Tramadol is a prescription pain medication that works in much the same way as other synthetic opioids. Tramadol works by blocking the pain receptors in the brain and also inhibiting serotonin and norepinephrine uptake.
Among opioid medications, tramadol is considered to be less prone to abuse and addiction. For this reason, tramadol has a DEA Schedule IV classification, as opposed to the Schedule II classification associated with oxycodone and hydrocodone.
Regardless, tramadol use can result in a substance use disorder. In addition to the danger of possible addiction or dependence, tramadol is also known to cause several adverse effects. Continue reading to learn more about the risks associated with this narcotic.
What is Tramadol?
Tramadol, or tramadol hydrochloride, is an opioid medication sold under the brand name Ultram. Tramadol has approximately the same potency as codeine, but only about one-tenth the strength of morphine. Tramadol comes in standard and extended-release formulations, and a product sold under the brand name Ultracet combines tramadol with acetaminophen.
Tramadol is often prescribed to treat neuropathic pain that results from diabetes, injuries, or stroke. It is also prescribed for controlling pain associated with osteoarthritis, back pain, and fibromyalgia. Tramadol is used in veterinary medicine as well.
4 Tramadol Addiction Signs
Although tramadol was designed to be a safer alternative to more potent prescription analgesics, tramadol abuse and addiction is still an issue. The effects of this medication have the potential to induce the same types of substance-seeking behaviors as other opioid drugs.
As an individual’s tolerance to the tramadol increases, the need to increase the dosage also rises. This occurs because the brain has made adaptations, and more of the tramadol is required to experience the previous effects. Four signs of tramadol addiction include:
- Unable to Control Tramadol Use. The individual may attempt to reduce the dosage or discontinue the tramadol, but cannot.
- Experiencing Substance Cravings. Powerful cravings drive multiple substance-seeking actions, perpetuating the addiction cycle.
- Doctor Shopping. When the refills are denied, the individual may seek out other physicians to acquire new prescriptions for the tramadol.
- Experiencing Withdrawal Symptoms. When the tramadol effects wear off, the individual begins to suffer withdrawal symptoms.
Individuals with chronic pain conditions may develop dependence to tramadol with extended use. There are other pain management options available that provide relief without exposure to opioids like tramadol.
What to Expect During Tramadol Withdrawal
Because tramadol is in the opioid family of medications, withdrawal symptoms will closely mimic symptoms of other opioids like oxycodone or hydrocodone. These withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Anxiety and depression
- Nausea and vomiting
- Restless legs
- Poor appetite
- Muscle pain
- Blurred vision
- Mood swings
- Tingling sensations
Because tramadol affects the same areas of the brain as opioids and antidepressants, individuals going through withdrawal management may experience symptoms related to both of those medications.
In addition, secondary tramadol withdrawal symptoms can sometimes occur, which can possibly persist for months. These secondary symptoms might include restlessness, sleep disturbance, or dysphoria. Dysphoria is a state of general unease or dissatisfaction, often presenting with symptoms of anxiety, depression, or agitation.
Duration of Tramadol Withdrawal
Withdrawal symptoms usually begin within hours of discontinuing or reducing the medication and can linger for several weeks. Certain factors can influence the duration and severity of the withdrawal symptoms, such as the duration of tramadol use disorder and the dosage history. Generally, tramadol withdrawal takes about two weeks.
Careful monitoring of the symptoms allows the care team to provide medical interventions in response to withdrawal symptoms as they emerge. Psychological support is also provided to assist with any secondary mental health symptoms. Following withdrawal management, a comprehensive rehabilitation program offers the next phase of treatment for tramadol recovery.