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Tramadol Addiction

Tramadol is an opioid with one-tenth the potency of morphine. It’s widely prescribed for both humans and dogs. However, it can still cause addictive and abusive behavior. For example, a Kentucky woman frequently cut her dog with razor blades, so she could take her pet to the vet and get more tramadol.

Tramadol has played a significant role in the U.S. opioid crisis. In 2012, it outranked oxycodone to become the #2 most commonly prescribed opioid in the U.S. There’s also a debate about whether the drug is actually a narcotic. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration classified it under Schedule IV of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which is the category of drugs considered to have a “low potential for abuse and low risk of dependence.”

Nevertheless, the abuse and misuse of tramadol persist. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reports 1.6 million people over the age of 12 misused tramadol products in 2016. 

What Is Tramadol?

Tramadol was developed in Germany in 1962, but it wasn’t introduced in the U.S. until 1995. It’s a fully synthetic opioid that’s used to treat moderate to severe pain. Tramadol is also intended for the ongoing treatment of pain, so it’s available as an extended-release or long-acting tablet. 

Tramadol acts on the opioid receptors in the brain and blocks the body’s ability to experience pain. It also has antidepressant and anti-anxiety properties. When taken in high doses, the drug can induce feelings of mellow euphoria.

While tramadol is viewed as safer than OxyContin, its misuse can lead to a litany of troubling symptoms and health complications. It can even become habit-forming. Prolonged tramadol use can invoke tolerance, dependence, and addiction in a user. The street names associated with tramadol include ultras, chill pills, and OxyContin Lite. Tramadol products are sold under brand names such as Ultram ER and Conzip.

Common Tramadol Drug Combinations

Tramadol is commonly abused with other drugs, which is an act known as polydrug use. In most cases, the user will combine tramadol with other substances to intensify their high or self-medicate. The most common drug combinations with Tramadol include:

  • Opioid painkillers
  • Alcohol
  • Benzodiazepines or sleeping pills
  • Cold medicine

The possibility of developing an addiction to Tramadol is higher when it is used with other substances. Due to its classification as a depressant drug, it is extremely dangerous to mix the medication with other CNS depressants such as opioids, alcohol, or sedative-hypnotics. When these drugs are used together, it increases the risk of respiratory depression, and it can also increase the odds of seizures or an overdose.

When someone starts to mix drugs to intensify their effect, it can be a sign that they’ve developed a tolerance to Tramadol.  If you are not experiencing the results as when you started using Tramadol and mix it with other drugs, it can be an indicator that you are slowly developing an addiction to the medication.

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What Are the Signs of Tramadol Addiction?

Tramadol users can develop a tolerance when they take more than the prescribed amount. Recreational users typically crush and snort tramadol pills to experience its immediate effects, thereby bypassing the extended-release feature.

Dependence on tramadol becomes apparent when users experience withdrawal symptoms after ceasing use. Tramadol is unique in that it produces two types of withdrawal symptoms. 

The first type includes flu-like symptoms, restlessness, and craving.

The second type includes:

  •     Hallucinations
  •     Paranoia
  •     Extreme anxiety
  •     Panic attacks
  •     Confusion
  •     Numbness
  •     Tingling in the extremities

As with other substances, people who struggle with a tramadol addiction will compulsively try to obtain the drug. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines addiction as “an inability to stop using a drug; failure to meet work, social, or family obligations; and, sometimes (depending on the drug), tolerance and withdrawal.”

After having already developed a high tolerance for tramadol, a user will also display these observable signs of addiction:

  • Sacrificing relationships
  • Hiding usage
  • Shopping for doctors
  •  Using of it before the prescription expires
  • Showing signs of anxiety, irritability, or, depression
  • Feeling like they can’t function without it
  • Not using it as its intended purpose
  • Taking more of it it to avoid uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms
  • Cannot stop using it, despite numerous attempts
  • Mixing tramadol with other drugs and alcohol
  • Continuing use despite severe consequences

How Does Treatment for Tramadol Work?

Tramadol addiction treatment begins with medical detoxification, which is the first and most critical step toward sobriety. In detox, you’ll be provided with medications to fight the symptoms of withdrawal. Our medical staff will provide round-the-clock care and supervision to ensure that your detox is safe, comfortable, and successful. This phase of care typically lasts between three and seven days. At the conclusion of your detox period, you’ll be evaluated and presented with options for ongoing treatment.

After detoxing from tramadol, it’s imperative that you stay at a residential treatment facility to continue your recovery. In residential treatment, you’ll receive counseling and therapy that explores the psychological roots of your tramadol addiction.

Here are the most commonly used therapy models:

  • You’ll receive personalized treatment to address the emotional issues that contribute to addiction.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) provides treatment that addresses the negative thoughts and actions associated with addiction. In this stage, you’ll learn practical strategies and skills to combat old habits.
  • Through dialectical behavioral therapy, you’ll learn about the triggers that lead to substance abuse.
  • In motivational interviewing, you’ll identify key issues, learn how to think positively and embrace changes that can improve your life.
  • You’ll learn how to incorporate meditation and mindfulness into your daily life.
  • Since addiction is often described as a family disease, family therapy will help you heal some of those wounds.
  • To ensure your post-treatment success, you’ll go through aftercare planning, which helps prevent relapse.

After your stay in residential treatment, you should pursue outpatient services that can provide additional support as you recover from your tramadol addiction. 

How Dangerous Is Tramadol?

Tramadol overdoses can be fatal. The symptoms of these overdoses include:

  •     Cold, clammy skin
  •     Muscle weakness
  •     Extreme drowsiness
  •     Slowed heartbeat
  •     Difficulty breathing
  •     Constricted pupils
  •     Unconsciousness
  •     Coma

Taking too much tramadol can cause you to experience serotonin syndrome, which occurs when high levels of serotonin accumulate in your body. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Serotonin is a chemical your body produces that’s needed for your nerve cells and brain to function. But too much serotonin causes symptoms that can range from mild (shivering and diarrhea) to severe (muscle rigidity, fever, and seizures). Severe serotonin syndrome can be fatal if not treated.”

When someone has serotonin syndrome, it can present itself through these signs:

  •     Diarrhea
  •     Rapid heartbeat
  •     Rapid changes in blood pressure
  •     Agitation or restlessness
  •     Abnormal eye movements
  •     Loss of coordination
  •     Increased body temperature
  •     Nausea and vomiting
  •     Overactive reflexes
  •     Hallucinations

If you or a loved one has overdosed or is displaying serotonin syndrome after prolonged tramadol use, immediately call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

Tramadol Abuse Statistics

  • In 2017, 41 million tramadol prescriptions were dispensed.
  • In 2016, 1.6 million people in the U.S. over the age of 12 had misused tramadol products in the past year, according to the NSDUH.
  • Between 2000 and 2012, global tramadol consumption increased by 186%.

Sources

Banks, L. (2018, October 05). Why Pharma Companies Need to Upgrade Their Intelligence. Retrieved from https://pharmaphorum.com/views-and-analysis/pharma-companies-need-upgrade-intelligence-ai/

Mercer, M. (2017, September 16). When Addicts Steal Their Pet's Painkillers, What's a Vet to Do? Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/when-addicts-steal-their-pets-painkillers-whats-a-vet-to-do/2017/09/15/009c5956-8cd4-11e7-91d5-ab4e4bb76a3a_story.html?utm_term=.ddf4c812b029

Motov, S. (2017, December 12). The Painful Reality Behind America's Surge in Tramadol Prescriptions. Retrieved from http://epmonthly.com/article/painful-reality-behind-americas-surge-tramadol-prescriptions/

Drugs.com. (n.d.). Tramadol Dosage Guide with Precautions. Retrieved from https://www.drugs.com/dosage/tramadol.html

Medline Plus. (n.d.). Drug Information: Tramadol. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a695011.html#why

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