Previously a brand name of the powerful prescription painkiller tramadol, Ultram carries a risk of addiction. If not taken carefully, individuals can develop a dependency on the medication and form an addiction to it. If an addiction develops, The Recovery Village has programs designed to help individuals manage their addiction to Ultram and detox from Ultram safely.

What Is Ultram?

Ultram was a brand-name version of the drug tramadol. Although the brand name Ultram has been discontinued, tramadol is still available as a generic drug and is sometimes still referred to by its old brand name. Ultram is described as a painkiller that can be prescribed for the treatment of moderate-to-severe pain. The drug is available as an extended-release version called Ultram ER, which is reserved for around-the-clock pain, as opposed to treating pain on an acute, as-needed basis. Ultram can be taken following surgery, while the extended-release version is meant for chronic pain.

Ultram Addiction

Ultram is an opioid agonist, a Schedule IV controlled substance and a highly addictive painkiller. The prescription drug has addictive qualities, and developing a physical dependence is also very possible. This means that withdrawal symptoms can occur when someone who takes the medication for a prolonged period of time tries to suddenly stop taking the drug without weaning off of it.

Is Ultram Addictive?

As a Schedule IV controlled substance and opioid, Ultram carries a risk of abuse, addiction and dependence. When it was originally created, tramadol was not a controlled substance, as experts at the time thought it did not carry an addiction risk. However, within the first few years of its approval in the United States, approximately two out of every 100,000 people on tramadol were abusing the drug, which led to tramadol later being reclassified as a controlled substance. Although the addiction potential of tramadol is lower than that of other controlled substances, tramadol nonetheless can cause addiction and should only be taken exactly as prescribed by your doctor.

Ultram Addiction Risks

Once addicted to Ultram, individuals face various risks. First and foremost, the body’s chemical makeup changes. The body becomes dependent on Ultram to feel relief. Once the central nervous system gets used to the sense of relief it receives from the drug, it is very challenging to get the body to return to its normal state.

Another risk of Ultram addiction is the potential for overdose. The longer an individual takes the drug, the more likely it is that an individual will need to take higher doses and amounts to achieve the desired level of relief. Over time, gradually increasing the dosage also increases the possibility of an overdose occurring. Overdoses can lead to severe, long-term effects, including death.

Ultram Addiction Statistics

Ultram is a prescription painkiller, which means even people who are prescribed the medication by a doctor are at risk of gaining a dependency or an addiction to it. Some statistics regarding an Ultram or tramadol addiction include:

  • In counties that struggle with illicit tramadol production, up to 12.3% of adolescents abuse the medication.
  • About 31% of people who abuse tramadol do so to relax.
  • Approximately 25% of people who abuse tramadol do so to get high.
  • Around 16% of those who abuse tramadol do so to relieve boredom.
  • About 10% of people who abuse tramadol do so to relieve anxiety.
  • In 2020, almost 17.5 million prescriptions of tramadol were dispensed to more than 4.8 million Americans.
  • Tramadol was the 35th most commonly used drug in the United States in 2020.
  • Tramadol became a Schedule IV controlled substance in 2014.
  • Up to two people per 100,000 who take tramadol abuse the medication.

Ultram Addiction Signs, Symptoms and Effects

There are several symptoms and side effects that indicate a person is becoming addicted to Ultram. A major sign of addiction is when people continue to take the medication regardless of the negative side effects. Individuals can become dependent on the drug in order to get through their everyday lives. Dependence is different from addiction. When a person is dependent on a drug, their body is physically used to its presence—so when they stop taking the drug suddenly, they go into a sort of shock. This can lead to withdrawal symptoms.

Psychological Effects of Dependence

When a person takes Ultram, there are a variety of psychological effects it could have on a person’s behavior. These effects are similar to those that occur if you take the drug as directed and include:

  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness
  • Irritability
  • Hallucinations
  • Depression

Physical Dependence

The possible physical side effects from Ultram can be more severe than the psychological ones. Like psychological effects, they can occur regardless if you take the drug as directed or abuse it. Physical effects can include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation and diarrhea
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Excessive shivering
  • Loss of appetite
  • Seizures
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Memory loss
  • Fainting

Long-Term Effects of Ultram Addiction

Long-term high-dose tramadol use may cause long-term health consequences that differ from the drug’s immediate side effects. Although the drug has few proven long-term physical consequences at high doses, it has been linked with psychiatric symptoms like:

  • Anger
  • Hostility
  • Aggression

Even after stopping the drug after long-term high-dose use, lingering psychiatric symptoms can occur like:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder

Ultram Withdrawal and Detox

Ultram withdrawal can be highly uncomfortable if it is not handled with professional assistance. The amount of time it takes for a person to withdraw from Ultram ultimately depends on the severity of the addiction, the amount of time Ultram has been consumed and the dosage amount. Withdrawal symptoms can vary across physical and psychological effects, but they can have some similarities. Common withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Restlessness
  • Tramadol cravings
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Rigors
  • Pain
  • Nausea
  • Tremors
  • Diarrhea
  • Upper respiratory symptoms
  • Goosebumps
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Confusion
  • Numbness and tingling sensations

Ultram Withdrawal Timeline

The amount of time it takes for someone to completely rid their body of Ultram varies by person. Since the chemical makeup of each person is different, so are the withdrawal symptoms and durations. Withdrawal symptoms can begin to appear in as little as a few hours after the last dose of Ultram is taken. Although the withdrawal timeline can vary, a typical timeline includes:

  • Within 12 hours of the last dose: Tramadol withdrawal symptoms begin. 
  • Within 24 to 48 hours of the last dose: Tramadol withdrawal symptoms peak. 
  • Within 3 to 5 days of the last dose: Tramadol withdrawal symptoms resolve.

The beginning of the withdrawal process usually produces the strongest symptoms. The first few days are often seen as the most difficult. During this time, the body attempts to function without having Ultram in its system. 

As the end of the first week approaches, withdrawal symptoms may begin to lessen in severity. As a person progresses with their Ultram-free life, the physical symptoms of withdrawal give way to new, emotional challenges. These new challenges can include depression, anxiety and insomnia, which may persist for a few weeks or months. However, it’s important to keep in mind that these feelings are just the brain beginning to function without the use of drugs.

Ultram Detox

It’s best to work with a team of experts during detox for a few reasons. Firstly, medical professionals can figure out the best way to start the detox process so it works well for each patient. They can also help with any symptoms that might pop up when stopping drug use and may even prescribe medicine to help with those symptoms. It’s important to know that trying to stop using Ultram without help from medical professionals can be dangerous.

Many people try to detox from Ultram on their own by suddenly stopping its consumption, also known as stopping “cold turkey.” This approach can be harmful because withdrawal symptoms may become more intense and appear more quickly than usual. Stopping cold turkey also raises the possibility of experiencing setbacks during the detox process.

Treatment for Ultram Addiction

Due to Ultram’s effect on the brain’s chemical makeup, it’s important to seek professional help when detoxing. Suddenly stopping the drug can lead to strong and rapid withdrawal symptoms. Gradual weaning with medical supervision is the safest and healthiest approach. Doctors can also prescribe medications to ease withdrawal symptoms.

Clinical therapists and medical professionals state that the most effective way to manage an addiction is to go through an accredited facility to receive treatment. The Recovery Village offers various treatment programs to help individuals begin their journey to a drug-free life. 

At The Recovery Village, we take a personalized approach to treatment for people struggling with addiction. The treatment team will evaluate each patient to figure out the best way to help them. They’ll also look for any other related issues that could be contributing to the addiction, such as co-occurring disorders. Once a treatment plan is created, patients will start the process of getting off Ultram. This is usually done by gradually reducing the dosage until the body is no longer dependent on the drug. The length of time this takes depends on how severe the addiction is and how long it’s been going on.

Once complete, patients have the opportunity to attend various programs to help them acquire coping skills for their everyday lives. A patient’s treatment team may recommend:

  • Inpatient treatment
  • Outpatient treatment
  • Intensive outpatient treatment
  • Intensive inpatient treatment
  • Partial hospitalization programs

After one of these programs is complete, patients can enter various aftercare programs to ensure sobriety and continue learning the tools originally taught in treatment. Attending regular therapy sessions, 12-step programs and even living in sober-living communities may be helpful to an individual’s recovery.

Inpatient Ultram Rehab

Inpatient treatment programs provide 24-hour care and supervision, which means patients will have support around the clock as they go through detoxification. It can be difficult to manage everyday tasks while going through detox alone, so this program can be very helpful. Individuals can rest easy knowing that they have the support they need to deal with uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. The length of someone’s stay will depend on how serious their addiction is and how long it takes to go through withdrawal.

Outpatient Ultram Rehab

We understand that living at one of The Recovery Village facilities isn’t possible for everyone. That’s why some facilities also offer treatment on an outpatient basis. Getting help while living at home can be just as effective as staying at a treatment center. People who choose outpatient treatment can still take care of their responsibilities like work or school while going to a rehab center. How much time someone needs to spend at the rehab center depends on how serious their addiction is and what their treatment team thinks will be helpful for them.

Get Help for Ultram Addiction Today

Professional treatment is not only the best way to ensure a successful detox and recovery, but it is also the safest. Working with medical professionals will assist individuals with ridding the body of Ultram and ease their withdrawal symptoms. If you or a loved one are struggling with Ultram addiction, there’s no better time than today to reach out for help. Your first step to genuine recovery is closer than you might think.

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Editor – Abby Doty
Abby Doty graduated from Hamline University in 2021 with a Bachelor's in English and Psychology. She has written and edited creative and literary work as well as academic pieces focused primarily on psychology and mental health. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD
Dr. Jessica Pyhtila is a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist based in Baltimore, Maryland with practice sites in inpatient palliative care and outpatient primary care at the Department of Veteran Affairs. Read more
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Medical Disclaimer

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.