Tramadol Overdose | Can You Overdose on Tramadol?

Tramadol is a powerful prescription medication used for pain relief of varying intensities. Many know this opioid medicine by its brand name, Ultram. When pinpointing its pain-relieving abilities, tramadol is considered somewhere within the range of 1/9 or 1/10 morphine’s potency. Perhaps the closest resemblance would be the strength of liquid codeine.

Many users make the fatal mistake of underestimating tramadol, especially when comparing it to similar anti-inflammatory pills. No matter what, it cannot be forgotten that tramadol is still a potentially dangerous an opioid. It affects the central nervous system and binds to the same regions of the brain. Some experts and users refer to tramadol informally as an “opioid-lite.” This is dangerous thinking that sets users up for failure, or worse — a potentially deadly accidental overdose. Time and time again tramadol, and other less potent opioids, have proven lethal when underestimated.

Like many prescription opioids, tramadol has a high risk of misuse and addiction. In 2013, it is estimated that some 3.2 million individuals used tramadol for reasons other than those intended. That count was up by close to 500,000 from the previous year alone.

Tramadol highs are achieved when excessive amounts are ingested, though the high is often not as euphoric as with other opioids. Stronger feelings of relaxation and well-being are more likely achieved when tramadol is consumed through recreationally means. This can include chewing, smoking, injecting or snorting the pills rather than the recommended means of oral application through swallowing.

Prescription opioids come with the potential for overdose. Tramadol is no different in this respect. Some tramadol dosage amounts are more dangerous than others, and when overdoses do occur, certain symptoms present themselves. Below you will find pertinent information about these dosages and symptoms, as well as proper treatment for such overdose cases.

Tramadol Overdose | Tramadol Overdose Treatment, Signs, & Symptoms
Because tramadol is an opioid, it stands to reason that it would share similar overdose symptoms with its peers in pill form. Moreover, tramadol puts all recreational users at risk of having a seizure — a side effect that increases in probability as more and more is taken. Beyond seizures, overdose symptoms for this medication include:

  • Respiratory depression
  • Shallow or absent breath
  • Weakness or lethargy
  • Cold, clammy or discolored skin
  • Dizziness when standing
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Unconsciousness or coma
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle rigidity

Recognizing these tramadol overdose symptoms is critical in life-threatening situations. Any overdose in which respiration is impacted has the potential to create permanent impairment. With tramadol overdoses in particular, brain damage may occur if not enough oxygenated blood reaches the central nervous system in a timely manner. As such, no opioid overdose symptom should be discounted; obtain medical treatment for yourself or others straightaway.

How much tramadol does it take to overdose? It really depends solely on the person in question. First, what is considered a generally safe amount? Doctors recommend that patients take no more than 100 mg of tramadol when starting out. This amount may be increased as tolerances do. However, between 300 and 450 milligrams a day appears to be the cap for the medication.

Somewhere between 2 and 8 grams will produce a deadly tramadol overdose response. Tramadol can create toxic side effects far before this, though they aren’t considered part of an overdose. One may experience hazardous effects of the drug at as low as 500 mg — seizures included. Mixing other opioids, sedatives, or alcohol multiples the chance of overdose at smaller milligram quantities. For this reason, physicians recommend that these substances never be combined. 

Several potentially fatal consequences may occur if a dosage level constituting an overdose is reached. Asymmetrical heart rhythms may lead to cardiac arrest or even pulmonary edema. Additionally, liver failure is a possibility.

Adequate breathing assistance precedes all other courses of action when it comes to treatment for tramadol overdoses. CPR may also be required in the most extreme circumstances.

First responders, police officers, or literally anyone with access to the overdose reversal drug, naloxone, should apply this measure without delay. Every moment is precious when opioid overdoses are in play. Seconds wasted could mean permanent damage. Minutes could mean death.

As previously mentioned, tramadol overdoses are characterized by seizures. This is especially concerning because naloxone contains a similar side effect. This is not to say that these side effects will necessarily compound upon one another, but the gamble is worth mentioning.

First aid measures dictate that helping seizure victims requires clearing the space around their bodies. Any obstacles or obstructions become hazardous when seizing, so it is vital to diminish any self-inflicted harm before EMTs arrive on the scene.

Opioid addiction may be your present, but it doesn’t have to be your future. Seeking assistance from a professional treatment center like The Recovery Village could provide a path to hope, healing and a better life. Call an intake coordinator today to learn more. 

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a 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 provider.

Share on Social Media: