Tramadol, also marketed as Ultram, is a moderate strength opioid-based painkiller that was released in the U.S. in 1995. I became familiar with it back in 2000 to 2001 after an injury I had sustained. I didn’t know I was an addict at this point, but I knew that things were getting out of hand. I have prescribed Tramadol for tooth pain and didn’t think it was a big deal because I was told it didn’t have Codeine in it. I quickly learned that the potential for misuse was great and that it was just as dangerous as stronger opiates.
Sign & Symptoms of Tramadol Abuse
Tramadol works by altering the brain’s pain receptors, and it can also be used as an antidepressant. It prevents the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain, which improves mood and energy levels. People can easily abuse this medication because it’s relaxing and pleasurable effects. Your loved one is abusing Tramadol if you notice one or more of the following signs:
Using Tramadol Outside of Prescription Guidelines – Tramadol is often prescribed for pain relief, so it may be difficult to tell if your loved one is abusing it. However, if your loved one is using it in another way than how it is prescribed, or taking it longer than prescribed, they are using it outside of prescription guidelines. Using it in another way could be either chewing the tablet, dissolving it under the tongue, crushing it and snorting it, or crushing it and mixing it with water for injection. The medication is formulated to be dispersed in the body gradually, so taking it another way will cause the entire dose to reach the bloodstream quicker, producing a more intense effect. You may notice them sniffing a lot, you may find a straw or spoon, or you may find powder residue either on them or in the bathroom.
Multiple Tramadol Prescriptions or No Prescription at All – A common practice for someone that is abusing any prescription medication is “doctor shopping”. Recent laws have made it a lot tougher to do this, but it is still possible. Doctor shopping is the act of visiting multiple doctors to obtain the same prescription. It is also possible to purchase some medications online without a prescription. Another way to obtain Tramadol is by purchasing it off the street or asking a friend or family member for their unused medication. Tramadol comes as a round white oval tablet or a green and yellow capsule.
Changes in Behavior Because of Tramadol Use – Addiction to anything eventually causes a change in a person’s behavior. I know for me, it completely changes who I am. For someone that isn’t used to being around it though, it may be difficult to point out. The person may disappear for long periods or lie about where they have been. They may be hanging around a different group of people or may have lost interest in things they once enjoyed.
Addiction changes the way a person’s brain works which is reflected in their priorities and behavior. Addiction takes a lot of time out an addict’s day; they will probably spend a lot of time seeking out and using the drug. This behavior starts to affect their job and could cause financial strain due to excessive drug use.
Physical Signs of Tramadol Abuse – Tramadol is taken in excess can slow breathing and heart rate for an overall sedating effect. Someone abusing it may show signs of intense calm and relaxation. This is because Tramadol is a central nervous system depressant. Also, one can overdose if they take too much of the medication. Signs of a Tramadol overdose may be indicated by severe respiratory depression, loss of consciousness, or a coma.
Some of the adverse effects of Tramadol abuse:
- Nausea or Vomiting
- Severe itching
- Physical weakness
- Dry Mouth
Tramadol abuse can also cause Serotonin Syndrome. This is when the body has an overlap overload of serotonin. Some of the symptoms may be:
- Agitation and confusion
- Dilated Pupils
- Fast heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Muscle spasms
- Sweating or shivering
- High fever
If you or your loved one ever experience any serious adverse effects of Tramadol, especially any signs of Serotonin Syndrome, please seek help immediately.
Tramadol Withdrawal Symptoms
Prescription opioid medication is only meant to be taken for a short period. Long term use, especially in high doses, can result in either a physical dependence or full-blown addiction. If your loved one has been taking Tramadol for a long period, they may develop a tolerance for the drug. Once tolerance has developed, it takes more and more medication to be effective.
If your loved one stops taking the Tramadol abruptly, withdrawal symptoms will occur. Some of the signs of withdrawal include anxiety, sweating, nausea, chills, weakness, restlessness, diarrhea, and cramps, as well as higher blood pressure and heart rate.
Withdrawal symptoms and physical dependence are not necessarily signs of Tramadol abuse, but they can cause the person to continue taking the drug and develop an addiction.
Treatment for Tramadol Addiction
Treatment for Tramadol abuse and addiction is best done under a medically supervised detox in a treatment facility. Some may decide that medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction is best. This includes the use of a medication called Suboxone (Buprenorphine) along with counseling. If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction or Tramadol abuse and would like to get help, you can reach out to Recreate Life Counseling and we will be happy to assist you or a loved one.