Tramadol is a prescription opioid used to treat severe pain. Like other opioids, tramadol carries the risk of abuse, dependence and addiction. The following overview explores tramadol and the potential risks involved with its use.
What Is Tramadol?
Marketed under the brand names Ultram, Ryzolt and Qdolo, tramadol has been available in the United States since 1995. Each year, almost seven million Americans receive tramadol prescriptions to control their pain. However, the addictive properties of this opioid make it a legitimate concern. Even if it is taken as prescribed by a medical professional, regular tramadol use can result in addiction.
Tramadol must be used under close medical supervision, especially if any other drugs or herbal remedies are used on a regular basis. This medication can interact harmfully with other drugs, such as monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Tramadol also makes it easier for a seizure to occur, so doctors avoid prescribing it to people with a history of seizures.
What Does Tramadol Look Like?
- Extended-release tablet
- Oral liquid
- Extended-release capsule
Tramadol’s biggest danger lies in its habit-forming potential. When a person takes tramadol, it affects serotonin, norepinephrine and mu opioid receptors in the brain. This reduces sensations of pain, which is why the drug is used as a painkiller. As people start relying on the drug to relieve pain, however, they can build up a tolerance that requires them to take higher doses to experience the same amount of relief.
Over time, the brain becomes dependent on the presence of tramadol. If a person with tramadol dependence suddenly stops taking the drug, their brain and body will start going through opioid withdrawal. This is why it is so difficult to stop using tramadol but so easy to develop an addiction. The length of time it takes to develop tramadol addiction varies from person to person. A key sign of opioid addiction is when someone uses the drug without caring about the negative side effects and how they impact their overall wellbeing.
If too much tramadol is taken, an overdose may occur. The symptoms of a tramadol overdose, such as slowed breathing and seizures, can be very severe and even result in death. The opioid overdose reversal medication naloxone may help in some cases, but it cannot always prevent tramadol overdose death. Unlike with other opioids, naloxone is only partially effective against tramadol. Further, naloxone can also increase the risk of seizures, which is already a symptom of a tramadol overdose.
Like other opioids, tramadol triggers the brain’s reward system. This causes a surge of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain, leading to a high. Misusing tramadol to get high can increase your risk of addiction and overdose. For this reason, it’s important to only take tramadol exactly as prescribed and avoid taking it if it hasn’t been prescribed to you.
The recommended tramadol dosage varies based on a variety of factors, including age, existing medical conditions and the type of pain experienced. However, doctors usually recommend that adults take 50 mg to 100 mg every four to six hours as needed. If a patient has a condition that causes long-term pain, the prescribing doctor may administer up to 400 mg of tramadol per day.
When combined with other substances and medications, tramadol can cause significant problems. For example, the drug carries an FDA Black Box Warning against taking the drug with a , as this can increase the risk of overdose.
Is Tramadol a Controlled Substance?
Tramadol is a Schedule IV controlled substance because of its addictive properties. When tramadol first entered the U.S. market in 1995, however, the drug was not controlled. In 2014, after years of exploration and research into tramadol, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) decided to reclassify the drug as a Schedule IV controlled substance due to its addictive nature. Schedule IV drugs include Xanax, Ambien, Valium, Ativan and many others. Although Schedule IV drugs like tramadol carry a lower risk for dependency than more strictly controlled substances, excessive tramadol use can still lead to addiction.
Tramadol Addiction Treatment
When trying to end tramadol use, it is important to seek professional help for the detox process. Some people attempt to detox on their own, but this can cause uncomfortable, potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms to set in. In a professional detox setting, medical experts can provide medication and monitor symptoms to ensure a safer, more comfortable detox period. However, detox does not address a person’s addiction or the underlying factors that caused it.
For a better chance at recovery, most people will need to follow up the detox process with a stay at an inpatient rehab facility. At a rehab facility like The Recovery Village, people receive personalized tramadol addiction treatment that addresses their addiction and any co-occurring mental health conditions they may have. Clients work with a team of addiction experts each day, learning strategies and new ways of thinking that will help them lead a healthier, substance-free life.
Treatment at The Recovery Village
The Recovery Village offers a full continuum of care that treats a variety of addictions and co-occurring mental health disorders. Our inpatient treatment programs help clients learn the skills needed to live without the burden of tramadol addiction. Afterward, our outpatient and aftercare programs allow clients to practice their newly learned skills as they transition back to their everyday lives. To help ensure long-term sobriety, clients may also be encouraged to live in a sober living community, attend regularly scheduled therapy sessions or participate in a 12-step program.
We have several rehab facilities located throughout the country, allowing people to find a center that best fits their needs and benefits their recovery. If seeking treatment through The Recovery Village is not an option, our online facility locator can help you find a center that works well for you.
If you’re ready to take the first step toward recovery, contact us today. Our caring representatives are here to help you find out about opioid addiction treatment plans and programs that can work well with your situation.
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Pothiawala, S., Ponampalam, R. “Tramadol Overdose: A Case Report.” Proceedings of Singapore Healthcare, 2011. Accessed September 7, 2021.
The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.