is struggling with the difficult cycle of addiction, withdrawal, and relapse with tramadol or any other opioid, we invite you to consider treatment at the ANR Clinic. Accelerated Neuro-Regulation was developed by Dr. Andre Waismann, who has been studying addiction for over 30 years. 

Here at the ANR Clinic, we believe in using modern medicine to treat the biological root cause of addiction. During this process, the physicians will modulate and regulate the endorphins and opioid receptors in your brain, returning them to a pre-addiction state. 

Accelerated Neuro-Regulation has helped over 24,000 people overcome their addiction without intense cravings or withdrawal symptoms

On average, this process requires a hospital stay of approximately 36 hours in most cases. During this time, you will be sedated for approximately 4 to 6 hours and monitored by an anesthesiologist, an experienced physician, and a team of critical care staff who will make sure the treatment is going according to plan. 

Key Takeaways

Tramadol hasn’t always been considered a controlled substance because its addiction potential is lower in comparison to other opioid painkillers. However, while the potential is lower, dependency and addiction still represent risks associated with the use of this medication. 

If you think you may have an addiction to tramadol, it is important that you talk to your physician about the best way to overcome your dependency. They can help you taper off your medication safely while reducing the withdrawal symptoms. But if you’re looking for a more modern way to conquer your addiction for good without any cravings or symptoms of withdrawal, Accelerated Neuro-Regulation is for you!

Schedule a FREE consultation with one of our physicians today

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