What is Tramadol Addiction?
Tramadol addiction is the term given to the compulsive need to take Tramadol outside of its prescribed use.
Tramadol is a synthetic opioid prescribed to relieve moderate to severe pain from injury or after surgery. However, while it is not the strongest of opioids, it is also sometimes given to people suffering from long-term chronic pain, which can often lead to Tramadol addiction and dependence.
Also referred to by its trade name – Ultram - many people believe Tramadol to be less addictive than other opioid drugs, like Fentanyl or Oxycontin, therefore ignoring the potential dangers that come with abusing it. Obtaining and using Tramadol without a prescription or taking higher doses more often than prescribed are signs of Tramadol abuse and, depending on the severity of your addiction, may require intervention to overcome.
Typically found in pill form, those using it recreationally may crush and snort the drug for a more intense hit, however, others choose to combine it with other substances to increase its effects which can be extremely dangerous and, in some cases, fatal.
Symptoms of Tramadol Addiction
The possibility of addiction to prescription medications such as Tramadol is often overlooked because, most of the time, they are obtained legally and prescribed by a medical professional. However, it’s important to understand that with opioid drugs such as Tramadol, there is still a risk of addiction even when it is taken as instructed. While Tramadol is only a tenth as strong as Morphine, it can still be habit-forming, and once you have built up a tolerance it becomes less effective in relieving symptoms of pain.
It’s not uncommon for symptoms of Tramadol addiction to be dismissed as side effects of the medication itself, so being aware of the signs of addiction can help you identify a potential problem.
Signs you should look out for include:
- Dilated (small) pupils
- Little to no appetite
- Slurred speech
- Impaired coordination
One of the biggest risks of Tramadol abuse is the potential to overdose. This can occur as a result of taking a high dose in a short space of time, but also if taken in conjunction with other depressants such as alcohol. Overdose symptoms can be difficult to recognise and if you notice any of the following symptoms after prolonged Tramadol use, you should seek medical attention immediately.
- Extreme weakness
- Shallow breathing
- Slow heartbeat
- Loss of consciousness
- Constricted pupils
- Respiratory distress
- Cold clammy skin
- Blueish tinge to lips and fingernails
How Tramadol Addiction can affect your life
Addiction is a progressive disease and can disturb every aspect of your life, from finances and relationships to environment and health. Extensive use of any substance can take a toll on your physical and mental health, but opioids like Tramadol can give way to dangerous symptoms such as seizures and central nervous system (CNS) depression. CNS depression occurs when the central nervous system slows down so much that your heart rate and breathing decreases with it, which could leave you in a coma, or dead.
Serotonin syndrome is another dangerous side effect of Tramadol abuse that could be fatal if not treated in time. This often occurs when medications are mixed and are common in people who take Tramadol and antidepressants. Serotonin syndrome can occur when too much serotonin is produced by the brain and remains there. When the brain releases serotonin naturally, it is reabsorbed by the cells before neurotransmitters can continue to send messages. However, taking high doses of Tramadol and other medications can lead to a huge surge of serotonin, which cannot be reabsorbed into the brain. Some of the most common symptoms of serotonin syndrome include:
- Jerky muscles
- Rigid muscles
- Lack of coordination
Tramadol Dependence vs Tramadol Addiction
The terms 'dependence' and 'addiction' are often confused or used interchangeably, however, they both indicate different aspects of drug abuse. Tramadol dependence describes the physical state of your body once it has become reliant on the drug. Once you’ve built up a tolerance and you become physically dependent on Tramadol, your body requires more of the drug to achieve the same effect as you may have done when you first started taking it. When you become dependant on Tramadol, you will experience unpleasant mental and physical withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking it.
Tramadol addiction is characterised by a compulsive need to take the drug despite any negative consequences that might occur as a result of your actions. You can develop an addiction with or without a physical tolerance to the drug.
The prolonged use of any substance – illicit or prescription – will have an impact on your natural brain chemistry. When you stop taking Tramadol suddenly your body quickly tries to adjust to its absence. While your brain tries to start producing chemicals on its own, you may experience a range of flu-like symptoms such as sweating, chills, insomnia and an upset stomach as well as feeling irritated and aggravated. You might also experience varying degrees of depression and anxiety.
Tramadol withdrawal symptoms typically begin within one or two days of your last dose and usually subside.
The symptoms of Tramadol withdrawal are less intense than those that occur with heroin or Fentanyl addiction because Tramadol’s effects on the opioid receptors are mild in comparison. This means that it should take much less time for your brain to adjust to its absence.
Treatment options for Tramadol Addiction
Many people are unaware of the Tramadol addiction help available to them and taking the first step to seeking help is often the most difficult part of the recovery process. The most common treatment avenue for this type of addiction is a residential rehab facility. However, this option might not be available to everyone, and so many people choose to attend free services provided by some councils and charities.
The best course of treatment for any opioid addiction is a medically assisted detox combined with a research-based therapy program. The purpose of a detox is to rid the system of all the toxins that have built up in the body over time as a result of excessive substance misuse. Once you no longer have Tramadol in your system, you can begin a treatment programme to tackle the psychological aspects of addiction. Counselling and therapy are designed to explore any underlying issues that may have contributed to your addiction. Once you understand the possible triggers behind your substance misuse, you can substitute other behaviours, reducing the likelihood of relapse and increasing the chances of maintaining sobriety.
Popular Tramadol addiction therapies include:
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
- Motivation Interviewing
- Family and social therapy
- Peer support group participation
- Exercise, nutrition, and other supportive treatments
How do I know if I have a Tramadol addiction?
Most addictions can be identified through the obsessive and compulsive need to find and use drugs despite any negative consequences that might occur as a result of you doing so. If you find yourself trying to obtain Tramadol outside of a medical prescription, taking larger doses, obsessing about your next dose or mixing it with other substances to intensify its effects, then you may be suffering from Tramadol addiction.
Is Tramadol the same as Heroin?
Heroin is an opiate derived from the poppy plant, much like morphine, while Tramadol is a synthetic opioid similar to codeine. Both heroin and Tramadol share related properties and produce the same effects, and while Tramadol is significantly weaker than heroin, both can be physically and psychologically habit-forming.
Do I need rehab for Tramadol addiction?
When you suddenly stop taking any opioid medication, like Tramadol, you may experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms as your body tries to adjust without it. It’s during this time that most relapses occur with people turning to Tramadol for relief. While Tramadol is not considered to be a particularly strong opioid, continued abuse of this drug can cause a multitude of health issues, both physically and mentally. Although there are various treatment options available for addiction, an inpatient rehab facility is considered to be the most effective when it comes to maintaining sobriety.
Is Tramadol addiction deadly?
Taking large doses of Tramadol for a prolonged period poses a danger because it increases the possibility of overdose, which can be fatal. The risk of overdosing on Tramadol is far greater, however, when it is mixed with other medications, such as alcohol or anti-depressants.
How do I know if someone is abusing Tramadol?
Tramadol brings about an increased sense of wellbeing, euphoria and pleasure and one of the first signs to look out for is a dramatic shift in mood. These mood-enhancing effects of Tramadol are what lead to people abusing it. You may also be able to identify Tramadol use in someone you know if they seem to be displaying lowered inhibitions and engaging in risky behaviours. Obvious signs like these are more noticeable when someone first starts taking Tramadol.