Tramadol Addiction and Abuse

Tramadol addiction and abuse are contributing to Washington’s rising opioid epidemic. Many residents in Washington have gotten addicted to prescription opioids, like Tramadol, as they are commonly prescribed by doctors and physicians in the state. Unfortunately, misuse and abuse will lead to addiction, and those who are addicted to opioids or opiates will quickly spiral into a darker abyss.

“Tramadol was the 39th most prescribed medication in America in 2016. Americans consumed more than 19 million prescriptions this year alone.”

Opioid addiction is a huge problem in Washington. In 2017, opioids and opiates were responsible for 742 overdose deaths in this region.

Drug education is crucial in the war against opioids. This comprehensive guide will explore what Tramadol really is and more.

What Is Tramadol?

Also known as Ultram, Tramadol is a synthetic opioid that has a similar mechanism of action to morphine. Tramadol binds to opioid receptors in the central nervous system (CNS) to provide pain relief for moderate to severe pain. This prescription painkiller should not be prescribed to children younger than 12 years of age. 

Tramadol comes in various forms. In the US, it’s possible to find this prescription medication in the following forms: 

  • Capsule, Extended Release
  • Suspension
  • Tablet
  • Tablet, Extended Release
  • Capsule, Extended Release, 24 HR 

The recommended dosage for this prescription pain pill is 50 to 100mg for immediate-release tablets. Patients should only take the dosage prescribed every 4 to 6 hours as needed. The maximum dosage that a person should take in a day is 400mg. This prescription medication can be taken with or without food. When taken orally, the effects of this medication should kick in within 1 hour.

Compared to other opioids, Tramadol has a fairly young history. This drug was first synthesized by a German drug company in 1962. The effects of Tramadol was tested extensively 16 years before the drug was approved for commercial use. It was first brought to the foreign market under the name Tramal in 1977. 

Even though many countries around the world used Tramadol, this prescription opiate was not available in the US until 1995. This opioid was first approved for an analgesic for treating mild to moderate cancer pain. 

Since then, Tramadol has become a fairly popular opioid because it comes with fewer side effects than other opioids and is also fairly inexpensive to manufacture. In 2018, a dose of Tramadol cost only $0.05 at wholesale prices.

Like with other opioids, Tramadol works by binding to μ-opioid receptors in the central nervous system (CNS). This results in an artificial influx of various neurochemicals, like dopamine and serotonin. These neurochemicals induce a sense of euphoria and relaxation. 

This prescription drug is also a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), which means that it can achieve a lot more. This drug can also be used to regulate mood disorders and can also treat symptoms of ADD, anxiety disorders, menopausal symptoms and more.

Although Tramadol does not have a high affinity for opioid receptors in the CNS, its metabolite is desmetramadol. This metabolite is responsible for most of the euphoric effects that can be achieved by Tramadol. 

Desmetramadol has a 700-fold higher affinity for opioid receptors than Tramadol. It has a high intrinsic activity, and a potency that is equal to that of morphine. This is also one of the major metabolites that most drug tests look for.

Tramadol Addiction

Signs and Symptoms of an Addiction to Tramadol

Signs and symptoms of an addiction to Tramadol may not always be obvious. Many prescription drug abusers are high-functioning addicts, which mean that they can carry on regular routines and keep up with most of their daily responsibilities. Many people may even refuse to believe that they are addicted because they still continue to go to work or care for their children. 

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders uses 11 criteria to diagnose addiction. Those who are addicted to Tramadol will exhibit some of the following 11 signs and symptoms of addiction: 

  • Neglect responsibilities at home, work or school in favor of taking Tramadol
  • Have to take larger amounts of Tramadol than prescribed
  • Experience opioid withdrawal symptoms when attempting to quit
  • Continue to use Tramadol even in the face of negative consequences
  • Obsess over Tramadol and spend a huge chunk of time either trying to get, use or recover from abusing this medication
  • Avoid social, recreational or occupational activities in favor of doing drugs
  • Need to take larger and larger doses of Tramadol to achieve the same effects
  • Use Tramadol again and again even if it puts one in dangerous situations
  • Continue to use Tramadol despite facing physical or mental health issues as a result
  • Have a desire to cut down on Tramadol use, but being unable to
  • Experience Tramadol cravings 

The severity of the addiction will depend on the number of criteria that each drug user may meet. Those who meet two to three of the above criteria have a mild addiction while those who meet four to five of the above criteria have a moderate addiction. Anyone who meets more than six of the above criteria is severely addicted to Tramadol and need professional help to get sober.

Those who suspect that a loved one may be abusing Tramadol may find it difficult to determine whether their loved one meets any of the criteria defined by the DSM-5. Instead, they should look for these behavioral and emotional signs of abuse and addiction: 

  • Doctor shopping in an attempt to get more of the drug
  • Intense mood swings, like irritability, anger and depression
  • Compulsive use of Tramadol
  • Social and interpersonal problems caused by Tramadol use
  • Difficulties concentrating or poor cognitive functioning
  • The need to hide full or empty prescription bottles
  • Financial difficulties as a result of Tramadol use 

Those who suspect that a loved one may be abusing Tramadol should highly consider reaching out to an addiction expert. We can help loved ones figure out how to approach a family or friend about recovery. Our addiction specialists can also help loved ones learn how to be supportive during the recovery process.

There is a fairly fine line between abuse and addiction. Those who abuse Tramadol may not necessarily be addicted to this prescription drug. Abuse is best defined as the use of Tramadol in a manner that is not prescribed. This includes: 

  • Taking Tramadol in a larger dose or at a higher frequency than prescribed
  • Snorting Tramadol or injecting it instead of taking it as prescribed
  • Combining Tramadol with other drugs and substances in order to achieve a more potent effect 

Those who abuse Tramadol may not necessarily be addicted to it. 

Addiction is best defined as both tolerance and dependence. Tolerance means that the individual does not respond to the drugs in the same way anymore. Their body already expects the artificial influx and has made adjustments to accommodate it. To achieve the same results, the individual will need to take a larger dose. 

Dependence, on the other hand, happens after tolerance in most cases. It means that the individual’s body now expects the drug and needs it. Without it, the chemicals within the body become imbalanced. The individual will experience both cravings and withdrawals.

Side Effects of Tramadol Abuse

Anyone who takes Tramadol, whether properly as prescribed or not, will experience some side effects. This is due to the fact that this drug binds to both opioid receptors in the CNS, and raises serotonin and norepinephrine levels within the body. 

The type of side effects, as well as the severity, experienced will vary from one individual to another. Some common side effects include: 

  • Agitation
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulties sleeping
  • Dry mouth
  • Fever
  • Hallucinations
  • Headaches
  • Hives, blisters or rashes
  • Lack of coordination
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Profuse sweating
  • Rapid heartbeat 

If side effects persist, those taking Tramadol should consider speaking with a doctor. This may mean that the drugs are not suitable for that individual. Fortunately, there are many other alternatives and options on the market.

Another common side effect of taking Tramadol is known as serotonin syndrome. This happens when too much serotonin accumulates in the body. Those who take Ultram are more likely to experience serotonin syndrome because this drug causes a rise in this particular neurochemical.

Serotonin syndrome comes in varying levels of intensity. Mild forms of this syndrome will usually disappear on their own. However, severe forms of this syndrome can lead to deadly consequences. Some common symptoms include: 

  • Agitation or restlessness
  • Changes in blood pressure or body temperature
  • Confusion
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Goosebumps and shivering
  • Headaches
  • Loss of muscle coordination
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Profuse sweating
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Tremors or seizures 

Anyone who suspects that they are experiencing serotonin syndrome should seek medical help immediately. During our assessments and testing, we can help diagnose this syndrome and help patients get the help that they need.

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Tramadol Withdrawal Symptoms

One of the main reasons why so many drug users fail to recover from a Tramadol addiction is because they can’t stand and tolerate the opioid withdrawal symptoms that come with quitting. Withdrawal symptoms for opioid abuse tend to be quite brutal. They are tremendously difficult to bear. 

Tramadol withdrawal symptoms will often overtake one’s entire body. Drug users will wish that they never tried quitting in the first place. Common Tramadol withdrawal symptoms include: 

  • Body pains
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Depersonalization
  • Diarrhea
  • Hallucinations
  • High anxiety and panic attacks
  • Intense paranoia
  • Muscle pains
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Numbness and prickling in the extremities
  • Gastrointestinal pain 

Some of these withdrawal symptoms are atypical, so they don’t happen when withdrawing from other opioids. The reason why Tramadol has atypical withdrawal symptoms is because it also acts on serotonin and norepinephrine receptors. 

One of the main atypical symptoms of Tramadol withdrawal is psychosis, or hallucinations. Many studies have looked into this withdrawal symptom and how it can be treated.

Although Tramadol is a fairly weak opioid, withdrawal symptoms will usually begin within hours of reducing this prescription drug use. Symptoms usually linger on for several weeks even when the individual is seeking professional addiction treatment. 

The Tramadol timeline is as follows: 

  • Days 1 to 3.  This is when the onset of most of the general withdrawal symptoms will begin. Most recovering addicts will report experiencing the following symptoms: feelings of pins and needles, profuse sweating, nausea, heart palpitations, anxiety and nervousness, insomnia and drug cravings.
  • Days 4 to 7. This is when the symptoms start to peak. Most users will also report experiencing more intense drug cravings, disorientation and confusion.
  • Days 8 to 14. Most physical symptoms will usually begin to die down by this point. Psychological symptoms, however, may persist. These symptoms include depression, anxiety and irrational thoughts. 

The withdrawal timeline will vary slightly for everyone. It may be based on one’s biological makeup or the length of the drug abuse. Our experts will carefully monitor each patient to ensure that he or she is progressing as expected. 

Some patients may experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). These psychological symptoms can last up to 18 to 24 months after one has stopped taking Tramadol.

Tramadol requires a prescription. Due to this reason, many people are under the misconception that this drug can’t be too dangerous. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Abuse or misuse of Tramadol can lead to fatal consequences, as was the case of a 12-year-old girl who took her grandmother’s Tramadol after mistaking it for ibuprofen. 

Although Tramadol is a fairly weak opiate, it can still cause tremendous harm and danger. Those who abuse this drug can easily get addicted, and overdoses are possible.

Tramadol Overdose Symptoms

Opioid overdose rates are skyrocketing all over America and are partly responsible for America’s life expectancy reduction. It’s possible to overdose on Tramadol even though it’s a weak opioid. Although this prescription medication does not have a strong bond with typical opioid receptors in the CNS, its analgesic effects are enhanced by its atypical effect on norepinephrine and serotonin neurotransmitters.

Tramadol overdose symptoms are similar to the overdose symptoms of all other opioids. Some common overdose symptoms to look out for include: 

  • Blue tint on fingernails and lips
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Contracted pupils
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Seizures
  • Slowed breathing and heartbeat 

Those who overdose on Tramadol are more likely to experience seizures than with any other opioid. It’s important to note that it can be difficult to recognize an overdose. Many victims will simply look as if they are falling asleep. They will then stop breathing.

Fortunately for those who abuse opioids, there is an antidote capable of reversing the effects of opioids. This drug is known as naloxone. So far, it has saved many Americans, including celebrities like Demi Lovato

Naloxone will attach to the opioid receptors in the CNS and prevent any opioids from attaching to the surfaces. It will effectively stop an overdose in its tracks. This drug will also start to work within 2 to 5 minutes of being administered, and its effects can last for up to 90 minutes, which is long enough for the victim to receive medical help. 

Anyone looking for naloxone can find this drug at a pharmacy in Washington. Some pharmacies do not require a prescription. The instructions for administering this drug is on the package and is fairly straightforward.

Tramadol Addiction Treatment

Those who are struggling with a Tramadol addiction will need to seek professional help from a drug detox and rehab program. Only addiction specialists can gauge the severity of the addiction and offer evidence-based treatment approaches. There are quite a few approaches that one can take to treat an addiction to Tramadol.

Medical detox is one of the most important treatment approaches that one can receive from a drug rehab program. It helps ease withdrawal symptoms and even prevent dangerous ones. Those who receive medical detox are more likely to achieve long-term recovery. They are less likely to turn back to drugs. 

Many different types of medications can be used during detox. Some medications are over-the-counter and used to treat specific symptoms. Other drugs have been approved by the FDA to specifically treat opioid withdrawals. Some of the addiction medicines used to manage Tramadol withdrawal symptoms include: 

  • Buprenorphine for relieving opioid withdrawal symptoms
  • Clonidine and other weak benzodiazepines for anxiety and sweating
  • Ibuprofen and other over-the-counter pain pills for muscle aches
  • Loperamide for diarrhea
  • Metoclopramide for nausea and vomiting
  • Suboxone for eliminating the euphoric effects of opioids
  • Valium for anxiety and insomnia 

The type of medications prescribed, as well as the dosage, will vary from one patient to another. It all depends on the type of withdrawal symptoms that each patient experiences. It also depends on the severity of the withdrawal symptoms.

Another important factor to consider when choosing a rehab program is the level of care that’s needed. Many people may not be sure of the level of care that they need. In these situations, we offer a free addiction assessment. 

The levels of care can be largely separated into two main ones: inpatient care and outpatient care. Let’s take a look at the differences below: 

  • Inpatient care. Inpatient treatment programs require patients to move into the rehab facility. These programs are a lot more intensive, as patients will need to take an extended leave of absence from work or school. With an inpatient program, patients receive around-the-clock care. They also get to recover in a new environment where they can focus solely on their recovery.
  • Outpatient care. Outpatient treatment programs are a lot more flexible. Patients can pick and choose when they would like to receive treatment. They do not live at the recovery center, and will travel there instead. This allows them to stay at home and continue work or school responsibilities. There are many different types of outpatient programs, and they differ in the amount of commitment that they require. Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHPs) require a weekly commitment of approximately 30 hours, while Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs) require a weekly commitment of about 10 to 15 hours. 

Northpoint the Evergreen is an outpatient drug and alcohol treatment center. We offer various types of outpatient programs, from PHPs to IOPs. However, we can pair those who need inpatient care with one of our other locations. We have just opened a new, state-of-the-art inpatient facility called Northpoint Washington in Edmonds, Washington.

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Northpoint the Evergreen Can Help You Overcome an Addiction to Tramadol

It’s easy for those who are prescribed Tramadol to misuse or abuse this prescription opioid. Unfortunately, due to the addictive nature of this prescription drug, those who misuse or abuse it will often get addicted to it. 

Fortunately, here, at Northpoint the Evergreen, we have a fair amount of experience in treating opioid addictions. We offer a variety of outpatient addiction treatment services, and will custom tailor each substance abuse treatment plan to the needs of each patient. We have helped many opioid addicts recover from addiction and learn how to manage addictive behaviors.

Contact us to learn more about our programs. We offer free addiction assessments, and can verify the insurance information of potential clients to see what their coverage includes.

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