Article at a Glance:
- A taper is a slow, gradual discontinuation of a drug.
- Tapering an opioid like tramadol can help to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
- Your doctor can help you choose the best taper scheduled for your health needs while helping you avoid withdrawal.
- Medical detox is available to help you taper in a medically-supervised setting.
When you regularly take a drug like tramadol and decide to stop, it can be hard to know where to turn. Although it might be tempting to stop taking tramadol cold turkey, doing so can lead to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Instead, your doctor may recommend a taper, or a slow decrease of tramadol’s dose over time, to get you off the drug and avoid withdrawal.
Table of Contents
Tapering or Weaning Off Tramadol
Tapering off of tramadol is a gradual and methodical undertaking. Those using the opioid for medical and recreational purposes alike will have their own personal reasons for quitting. Family, friends, finances, health and endless more motives can drive one to seek out opioid treatment. Choosing a taper as the means to reach this goal is often twofold: it detoxes the body, physically and mentally, to prepare for a tramadol-free life while preventing withdrawals in the interim. The second of these tramadol taper benefits is especially important to consider.
What Is a Tramadol Taper?
A taper is a slow dose reduction of tramadol. Reducing your tramadol dose gradually over time instead of stopping the drug cold turkey can help you avoid withdrawal symptoms. Usually, your doctor will instruct you on the best tramadol taper schedule for your health needs.
Who Can Benefit From Tapering Their Tramadol Intake
People who may be physically dependent on tramadol because they take the drug on a regular basis often benefit from tapering their tramadol intake.
When you regularly take an opioid like tramadol, your body becomes used to the drug’s presence. This is called physical dependence. Physical dependence does not mean that you are addicted to a drug, merely that your body and brain have adapted to expect its presence. If you regularly take tramadol and suddenly stop, you may have withdrawal symptoms that a taper can help you avoid.
Common Withdrawal Symptoms
When an opioid like tramadol is stopped cold turkey, a person may go into withdrawal. Symptoms of opioid withdrawals include:
- Muscle aches
- Increased tearing
- Trouble sleeping
- Runny nose
- Abdominal cramps
- Wide pupils
- Nausea and vomiting
Why Tramadol Withdrawal Symptoms Occur
When a person takes an opioid like tramadol, the drug impacts a region in the brain called the locus ceruleus. The locus ceruleus produces norepinephrine, or noradrenaline, which helps control breathing and wakefulness. Because opioids like tramadol are central nervous system depressants, they slow this process, causing the drowsiness and slowed breathing that are common opioid side effects.
However, over time, the brain becomes used to the presence of the opioid. The locus ceruleus adjusts and starts producing even more norepinephrine to overcome the opioid’s sedating effects. This means that if a person suddenly stops taking the opioid, they suddenly have the increased norepinephrine in their body without any opioid to counter it. This phenomenon is responsible for the withdrawal symptoms that many people experience when quitting an opioid like tramadol cold turkey.
Can Tapering Your Tramadol Intake Reduce Withdrawal Symptoms?
Doctors recommend tapering tramadol to reduce your risk of withdrawal symptoms. By slowly decreasing the drug dose, you allow your brain and body to adjust to the drug’s absence. When you are ready to completely come off tramadol, a gentle taper may help avoid withdrawal altogether.
How To Taper off Tramadol
A tramadol tapering schedule gives the person a hands-off role in the planning process so they can concentrate on the recovery itself. Physicians will craft a schedule on a patient-by-patient basis, but these will most certainly include check-ins and appointments while in a health care facility.
Tramadol should be tapered at a consistent speed to ward off the two conceivable withdrawals. Experts advise several general reduction rates, ranging from a conservative 10% dose reduction weekly to a rapid 50% dose reduction weekly.
Of course, the taper frequency can and will be adjusted if the situation requires it. Whether they fall under the short-term or long-term classification, there is hope for everyone to overcome their substance use disorder with a taper.
Choosing To Wean Yourself off Tramadol
Choosing a tramadol taper instead of quitting tramadol cold turkey can help you avoid withdrawal symptoms. While cold-turkey tramadol discontinuation may seem quicker, the withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable and may last for weeks or months. In contrast, a tramadol taper may be over in a matter of a few weeks, depending on your starting tramadol dose.
Challenges of Cutting Down Your Tramadol Intake
Weaning yourself off tramadol without medical supervision can be complex. First, it is important for your doctor to be aware of all the medications you are taking. Second, choosing the best taper schedule can be tricky. For example, if you accidentally become too aggressive with your taper schedule and experience withdrawal symptoms, your doctor will have an easier time helping you if he or she is already aware of your tramadol dose and attempt to taper.
Searching for Help
Your doctor is an excellent resource when it comes to helping you wean off tramadol. They can help you design a taper schedule to decrease your tramadol dose gradually over time. This may even involve prescribing lower doses of the medications, so you do not need to cut higher-dose pills.
Relapse Prevention Strategies
Avoiding tramadol withdrawal can help to reduce your risk of relapse. Research has shown that a person’s risk for opioid relapse can increase if they suffer withdrawal symptoms. This is especially true in women. By limiting withdrawal symptoms through a medically managed taper, you increase your chances of successfully staying off tramadol long term.
If you or a loved one are struggling with a tramadol addiction, help is available. Opioid addiction experts at The Recovery Village can provide personalized treatment programs designed to meet your needs and get to the root of why you started tramadol in the first place. Contact us today to answer your questions and discuss treatment options.
U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Opiate and Opioid Withdrawal.” May 10, 2020. Accessed May 31, 2021.
Drugs.com. “Tramadol.” August 17, 2020. Accessed May 31, 2021.
Kosten, Thomas R.; George, Tony P. “The Neurobiology of Opioid Dependence: Implications for Treatment.” Science & Practice Perspectives, July 2002. Accessed May 31, 2021.
Miller, Jenesse. “Risk factors for opioid relapse differ between men and women.” University of Southern California, February 22, 2021. Accessed May 31, 2021.
World Health Organization. “Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence in Closed Settings.” 2009. Accessed May 31, 2021.
- 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.