Tramadol is a synthetic opioid painkiller that produces similar effects to morphine. The chemical structure of tramadol is highly addictive and its components contribute to the rising number of individuals addicted to opioids in the United States. The opioid epidemic is a growing issue and tramadol addiction, unfortunately, is one of the substances that contributes to the problem.
The number of opioid-related overdose deaths has skyrocketed in the last couple of years due to prescription and non-prescription painkillers.
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Tramadol is commonly prescribed to treat acute to moderate pain, chronic pain, or used as a pain reliever in medical procedures. Although tramadol is most commonly administered by a doctor or healthcare professional, there are countless individuals who misuse their medication or use the drug illicitly—in larger quantities than recommended.
More often than not, the overconsumption of the substance can lead you to develop dependence, tolerance, and eventually a tramadol addiction.
Initially, you will not feel as though you need the substance. However, as time passes and your tramadol addiction worsens, you will rely on larger quantities of the drug to function normally.
The root of addiction comes from a number of psychological and physical imbalances. At times during active addiction, you may not be able to control your usage, heightening your risk of experiencing many of the negative consequences associated with addiction and tramadol abuse.
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What Is Tramadol?
Tramadol is sold under the brand name Ultram and it is a highly addictive, narcotic opioid painkiller. The effects of low doses of tramadol are far less dangerous than the effects of high doses, but the feelings associated with tramadol use manifest in each individual differently.
The immediate effects of tramadol consist of:
- Slowed breathing
- Reduced sensitivity to pain
- Mood changes
Succumbing to tramadol addiction first depends on many individual factors. Your likelihood of developing an addiction to tramadol varies based on whether you have a predisposition to addiction and if you are using the medication against medical advice. Also, if you are self-medicating a mental illness or just using the drug to get high, you are likely on the road to a full-blown addiction if you haven’t reached that point already.
Recognizing the signs leading up to addiction can help you determine if you are at high risk for taking substances like tramadol, even if it is intended for temporary use. Taking other addictive substances can also increase the risk of worsening tramadol addiction and can lead to more severe consequences and withdrawal symptoms.
The initial stage of addiction is developing a dependence on the drug.
If you have been taking a substance for a long duration of time, your brain and body eventually rely on it to function normally. What happens during this time are drugs like opioids bind to and activate the opioid receptors in the brain, causing immediate pleasure. Over time, you might find it more difficult to feel physically or psychologically content due to this intense chemical change.
Eventually, the brain will stop producing chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin on its own, ultimately resulting in the need for more tramadol to feel the same effects as when you first start taking the drug.
This is essentially the indicator of having developed a tolerance to the substances you are taking—opioid or not.
Tolerance will spike after using highly addictive drugs for a long time. The duration it takes you to build a tolerance is based on your individual structure and the substances you are using. However, the chances of quickly developing a tolerance to opioid painkillers are much higher due to their potency.
Opioids are notorious for making its users feel extremely relaxed and euphoric while under the influence, which is why it can be difficult for individuals to want to stop.
The reality is that opioids like tramadol cause severe addictions and lead to a number of potentially life-threatening consequences that may or may not be resolvable.
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What Are the Effects of Tramadol Addiction?
The symptoms and effects of tramadol addiction are typically the same as other opioids; however, they might be less severe and life-threatening due to tramadol use being uncommon.
More dangerous opioids that pose a higher risk for overdose is the use of heroin or oxycodone due to people cutting these substances with fentanyl or fentanyl analogs.
Although tramadol abuse is less common, it doesn’t negate the risk of addiction or negative consequences to arise. There are many psychological and physical effects that develop due to tramadol use, especially when used in conjunction with other substances. Also, polydrug use heightens your risk of experiencing an overdose, which can lead to permanent changes in the body and brain.
The psychological effects of tramadol addiction can be severe and long-lasting, especially if you are dealing with co-occurring disorders. The symptoms of mental issues such as depression or anxiety can worsen when using a cocktail of drugs that highly impact the structure and functioning of the brain.
If you are new to taking tramadol and unaware if you possess addictive genes, you may be at a higher risk of developing an unintentional addiction to tramadol.
Tramadol and other opioids target the reward system in the brain—ultimately sending signals throughout the brain and body that whatever is entering the brain feels good.
This is the beginning of a tramadol addiction as all proper functioning comes to a halt. The brain creates a memory associated with these feelings which will lead to cravings and the individual to keep repeating the same thing in order to feel pleasure.
Long-lasting psychological effects due to tramadol addiction can also be related to the consequences of an overdose. During an overdose, the brain is deprived of oxygen, which is otherwise known as hypoxic brain damage. When an individual suffers from hypoxic brain damage, they will begin to experience symptoms such as:
- Short-term memory loss
- Vegetative state
- Long-term memory loss
- Loss of coordination and balance
- Vision or hearing complications
The severity of these symptoms depends on a number of factors such as:
- How long you are using
- How much you are using
- Your chemical structure
- How long your brain is deprived of oxygen
If you run into health complications caused by hypoxic brain damage, the psychological effects will definitely affect your physical state, especially if the damage is severe or irreversible.
Physical effects of any substance can be highly unpleasant—especially when it comes to opioids. Also, the physical effects of tramadol addiction will mimic a large number of the withdrawal symptoms.
Common side effects of tramadol use consist of:
- Dry mouth
- Excessive sweating
- A headache
- Rapid heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Inability to control movements and coordination
- Shallow breathing
- Rise in body temperature
The majority of the time you will feel the psychological effects of tramadol addiction before the physical effects begin to sink in. However, it is possible that you will begin to notice irregularities in how your body feels when you don’t take a lot of the substance or diminish use.
The physical effects of using opioids, especially in conjunction with benzodiazepines or alcohol, heightens the risk of an overdose. Typically, an overdose will result in both physical and psychological damages and can even lead to death.
Tramadol and Pregnancy
Although there are reports that deem tramadol use safe and less harmful as other opioid painkillers, there is concern and risks associated with tramadol use during pregnancy.
The fetus is undeveloped and an influx of drugs into the mother directly affects the baby, which can potentially lead to a number of birth defects. Also, if an expecting mother is already suffering from tramadol addiction and cannot stop, the child can be born already experiencing opioid withdrawal.
Withdrawal symptoms in newborns can be extremely difficult to come to terms with and the only form of treatment generally consists of time, closely observing the child, and intensive care. A few symptoms a newborn born addicted will experience include:
- Inconsolable crying
- Respiratory issues
The mother can also experience a miscarriage due to the body’s inability to carry a child to term.
What Are the Tramadol Addiction Withdrawal Symptoms?
The system of which tramadol addiction occurs is a gradual process. The disease of addiction is progressive; however, the effects can creep up slowly—eventually becoming extremely uncomfortable and unpleasant.
Withdrawal cannot occur if you do not have a tolerance or dependence on the substance. Long-term drug use will lead you to experience more severe withdrawal symptoms due to the number of drugs you are using for a long period of time.
Unfortunately, when it comes to long and even short-term tramadol addiction, you will not be able to escape withdrawal.
Withdrawal symptoms that may arise from tramadol abuse consist of:
- Emotional instability
- A runny nose
- Negative thought process
- Excessive sweating
- Cold sweats
- Mood swings
- Severe cravings
- Watery eyes
- Muscle and joint pain
- Inability to focus or concentrate
Although tramadol withdrawal symptoms are not fatal, they are highly unpleasant and they can lead to a number of negative mental, emotional, and physical effects.
Also, mixing other drugs such as benzodiazepines can lead to life-threatening consequence during withdrawal such as seizures.
Your symptoms of withdrawal will not be severe. However, this can vary depending on the amount of tramadol and other substances you are using and the duration of your use as well as your genetics. You might begin to feel nausea, sweating, muscle pain, and irritability.
These symptoms will worsen over time and peak around 72 hours after the last dose.
Are typically the worst days during the opioid withdrawal process. At this point, you will most likely be feeling all of the symptoms listed above. The severity of withdrawal also depends on the individual; however, the withdrawal symptoms become worse the longer you are off the substance during the initial stages.
Seven days after the last dose, the physical symptoms of tramadol withdrawal will begin to subside.
Although the physical aspect of withdrawal is over, most individuals experience symptoms of Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS), especially if they already have an existing mental illness.
PAWS consist of mostly psychological symptoms such as:
- Inability to concentrate
- Lack of motivation
Some physical withdrawal symptoms like insomnia and restlessness can also occur for up to 6 months of abstinence.
How to Treat Tramadol Addiction?
The treatment timeline and structure for tramadol addiction resembles the structure of most addictive substances. Also, these methods are proven and effective in a number of individuals— especially those dealing with highly addictive substances such as opioids.
The beginning stages of the treatment process typically occur when you cannot handle active addiction anymore or are in serious need of help. Recognizing the symptoms of addiction, the dangers, and the consequences can help you start your recovery journey.
The early stages of recovery consist of attending a detox facility. A detox program is imperative during the recovery process to ensure your safety and comfortability throughout the duration of your stay. Withdrawal symptoms can be severe and sometimes life-threatening depending on the substances you are using.
Detox programs typically last around 3 – 10 days and will consist of constant surveillance and medication designed to alleviate the symptoms of withdrawal. Although the symptoms might not completely diminish, it is important for your safety and security in starting the recovery process.
Detox is only the beginning and probably one of the easiest obstacles, even though it may seem unbearable.
The next stage in the tramadol addiction treatment timeline is transitioning to a residential facility. Usually, the residential level of care is in the same facility as the detox, making it a smooth transition. In any case, the requirements and expectations of a residential facility are much more advanced than detox.
During this stage, you should be feeling better physically and ready and willing to work on the internal issues that may have brought you to use tramadol or other substances in the first place.
The psychological effects and aftermath of addiction can be crippling and require a number of effective methods such as the ones below to avoid relapse. The treatment methods that are known to lead to success are:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Group therapy
- Individual therapy
- Family therapy
- Addiction education
- In-depth treatment plans
- Relapse prevention groups
- Medications to treat PAWS or other mental illness
- Medication maintenance programs
Residential treatment programs follow the same outline as an inpatient or partial hospitalization program. However, the structure, leniency, and overall goals might be slightly altered due to the progression you have made at the beginning of your recovery.
Typically, the entire length of treatment can last anywhere from 30 – 90 days, but this does not include outpatient programs.
Outpatient programs are designed to help you transition back to society without being in an environment that is secluded or under surveillance. Attending an outpatient program will offer you the therapeutic elements you need to sustain recovery and avoid relapse. It will also keep you accountable and help you learn the tools and coping mechanisms to successfully live life without the use of drugs.
How to Prevent a Tramadol Addiction Relapse?
Although the recovery process might seem impossible to overcome, the journey is worth it. However, it requires a lot of work, motivation, and diligence to succeed in obtaining long-term recovery.
Tramadol addiction, as well as addiction to opioid painkillers, have resulted in an alarmingly high number of deaths within recent years. It’s obvious that many people aren’t getting the help they need for a number of reasons but it doesn’t mean you have to become another statistic.
The emotional, mental, and physical consequences of drug abuse are not worth it and sometimes they can end up either costing you your life or putting in a situation that isn’t conducive to recovery.
Suboxone or methadone maintenance program can help you if you find yourself struggling, but they should only be used as short-term solutions as they are also highly addictive and pose risks relating to addiction.
If you are suffering from mental illness, it is important to properly address the issues and find ways and means to treat it. Sometimes, mental illness can become overbearing and ultimately cause you to act out which can result in you losing your sobriety.
There are also a number of support groups outside of treatment centers that are designed to help you overcome the obstacles that may be presented to you in sobriety. Twelve-step groups or individual therapy are everywhere and they have been known to help an individual’s recovery. These programs will also give you access to support networks and safe environments to attend when you feel shaky in your recovery.
Relapse is a part of many individual’s stories but it doesn’t necessarily come with addiction. Opioid addiction is powerful and cunning and it can creep up on you at any given moment, which is why it is important to complete the treatment timeline for tramadol addiction to avoid relapse.
Start Your Recovery Journey Today
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, don’t wait until it’s too late. Tramadol and other opioids and addictive medications have caused thousands of deaths and overall misfortune to those affected by the disease of addiction. Although addiction is not curable, it can be effectively treated by facilities such as Arete Recovery.