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Is Tramadol An Opioid Analgesic?

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Gerardo Sison, Pharm.D

Tramadol is an opioid analgesic, which means it’s a medication prescribed for pain. Typically used to treat moderate to severe pain, people taking it to feel relief within an hour. When used as prescribed, Tramadol can be a safe, effective medication.

However, opioid analgesics like Tramadol present a great risk of abuse. This is because they are highly addictive, so using these medications for longer than prescribed can result in addiction.

How Does Tramadol Work?

Tramadol and other prescription opioids work by depressing the central nervous system (CNS). What exactly does this mean?

We all have opioid receptors in various places throughout the body: in the brain, gastrointestinal tract, spinal cord, and other organs. Opioids bind to these receptors, reducing our perception of pain. After just a few subsequent doses of opioid medications, the brain can adapt its response to pain—it learns to seek the ease of pain and euphoria opioids produce.

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Tramadol Side Effects

As with any medication, side effects vary by person. Some side effects may be worsened by abuse, and can include:

  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Euphoria
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Nausea
  • Slowed breathing
  • Vomiting
  • In extreme cases, coma

Tramadol Abuse

If you’ve ever taken prescription opioids, you may be surprised to find that they can easily be abused. People fall victim to prescription drug abuse with medications like Tramadol for the simple fact that they don’t realize the drug’s potential for abuse.

Too often, we think drugs prescribed by a doctor are safe and free from risk. While many medications can be taken safely, especially when taken as directed, some pose the risk of abuse even if taken for just a few days. This is especially true for opioids.

Tramadol is only prescribed for a few days. Taking the drug for longer than that can lead to addiction. If your body becomes tolerant to the effects of the drug or begins depending on it, you are at heightened risk for addiction.

Tolerance happens when your body doesn’t get the same effects when taking a drug as you did the first time. Eventually, you may take more and more of it to achieve the same effects. When you don’t have access to the drug anymore, you may experience signs of dependence (withdrawal).

Signs Of Opioid Withdrawal

The U.S. National Library of Medicine explains that physical dependence, “means that a person relies on the drug to prevent withdrawal symptoms.” The early signs of withdrawal can range from moderate to severe, and include:

  • Aching muscles
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Excessive yawning
  • Increased tearing
  • Insomnia
  • Perspiration (sweating)
  • Runny nose

As withdrawal becomes more severe, or with the prolonged absence of the drug, symptoms can escalate. Later symptoms of withdrawal may be:

  • Diarrhea
  • Goosebumps
  • Nausea
  • Pupil dilation
  • Stomach cramps
  • Vomiting

Who Is Affected?

Most people obtain medications like Tramadol first through a prescription (the drug can only be prescribed by a doctor). However, if someone has been taking Tramadol, develops an addiction, and no longer has access to the medication, that person may seek other ways to get it.

Tramadol may present great risk of abuse for those who already struggle with addiction, or have mental health issues, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Prescription opioids like Tramadol also greatly affect both youth (ages 12 to 17) and women, who are more likely to seek care for chronic pain, get high doses of opioid medications, and develop a resulting addiction.

Scope Of Prescription Drug Abuse

Abuse of prescription pain relievers may be the addiction you never knew was possible. However, if you’re struggling with this, you’re far from alone.

In 2015, 2 million Americans age 12 and above had a substance use disorder caused by prescription opioids, as reported by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). This number is troubling, but just as troubling is knowing that prescription opioid abuse often leads to heroin abuse or addiction.

When people lose access to prescriptions and can’t obtain drugs of abuse, they tend to find alternatives to avoid withdrawal. Heroin is another narcotic, an opioid, and is far less expensive and easier to obtain than prescription opioids like Tramadol.

Trading one drug of abuse for another means taking on a whole new set of side effects, risk of withdrawal or overdose, and other problems. Fortunately, Addiction Campuses can connect you with some of the best treatments available to fight the cycle of addiction.

Treatment for Opioid Abuse

Opioid abuse treatment should be comprehensive, as addiction to opioids affects both your body and mind. First comes detoxification, a necessary first step that allows your body to flush out toxins. With that completed, you’ll be ready to begin healing.

Detoxification from opioids can be dangerous if attempted alone. That’s why our rehab centers offer medically supervised detox support, and medication when needed. Medication-assisted therapy is just one facet of treatment; with inpatient treatment, you’ll have access to a number of therapies and other treatment modalities.

Just some of the research-based services offered at our rehab centers include:

  • Treatment specific for men
  • Treatment specific for women
  • Adventure therapy
  • Holistic therapy
  • Dual diagnosis treatment
  • Counseling
  • Help with aftercare

Finding a treatment plan that is tailored to your individual needs makes a world of difference in recovery success. When you make the decision to change your life and fight opioid addiction, our rehab centers can help you achieve your goals.

Get Treatment For Tramadol Abuse Today

It’s never easy to admit that you may need help, especially to overcome something that was supposed to be helping you, like pain relief medication. If you are struggling with opioid abuse, know you’re not alone in this fight. Many people suffer from prescription drug abuse and addiction every year, but not all receive help.

Reach out today to learn more about Tramadol abuse, treatment options, and to hear about how inpatient rehab centers can make a difference in your recovery.

Food And Drug Administration - https://www.fda.gov/downloads/Safety/MedWatch/%25E2%2580%25A6/UCM213265.pdf

Mayo Clinic - http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/tramadol-oral-route/description/drg-20068050

National Institute On Drug Abuse - https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/relationship-between-prescription-drug-abuse-heroin-use/introduction

U.S. National Library Of Medicine - https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000949.htm

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Gerardo Sison, Pharm.D
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