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Drug addiction: Dangerous effects of Tramadol

Tochi Juliet
By Tochi Juliet
Drug addiction: A man taking tramadol, a narcotic-like pain killer


Tramadol, typically sold under the brand name "Ultram," is an opioid pain medication. It is a strong painkiller used to treat moderate to severe pain, for instance, pain after an operation or surgery.

However, there are cases of abuse and addiction, as some have turned it to become cocaine because of its ability to make one 'high'.

How it works

Tramadol belongs to a class of drugs called opioid agonists. "Drug Class" implies a group of medications that work similarly. These drugs are often used to treat similar conditions.

Tramadol works by changing how your brain senses pain. It is similar to substances in your brain called endorphins. Endorphins bind to receptors (parts of cells that receive a specific substance).

The receptors then act to decrease the pain messages that your body sends to your brain. Tramadol works in a similar way to reduce the amount of pain your brain thinks you’re experiencing.

It's possible to become addicted to tramadol, but this is rare if you're taking it to relieve pain, and your doctor is reviewing your treatment regularly.

Many take it now not to relieve pain and not under any medical supervision but for pleasure and, as such, have abused and are addicted to it.

When taken by an oral route, tramadol is converted into another compound called Desmethyl tramadol , a much more potent activator of opioid receptors than tramadol itself.

As a result, users may get high on tramadol, even if that was not their intention when they first started taking the drug.

In 2014, the FDA designated tramadol as a controlled substance. Although it might have acceptable use in medical care, it also has the potential for abuse or addiction and is, therefore, more tightly regulated.

Tramadol tablets, a pain killer drug that can become the killer if misused

Just like every other drug addiction, the dangerous effect of tramadol cannot be overemphasized. Since it is a narcotic, potential abuse and addiction can be very dangerous.

Tramadol is abused because of its calming and euphoric effects. People who abuse tramadol typically feel like they are relaxed and happy after taking it. People with severe pain may also take higher doses of the drug, which puts them at higher risks of severe side effects.

Short-term effects of tramadol

  • Lack of pain: Tramadol is a painkiller; it modifies the transmission of pain signals to the brain so that you experience less intense pain while you are taking it.
  • Elated mood: Tramadol works similar to many antidepressant medications in that it increases the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in your brain. This may lead to feelings of euphoria and well-being. For some individuals, these pleasant symptoms serve to reinforce a pattern of continued tramadol use.
  • Anxiety reduction: Tramadol helps some users feel relaxed and calm because of the way it changes brain chemistry.

These symptoms and signs can contribute to a developing tramadol addiction, especially if the individual in question is concurrently experiencing depression and anxiety issues.

It is advisable to always follow your Doctor's prescription and never go beyond that.

Dangerous effects of Tramadol

As a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, tramadol slows down lung and heart function. Those who take substantial doses of Tramadol (much higher than what would be prescribed) can stop breathing altogether and may experience a fatal overdose.

Tramadol is sometimes abused alongside other drugs. This is called polydrug use. Typically, users combine tramadol with other substances such as alcohol, sedatives (Sleeping pills) and other painkillers.

The risk of developing an addiction to tramadol is higher when the drug is taken with other substances.

As a CNS depressant, it can be hazardous to mix tramadol with other CNS depressants, like alcohol, opioids and sedative-hypnotics.

Mixing these substances can lead to respiratory depression. It also increases the risk of seizure or overdose.

Minor side effects of Tramadol Abuse

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Fever
  • Dizziness
  • Appetite loss
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Muscle aches
  • Depression
  • Sweating

Major side effects of Tramadol Abuse

  • Sleepiness
  • Unconsciousness
  • Coma
  • Seizures
  • Respiratory depression
  • Abnormally low blood pressure
  • Slow heart rate
  • Sweating or clammy skin
  • Weak muscles
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Death

According to Addiction centre, Another potentially dangerous side effect of tramadol abuse is "serotonin syndrome", which can be life-threatening if left untreated.

It occurs when too much serotonin, a chemical that relays signals in the brain, is produced or remains in the brain. Serotonin syndrome most commonly occurs in patients who take tramadol and antidepressants at the same time.

Symptoms of serotonin syndrome include:

  • Confusion
  • Agitation
  • Jerky muscles
  • Rigid muscles
  • Tremors
  • Lack of coordination
  • Seizures
  • Coma

Tramadol abuse can cause Confusion, Agitation, loss of memory, fear, and most of all, jerky muscles

Signs that characterise addiction

There are some behaviours, signs, and symptoms to look out for once you are on Tramadol to avoid addiction. These signs will also help you spot someone that is heading towards tramadol addiction.

The following behaviours are commonly associated with an addiction to tramadol.

  • Visiting multiple doctors to obtain more tramadol (doctor shopping)
  • Compulsive use of tramadol
  • Neglecting responsibilities at home, work, or school
  • Mood swings
  • Excessive drowsiness
  • Using tramadol without a prescription or buying it off the street
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Apathy
  • Inability to feel pleasure
  • Impaired coordination
  • Vomiting from large doses
  • Having to take larger amounts to experience the same effects
  • Hiding or leaving around empty prescription bottles
  • Spending large amounts of money on tramadol
  • Continuing to use tramadol despite negative consequences
  • Spending the majority of time using, recovering from, or trying to obtain tramadol

Over consumption of Tramadol can be very harmful to your health

Steps to recover from Tramadol Abuse and Addiction

Sometimes, those addicted to tramadol do not realise they have a problem. At other times, they are just in denial of the fact that they are into drug abuse.

It is not uncommon for addicts to feel ambushed or react defensively to an intervention. There are steps to take to let go of tramadol addiction.

Recovery is a process, not an event! Like any chronic illness, recovery from tramadol addiction is a journey involving treatment and lifestyle changes, requiring the attention of licensed, certified professionals.

According to Mental Help.Net, these are helpful treatments to get over the addiction.

  • Residential Rehabilitation
  • Executive Programs
  • Counselling and Therapy
  • Partial hospitalisation and intensive outpatient treatment