After the first sign of morning, Mahmoud would take 30 pills. Half-an-hour later after breakfast, he’d take another 20 and, then, another 60 over the course of the afternoon and evening. When Mahmoud was high – which was all the time – he would cut himself. He says he “couldn’t feel a thing.”
Mahmoud’s drug of choice was tramadol, a highly addictive and inexpensive opioid that acts on receptors in the brain to stop the body from feeling pain. Doctors usually prescribe the lowest possible dose of Tramadol based on a patient’s level of pain. But for addicts like Mahmoud who seek to mentally escape from life’s daily travails, excessive amounts of Tramadol promise an immediate trip to chemical-induced heaven not found on earth.
Tramadol isn’t the strongest or most addictive opioid, but its attraction to people who perform grueling tasks — especially in countries where the drug is not regulated — is somewhat understandable. Although the synthetic pain killer is considered milder than Oxycontin, tramadol continues to hook addicts in the United States and around the world and gets them quite high.
What Is Tramadol?
Taken orally, Tramadol works on the brain to help relieve moderate to severe pain. For years, Tramadol seemed to offer all the benefits of more powerful addictive drugs, but, unlike other opioids, without the high probability of dependency and abuse. As a result, doctors prescribed Tramadol as a safer alternative to pain-reducing narcotics, such as Vicodin and Percocet.
Much like any antidepressant, a tablet or extended-release capsule of Tramadol acts on the central nervous system to maintain levels of feel-good chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin and norepinephrine. Belonging to a group of medicines labeled as opioid analgesics, the drug is good for short-term or chronic pain relief and is often administered after surgery. While Tramadol has proven to be effective for relieving pain, research suggests some side effects during the first three days may include:
- Difficulty sleeping or falling asleep
- Uncontrollable shaking of legs, arms, and hands
- Muscle tightness
- Mood changes
- Heartburn or indigestion
- Dry mouth
As an opioid, Tramadol can lead to addiction. Prolonged use can result in mental or physical dependence along with severe side effects when dosage levels are no longer maintained or abruptly stopped. This is especially true for people who combine Tramadol use with alcohol, illicit street drugs or overused prescription medications.
What Is Tramadol Withdrawal?
Withdrawal is the body’s response to the removal of a drug it had become desensitized to over time. Within a few hours of abruptly stopping Tramadol use altogether or reducing levels of the drug that act of the nervous system, an addict who has used the drug for any length of time will likely experience some degree of withdrawal. Symptoms related to withdrawal reaffirm physical addiction to the drug. Keep in mind that mental dependence on Tramadol is unlikely when the narcotic is used for the medicinal purpose it was prescribed.
What Are Tramadol Withdrawal Symptoms?
The potential for addiction coincides with more frequent use of a drug to get high. When addicts abruptly stop taking Tramadol or reduce their levels of abuse, they are likely to experience some degree of withdrawal symptoms depending on their metabolism rates. These withdrawal symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Muscle aches or cramps
- Elevated heart rate and blood pressure
- Shallow breathing
- Difficulty sleeping
Because Tramadol is weaker than most opioids, the drug is rarely fatal. However, an overdose of Tramadol may lead to severe respiratory failure and even death.
What Are the Stages of the Tramadol Withdrawal Timeline?
Because Tramadol absorbs quickly in the bloodstream, the drug’s withdrawal timeline should follow similar patterns for other opioids, which means symptoms should emerge within 12 hours of the last dose. A smaller segment of Tramadol users may experience more severe reactions including confusion, paranoia, anxiety, panic attacks, hallucinations, and tingling or numbness.
Treatment for Tramadol Withdrawal
Medications, such as the synthetic opioid methadone, are available to treat Tramadol withdrawal symptoms without producing a further altered state. Other maintenance medications include buprenorphine-naloxone and naltrexone, which prevent narcotic drugs like Tramadol from acting on opioid receptors.
Fighting an addiction to Tramadol is tough but coping with potential seizures and life-threatening respiratory problems associated with heavy abuse of the drug can be downright frightening. When you are tired from inadequate sleep and nutrition and sick of what Tramadol has done to the way you feel, then you should know that detoxification under the care of a certified medical professional in a safe and peaceful environment can help you manage the general symptoms of withdrawal. This type of care is best found at a residential treatment facility, where medication can be prescribed to alleviate any initial side effects and physical discomfort, and highly trained staff can monitor progress and prevent any complications associated with difficulty breathing, elevated heart rates, and anxiety.
What Is the Next Treatment Step?
Detox is just the first step toward recovery. Perhaps the greatest danger related to Tramadol withdrawal is a decision to return to use. Remember, Tramadol is an opioid and with that classification comes the risk of relapse. If you are committed to sustained sobriety, an extended stay at a residential treatment center should be part of your recovery plan. Here, to strengthen your resistance to relapse and to start feeling good about yourself during your stay, you will also be exposed to group therapy, one-on-one counseling, educational lectures and workshops as part of your treatment program.