How to Taper off of Tramadol

Ultram, or tramadol as it’s referred to medically, is a prescription drug in the opioid class of painkillers. Potency wise, tramadol is considered to be relatively weaker than other opioids such as morphine. It is often given the moniker “opioid-lite.” This is a misnomer and can lead to life-threatening oversights for patients (or those using it recreationally) who take the pills. This medication binds to opioid receptors in the brain just the same as more recognizable opioids and opiates. Because of this, its extended use or misuse can lead to crippling dependence and substance use disorders.

Tramadol has a second mechanism that is the key differentiator from its opioid cousins. Beyond being a pain-relieving compound, tramadol is also what scientists call a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI). Put simply, this functionality allows the medication to treat depression and other neurological disorders. SNRIs keep serotonin and norepinephrine — the central nervous system’s chemical messaging which facilitate happiness — at higher levels. Ultram’s use as an antidepressant is still up for debate, but it has proven effective for some patients in this regard to date.

Millions of patients use tramadol to relieve their pain annually — and upward of 3 million individuals use it illicitly to achieve a high. The drug can be smoked, injected, or snorted in order to reach a euphoria that is similar yet somewhat weaker than that associated with other opioids. In conjunction, these opioids contribute to tens of thousands of overdose fatalities per year.

With tramadol use at such staggering quantities, it stands to reason that an effective method must exist to counteract the dependences. Fortunately, there are several. In rehabilitation centers across the United States — not to mention in people’s own homes — a tramadol taper has become a premier detoxification technique.

How to Taper Off of Tramadol | Tramadol Tapering Schedule
Tapering off of tramadol is a gradual and methodical undertaking. Those using the drug 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 to taper as the favored 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.

Withdrawals are truly the bane of successful recovery. Many people find these bouts of sickness and pain to be virtually unbearable — and choosing to use again to quell the discomfort can be tempting. Opioids, alcohol, and benzodiazepine withdrawals are considered the worst, both in potential agony and lethality. Depending on the individual, tramadol can be tolerable or among the most difficult withdrawals possible. In fact, it can be like two withdrawals in one.

As mentioned above, tramadol has two functions: pain relief as an opioid and mental sedation as a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. Thus, abruptly stopping tramadol use can onset simultaneous opioid and antidepressant-like withdrawals. Depending on the user’s tolerance, physical symptoms for either can continue for several days, with psychological side effects lasting longer.

Symptoms of opioid withdrawals include:

  • Muscle aching: withdrawal victims report crippling pain and throbbing throughout the body.
  • Nausea: vomiting is often an unavoidable side effect of withdrawals, regardless of how severe.
  • Constipation or diarrhea: along with nausea, constipation is a common symptom almost every withdrawal sufferer faces.
  • Flu-like and feverish symptoms: opioid withdrawals are described as mimicking the flu or the common cold.
  • Sweating: profuse sweating results from unbalanced neurological pathways that typically regulate temperature.
  • Insomnia: people may exhibit out-of-sync sleep patterns.
  • Cramping: tight and uncomfortable muscles are common, especially in the abdominal region.
  • Convulsions: spasms of the extremities may occur at irregular intervals.

Additional serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor symptoms that may arise include paranoia, anxiety, confusion, hallucinations, numbness, agitation, uncoordinated behavior, sensory overload, lethargy, and more. Establishing a tramadol tapering schedule is one of the first steps to overcoming addiction and bypassing withdrawals.

With an understanding of why someone would elect to taper, determining how to taper off tramadol comes next. Two things are for certain about this process: at-home tapers or quitting cold turkey are not advisable. Cold turkey, or cessation of tramadol use outright with no buffer period, subjects one to withdrawals illustrated above. At full strength, nonetheless. At the same time, a self-detox lacks the structure and high-level support necessary for an effective tramadol taper.

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 healthcare facility.

Tramadol should be tapered at a consistent speed to ward off the two conceivable withdrawals. Experts advise several general reduction rates: 10 percent daily for those who’ve only used the drug for a short time and 10 percent weekly for those using tramadol for years. Of course, the taper frequency can and will be adjusted if reactions necessitate it. Whether they fall under the short-term or long-term classification, there is hope for everyone in overcoming their substance use disorder with a taper.

If you or a loved one needs professional help in tapering your tramadol use, The Recovery Village can help. This renowned treatment center offers medical detox programs with 24-hour clinical support and healing amenities. To learn more about detox and other treatment programs, call 352.771.2700 today. 

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.

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