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Tramadol and Addiction

When a new painkiller is released onto the market, a new risk is released as well, and in the case of tramadol, it is tramadol addiction. Tramadol was released onto the market in 1995 as a prescription analgesic. Because tramadol is not considered highly addictive, it is prescribed more often than opioids for pain.

The issue with this is that many individuals are not aware of the risks involved with tramadol, leading to tramadol addiction. Understanding tramadol abuse’s signs and effects is one method of appreciating the true risks involved with tramadol addiction.

What is Tramadol?

Tramadol is a synthetic opioid painkiller. Although similar to other opioid drugs such as morphine, oxycodone, and fentanyl, tramadol also contains other ingredients and maintains low opioid content in comparison. Many medical professionals consider tramadol to be much safer than standard opioid drugs, which can make it much more dangerous.

Regardless of the level of opioids in tramadol compared to stronger opioids, tramadol addiction is real and dangerous. The use of tramadol can result in tramadol abuse when those who become addicted to it begin to take it for a euphoric effect or a “high.”

Who is at Risk for Tramadol Addiction?

When it was first introduced, tramadol was thought to be a safe alternative to opioids for handling pain. Whether that was from surgeries or for chronic pain, tramadol was safe when developing an addiction. This assumption was proven to be untrue, and if you have a higher tendency for opioid addiction, then developing tramadol issues can be very simple.

Anyone with a history of drug abuse is at risk for developing a tramadol addiction. Taking high doses of tramadol produces responses similar to those of oxycodone, which can eventually lead to overdose.

Physical Effects of Tramadol Addiction

Particularly in the case of an overdose, the tramadol user might become uncomfortable. Overdose can lead to extremely slow breathing that results in the user passing out, falling into a coma, or even dying.

Other physical effects of tramadol addiction include:

  • Nausea, vomiting, and stomach upset
  • Slowed breathing
  • Extremely slow heart rate
  • Confusion or inability to concentrate

Tramadol Withdrawal

One accurate way of understanding how tramadol is incredibly addictive is physical dependence, characterized by withdrawal. Also known as discontinuation syndrome, withdrawal from tramadol can be extremely uncomfortable. In stopping the use of tramadol, the following symptoms were reported in a tramadol users forum:

  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors and shivering
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Random aggression
  • Flulike symptoms
  • Tingling

These symptoms by those who experience tramadol addiction have been reported as incredibly disturbing. Unfortunately, because tramadol is not seen as a highly addictive substance, many medical professionals do not give a proper regime for tapering off of tramadol. This, in turn, creates a dangerous situation for tramadol withdrawal.

Tramadol Addiction Concerning Mental Health

Tramadol potentially affects the GABA system in the brain. This system is the neurochemical pathway that decreases neuron activity. It does so by producing dopamine, which links this system to substance abuse as well as addiction.

Tramadol addiction has been linked to depression and anxiety when not using the drug and increased risk-taking behaviors due to lowered inhibitions.

Is Tramadol Addictive?

Tramadol is not technically considered a narcotic.

Although abuse and addiction are typically found in those with prior substance abuse, tramadol addiction can still occur in those with no substance abuse history. In short, although tramadol is not as addictive as other opiates, it is still very addictive.

Long-Term Effects of Tramadol Addiction

Tramadol is not technically considered a narcotic but quickly builds up a tolerance and requires you to take more and more over time as you increase your dose, your risk for negative long-term side effects increases.

Despite short term side effects such as nausea, dizziness, constipation, vertigo, or fatigue, long-term tramadol use can cause much more severe problems:

  • Seizures: In some users, tramadol causes seizures. The risk is much higher for users with epilepsy but still prevalent for users with no prior history of seizures. High doses have a higher risk of increasing seizures in withdrawal.
  • Serotonin syndrome: This syndrome occurs when normal serotonergic activity is disrupted, and the central nervous system ends up being affected. This can result in agitation, rapid heart rate, stiff muscles, loss of coordination, and sweating. It can also result in seizures in more extreme cases. When tramadol is combined with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), the risk of serotonin syndrome is more severe.
  • Breathing problems: Despite not being considered an opioid, tramadol can still cause shallow breathing, similar to respiratory depression found with opioid use. This can lead to chronic fainting, dizziness, and even confusion. Breathing issues are heightened when combined with alcohol or other drugs such as benzodiazepines or hypnotics.
  • Adrenal gland issues: The adrenal glands are endocrine glands. They are responsible for creating cortisol, adrenaline, and aldosterone. These hormones are incredibly important in the body, as they control your heart rate and blood pressure. These hormones also allow your body to metabolize nutrients and maintain a healthy immune system. Tramadol addiction is known to cause adrenal insufficiency, which means your body can no longer produce these hormones. Hence, this insufficiency will lead to muscle weakness, fatigue, and low appetite.
  • Reduction of sex hormones: Tramadol addiction also affects your sex hormones. Testosterone is associated with sex, but the body also relies on testosterone for bone and muscle development, metabolism, and reproductive health. Long term use of tramadol can lower these sex hormone levels, eventually cause loss of libido and the inability to reproduce.
  • Kidney and liver damage: High doses of tramadol can cause liver failure, while long-term tramadol use is generally associated with liver and kidney damage.
  • Social and behavioral changes: Like other forms of addiction, tramadol addiction can completely change the social and behaviors of an addict. If you were once healthy and normally social, tramadol addiction will change that. You might damage relationships that were once important to you or neglect professional obligations. This can result in financial security being compromised or even legal consequences.

Treatment for Tramadol Addiction

Many substances are abused for recreational purposes which means that many treatment programs can support all types of addictions. There are many different types of therapy that can help you understand cravings or triggers for abuse. This reduces the chance of a relapse in tramadol addiction. Some popular and useful tramadol addiction therapies include:

  • Family or social therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Peer support groups
  • Therapy to manage mental conditions that contribute to addiction
  • Exercise and nutrition
  • Outpatient therapy programs including:
    • Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)
    • Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP)
  • Intensive inpatient therapy programs
  • Detox therapy

These therapies will help you to understand how to handle your addiction and deal with the symptoms. Rather than merely detoxing, you will understand cravings and actually stop abusing tramadol.

Support in Tramadol Addiction

Tramadol addiction is a difficult addiction to beat, but the substance abuse professionals here at Resurgence Behavioral Health are here to help. With medical support to minimize withdrawal symptoms, you will also be offered pharmacological treatments that are proven to assist in reducing these symptoms

Begin substance abuse programs, learn how to manage your cravings, and begin to recover from tramadol addiction. Our professionals understand how difficult detox can be and will help you get through it.

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