Tramadol Addiction Symptoms, Signs, and Treatment

What Is Tramadol?

Tramadol hydrochloride (tramadol) is a widely-prescribed pain relief medication that doctors use in cases of moderate to severe pain management. Oftentimes they prescribe it in situations where normal pain medications don’t properly manage pain, such as post-surgery or injuries. Doctors sometimes treat chronic pain with extended-release forms of the substance.

Commonly prescribed tramadol medications include:

  • Ultram
  • Ultram ER
  • Conzip
  • FusePaq Synapryn
  • Rybix ODT
  • Ryzolt

Clinicians prescribe tramadol in various forms such as:

  • Solutions
  • Tablets
  • Extended-Release Tablets
  • Extended-Release Capsules
  • Suspension

Tramadol is considered an opioid analgesic and exists in the same family as other prescription opioids based on how it interacts with the body. Other opioid drugs include morphine, fentanyl, and oxycodone. Because doctors typically consider it a milder option than Schedule I and II substances, the government has given it a Schedule IV classification. In spite of this, people using the drug for pain management can still develop tramadol addiction or dependence.

Tramadol abuse occurs in all communities in the U.S. and does not only affect the stereotypical drug user. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), in 2019 1.6 million people abused tramadol.

How Does Tramadol Affect the Brain?

Tramadol works similarly to other opioids once it enters the body. The chemical seeks out and attaches to opioid receptors in the brain and other parts of your body. Once attached, the pain signals that the brain sends become dulled and people may also feel sensations of elation and euphoria.

A brain on tramadol might experience feelings of:

  • a sense of well-being
  • relaxation
  • euphoria
  • confusion

Like other opioids, sometimes even short-term use can lead to dependence (physical or mental), and possibly addiction to tramadol. In cases of long-term tramadol abuse, the brain may even begin to create more opioid receptors, minimizing the beneficial effects of tramadol and magnifying the withdrawal symptoms.

Is Tramadol Addictive?

Yes, tramadol addiction is a real problem and should be taken seriously. Those taking tramadol sometimes think that it isn’t addictive because of its lower potency compared to other opioids, but this can create a false sense of security. People with a history of substance abuse or addiction are typically more susceptible to tramadol addiction.

Like other opioid analgesics tramadol use can lead to physical dependence, mental dependence, and possibly tramadol abuse and addiction. Dependence forms when the drug interacts with the brain on a regular basis. This builds up a tolerance to the drug and diminishes the effects of the dosage.

Is There a Difference Between Addiction and Dependence?

Dependence does not always indicate someone has tramadol addiction, but it can lead to addiction and abuse. In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic people should continue taking tramadol for pain management even if they become physically dependent during the scheduled treatment.

Addiction occurs when someone begins to seek the drug outside of the normal treatment routine. This is also called mental dependence. They may seek out the drug because their body has built up a tolerance, or because they’re seeking the psychological feelings associated with taking the drug.

Signs of abuse differ from those of dependence and are going to differ from person to person. Those signs may include:

  • Using the medication outside the manner prescribed by a physician
  • Taking higher doses or more frequent doses
  • Obtaining more medication by falsely reporting losing the previous prescription
  • Requesting refills before the scheduled date
  • Obtaining multiple refills by doctor/pharmacy shopping
  • Asking someone else for pills or stealing pills from someone else
  • Constantly focusing on or obsessing over the next dose or refill

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Tramadol Addiction and Abuse?

Effects of Tramadol Use

Tramadol is an effective medication for moderate to severe pain management. Although its goal is to mitigate pain, people may notice other effects of tramadol while they’re using it. These effects may not be the same for everyone, and could depend on a variety of factors like age, weight, and diet. While using tramadol someone may notice:

  • a sense of well-being
  • feelings of relaxation
  • feelings of euphoria
  • pain relief
  • constipation
  • slower rate of breathing
  • dizziness
  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • itching
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • sweating
  • erectile dysfunction
  • confusion

Signs of Tramadol Dependence

A physical dependence forms when the body builds up a tolerance to tramadol due to regular use of the painkiller. If someone follows the schedule prescribed by their doctor and doesn’t deviate from the plan, this may be a normal part of the treatment routine. You will work with your doctor to safely phase out tramadol use and avoid withdrawal symptoms once treatment is no longer needed.

While clinicians acknowledge dependence may occur due to the chemical nature of the drug, the line between physical and mental dependence may become blurry. If you or a loved one are taking tramadol for pain management, it is important to keep an eye out for the following symptoms or behaviors:

  • Tolerance forming and need for more of the drug to feel the same effects
  • Withdrawal symptoms begin to present when you stop or cut down on the amount of the drug
  • Getting, using, and recovering from each use takes up an abnormal amount of your time
  • Pulling back from social or family engagements
  • Continuing use of the drug even though you are aware using it is causing physical, psychological, and family or social problems

Identifying one or more of the symptoms and behaviors early can prevent dependence from developing into a serious tramadol addiction or substance abuse disorder.

Signs of Tramadol Addiction and Abuse

Addiction manifests itself differently in everyone, but there are a number of common signs to look for if you suspect you or someone you love is experiencing addiction. In general, the most common sign is when someone deviates from their treatment plan in order to consume tramadol more frequently or in higher doses. Other signs include:

  • visiting multiple doctors or pharmacies to obtain more tramadol
  • using tramadol compulsively
  • neglecting traditional responsibilities at home, school, or work
  • drastic changes in mood
  • abnormal drowsiness
  • buying tramadol off the street illegally, stealing it, or using someone else’s pills
  • apathy
  • impaired coordination or motor skills
  • vomiting from taking larger than prescribed doses
  • upping dosages to experience the same effects
  • withdrawal symptoms after ceasing use
  • spending large amounts of money on tramadol or an unexplained lack of money
  • continuing to use tramadol despite being aware of negative consequences
  • spending a inordinate amounts of time using, recovering from, or looking for tramadol
  • using the medication differently than prescribed, including taking it more frequently
  • falsely reporting you lost your medication to get a refill
  • requesting a refill before the next scheduled date
  • spending more time than normal alone or secluded
  • dishonest behavior including stealing or lying
  • changing your social circle or abandoning good friends

Symptoms of Tramadol Addiction and Abuse

The physical manifestations of tramadol abuse may not always be obvious but there are some signs you can look for if you feel like you have or a loved one has begun to abuse it. These may vary for every individual but can include:

  • pupils that have shrunk (pinpoint pupils)
  • appetite changes
  • nausea or vomiting
  • drowsiness
  • slurred speech
  • headaches
  • impaired coordination
  • constipation
  • fever
  • dizziness
  • muscle aches
  • anxiety or Depression
  • sweating

Are There Causes or Risk Factors That Lead to Addiction?

The most common risk factor for tramadol addiction is a previous substance abuse disorder or opioid addiction. If you or a family member has experienced either in the past, talk with your doctor before beginning pain management treatment with tramadol.

Treatment for Tramadol Abuse or Addiction

Are There Withdrawal Symptoms?

Yes, after developing even a physiological dependence someone will experience withdrawal symptoms after stopping tramadol use. Withdrawal symptoms can be magnified in cases where someone has a substance abuse problem. This is why seeking treatment is an important step towards returning to normalcy.

We recommend that someone doesn’t quit ‘cold turkey’, as they are likely to experience more severe withdrawal symptoms. Tramadol withdrawal symptoms are similar to other opioid withdrawal symptoms and include:

  • agitation
  • nausea and vomiting
  • anxiety or Depression
  • headaches
  • general restlessness or restless legs
  • poor appetite
  • sweating
  • muscle pains and aches
  • blurred vision
  • insomnia
  • mood swings or irritability
  • tingling sensations
  • diarrhea
  • nightmares
  • dizziness
  • feeling cravings
  • shivering

While severe tramadol withdrawal symptoms are rarer than those listed above, some people may also experience:

  • numbness and tingling
  • confusion
  • extreme anxiety or depression
  • hallucinations
  • panic attacks
  • paranoia

In order to minimize the tramadol withdrawal symptoms you experience during detox, it’s important to manage the process with a professional in a safe setting. They will create an addiction treatment plan to successfully wean you off tramadol and minimize the negative aspects of withdrawal.

What Can I Expect From Addiction Treatment?

Addiction treatment begins with noticing there is a problem and taking action. The moment you contact one of our specialists is the moment you take your first step. In general we approach tramadol addiction treatment in a similar way to other opioid drugs. Patients will undergo a medical detox in order to taper dependence and pass through the withdrawal stage as painlessly as possible.

Why Alina Lodge?

Former patients and professionals alike recognize Alina Lodge as one of the top residential addiction treatment facilities in the United States. We have over 60 years experience providing quality individualized care to those who walk through our door. Not only can you expect to detox safely here, but you will leave ready to reclaim your life. 

At Alina we will be with you every step of the way starting with the admissions process. We will set up a plan with you that fits your needs and goals. In order to fully complete the rehabilitation process, you can expect to be with us for 28 days up to a few months. 

After completing medical detox, you will begin our residential treatment program. Some of the programs we offer include:

  • cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • dialectical behavior therapy 
  • mindfulness therapy
  • recreational therapy

Our caring professionals are ready to answer all of your questions and help you begin your fight to get your life back. Contact Alina Lodge at 908.663.0033 and we will get to work immediately to assist you.

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