Yes, tramadol is addictive. Tramadol (brand name Ultram) is a common prescription drug in a class of drugs known as opioid painkillers. It is used to treat moderate to moderately-severe pain, such as in a post-surgical setting or chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia.
Compared to many other opioids, tramadol is relatively weak—100 mg of tramadol is roughly 10 mg of morphine. Nonetheless, it can produce strong effects when taken in large doses.
Because it is an opioid, tramadol alters the user’s perception of pain, inducing analgesic effects. It also stimulates a large influx of dopamine into the central nervous system (CNS), which causes feelings of well-being, euphoria, and reward.
Is Tramadol Addictive?: Abuse and Effects
The pleasurable feelings that tramadol causes make it a target for substance abusers. Substance abuse is any use of a drug in higher doses than prescribed, in combination with other substances to enhance effects, or taking it without a prescription. Abuse of tramadol increases the likelihood of side effects, tolerance, dependence, addiction, and overdose.
The Drug Enforcement Administration has designated tramadol as a Schedule IV substance under the Controlled Substances Act. This means that, compared to many other prescription drugs, it has a low potential for abuse and dependence.
Indeed, tramadol is prescribed more often than many other painkillers because it is considered to be less addictive. Still, it can cause dependence after just a few weeks of use, and addiction to tramadol is no joke.
Tramadol is typically found as a pill meant to be ingested orally. Abusers seeking a high sometimes crush the pill and snort the powder or dissolve it in water and inject it intravenously. These methods of administration decrease the time it takes for effects to onset, but they also significantly increase the risk of overdose and side effects.
Side effects of tramadol abuse may include the following:
- Blurry vision
- Chronic constipation
- Difficulty concentrating
- Excessive sweating
- Frequent urination
- Irregular heartbeat
- Memory loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Numbness and tingling
- Poor motor skills
- Redness and itching
- Stomach cramps
- Stomach fullness
- Swelling of extremities
- Trembling and shaking
Is Tramadol Addictive?: Dependence and Withdrawal
Using tramadol for an extended period will lead to a condition called physical or chemical dependence. Dependence occurs when the body adapts to the constant presence of the drug. In response, it stops producing its own chemicals and instead relies solely on that substance. If a dependent user tries to cut back their dose or quit “cold turkey,” they will experience unpleasant and painful symptoms of withdrawal.
Withdrawal symptoms associated with discontinuation of tramadol include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Dilated pupils
- Drug cravings
- Excessive yawning
- High blood pressure
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle and body aches
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rapid breathing
- Rapid pulse
- Runny nose
- Stomach pains
- Teary eyes
Most of these symptoms typically begin within 24 hours of the last use, peak within three days, then gradually subside over a week to 10 days. Some people may experience persistent emotional and psychological symptoms for a few months after cessation of use.
Is Tramadol Addictive?: Tramadol Addiction
Tramadol, like other opioids, is indeed habit-forming, results in dependence, and can be addictive. Once an individual becomes dependent, the unpleasantness of the withdrawal symptoms often compels them to take tramadol to avoid them continually. While dependence is almost always a component of addiction, the hallmark feature of true addiction is the uncontrollable, repeated use of a substance despite the incurrence of adverse consequences.
As the individual gets deeper and deeper into an addiction, their obsession with obtaining and using the drug starts to cause more and more problems. Most individuals with addictions tend to display similar patterns of behavior. Recognizing these warning signs in a loved one is a crucial step in getting help.
Warning signs of addiction to tramadol or other drugs include the following:
- Arrest and incarceration
- Secretive or deceptive behavior
- Neglect of personal hygiene
- Isolation from friends and family
- Damaged and broken relationships
- Neglect of children, family, and household duties
- Uncharacteristic aggression or worsening domestic violence
- Loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed
- Use of drugs in inappropriate or hazardous situations, such as at work or while driving
- Intense drug cravings
- Going to extreme lengths to obtain drugs, e.g., prostitution or theft
- Being unable to quit despite sincerely wanting to
When a person becomes addicted to a drug, their life can suddenly become highly volatile. The addiction causes the person to prioritize drug use over essential responsibilities, such as taking care of family and children, going to work, or attending school.
It is very common for an individual suffering through an active addiction to lose their job and become unable to maintain employment. This loss of income can compel some to resort to unsavory means to procure their drug of choice.
Getting Treatment for Addiction
It takes a lot of courage for someone to admit to themselves and others that they have an addiction, but this is the first and most crucial step toward recovery. Addiction is a disease that can wreak havoc on an individual’s life and the lives of their loved ones. The best way to conquer addiction is to enter a long-term treatment program in a professional substance abuse treatment facility.
At Just Believe Recovery, our compassionate staff equip our clients with the education, tools, and support they require to achieve long-lasting sobriety and wellness. Our programs are comprised of clinically-proven services, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, individual and family counseling, group therapy, relapse prevention, aftercare planning, and more.