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Tramadol Addiction

Table of Contents

The opioid crisis continues to rage on with no relief in sight. In 2017, the United States Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency and announced a 5-Point-Strategy to Combat the Opioid crisis. These five points aim to improve access to treatment; promote the use of overdose-reversing drugs; strengthen our understanding of the epidemic through better public health surveillance; provide support for cutting-edge research on pain and addiction; and advance better practices for pain management. 

Ninety percent (90%) of Americans in active addiction are not receiving the treatment they need. Ensuring that individuals can access the treatment they require could be the difference between life or death. The tragedies we see nationwide have become enough, and it is time to take action. 

Opioids are often used recreationally, making them among the most widely misused and abused. Tramadol falls into this category. The medication was introduced in 1977, but low sales never gave it the recognition as an addictive drug. In the 1990s, Tramadol was brought to the United States where it became notorious for its addiction potential. Misuse and abuse have prompted countries such as Egypt to crack down on it.

What Is Tramadol?

Tramadol is a synthetic opioid that doctors prescribe to treat mild-to-moderate pain. It was approved in the United States in 1995 when it was sold under the brand name “Ultram.” It comes in various forms such as extended-release and long-acting tablets that provide relief for longer durations. Researchers are not quite sure how Tramadol works, but it works similarly to how morphine affects the brain.

Tramadol, like other opioids, acts on the central nervous system by binding to the brain’s opioid receptors. These receptors change how the brain and body receive messages about pain. In the medical community, it is considered to be a safer alternative to other stronger opioids such as Norco or morphine. It can be habit-forming with long-term abuse. On the street, Tramadol is called chill-pills, ultras, and OxyContin Lite among other slang names.

What Are the Signs of Tramadol Addiction?

Abusing Tramadol can lead to dependency, which ultimately could lead to addiction. Recreational Tramadol users typically crush the pills into a powder to snort. This produces a faster and more intense rush that negates its time-release feature. This could cause an overdose. Some signs of abuse include confusion, drowsiness, confusion, suppressed breathing, and possible death. Outward signs of Tramadol abuse include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Tolerance
  • Using it in ways inconsistent with its purpose
  • Mixing Tramadol with other drugs
  • Running out of Tramadol before a prescription expires
  • Strained relationships with family or friends

Physical Signs:

  • Appetite changes
  • Pinned pupils
  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Headaches
  • Seizures
  • Impaired coordination
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Nausea and vomiting

When a person uses the drug regularly and either runs out or stops using, they likely will go into withdrawal. This is extremely common in people who attempt to stop using via the “quitting cold turkey” method. This is never recommended, and it is not a long-term solution for someone who is serious about sobriety. Body aches, pains, nausea, bone pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and chills are among the withdrawal symptoms Tramadol users can experience. Treatment at a professional facility is the most safe and efficient way to end Tramadol dependence.

How Does Treatment for Tramadol Work?

Taking steps to recognize your addiction and check into treatment at a reputable addiction recovery facility is the among the biggest decisions you can ever make. The first step in the continuum of care is a medical detox. During this period, which can last up to a week (or longer in more severe cases), addictive and harmful substances are safely removed from the body. You will be under intensive 24-hour, seven-day-a-week supervision by a team of medical professionals. 

While we know what the process requires, it can be unpredictable from person to person. This is why having medications and knowledgeable and compassionate staff to guide you through this difficult process can help immensely. Having the right medications will ease the worst symptoms of detox and transition you into sobriety with dignity. The client could be given opioid substitutes methadone or Suboxone to help combat the withdrawals.

Once the client is stable, and drug(s) are removed from their system, the next step is to create a medical plan with the staff to determine a course of action. Depending on the severity of the addiction, the client will either follow detox with residential or outpatient treatment

Spending additional time in a drug rehab increases the chances of long-term sobriety exponentially. There is no predetermined length as everyone’s progress varies, but it is said that 90 days of treatment is the least amount of time to stay in drug or alcohol rehab for the best results. With that said, someone suffering from a moderate-to-severe Tramadol addiction may want to consider inpatient care that requires a 30- to 90-day stay in a facility. In this setting, the client will join other individuals on the same journey to build relationships with as they manage their sobriety.

During this time, the client will attend therapies that are designed to treat their addiction at the root. One of the most common and beneficial therapy is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which teaches people in recovery how to view, manage, and adjust to their triggers and find healthier ways to respond to them to avoid a relapse

Outpatient programs can be beneficial to those who can’t leave previous engagements, such as a job. Outpatient functions in the same manner as residential. The only difference is that the client can return home upon the completion of therapy. The person will be required to attend a specific number of classes per week and pass mandatory drug screenings.

How Dangerous Is Tramadol?

Tramadol can be inherently dangerous when consumed in large doses. Signs of Tramadol overdose include:

  • Pinprick pupils
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Slowed heartbeat
  • Muscle weakness
  • Clammy skin
  • Coma

Overdose is an emergency and requires immediate attention. Call 911 immediately if you suspect someone has overdosed on Tramadol or any other drug. First responders may administer a drug called Naloxone (also known as Narcan) if they deem it to be an opioid overdose. This medication is designed to block the effects of opioids and immediately reverse the drugs in the body. Those who use Tramadol excessively could experience serotonin syndrome, a condition that alters how the brain produces serotonin. Tramadol can cause the body to produce too much serotonin, and it can cause symptoms that range from fever to seizures. This can be fatal if not treated. Signs of serotonin syndrome include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • High body temperature
  • Loss of motor skills
  • Increased reflexes
  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

Tramadol Abuse Statistics

Start Your Journey to Recovery Today

If you or someone you care about is struggling with Tramadol addiction, Ocean Breeze Recovery can help you take the steps you need to leave substance abuse behind. We offer our clients intensive outpatient treatment and partial hospitalization services. If you or your loved one needs medical detox or residential treatment, please visit our sister facility, Arete Recovery.Call 844-554-9279 now to speak with one of our addiction specialists about which of our treatment programs is best for you or your loved one. You also can connect us online for more information.


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verywellmind. (2020, March 23) How Long Does Withdrawal From Tramadol Last? O'Keefe Osborn, C., Gans, S., MD. Retrieved from

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). How long does drug addiction treatment usually last? Retrieved from

Mayo Clinic. (2019, December 10) Serotonin syndrome. Retrieved from


U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, March 29) CDC Newsroom Releases. U.S. drug overdose deaths continue to rise; increase fueled by synthetic opioids.Retrieved from

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