Tramadol is a weak opioid and a schedule IV narcotic pain reliever that is mostly administered to patients suffering from medium to severe pains. In spite of the misconception that tramadol isn’t addictive; some people develop a dependency on the medication without realizing it.
Since the approval of tramadol for the treatment of pain by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1995, the drug has been applied in various treatment regimens such as post-operative pain, musculoskeletal pain treatment. The drug is administered orally and through an injection.
Tramadol, also known as tammies, chill pills, and ultras in the streets, is widely misused due to its ability to cause euphoria. An estimate of 1.6 to 1.8 Americans reported past-year abuse of oral tramadol. The DEA, after a survey in 2012, also reported that at least 3.2 million Americans misused tramadol for nonmedical purposes. The possibility of becoming addicted to tramadol is extremely high especially for individuals that use them without a prescription.
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How Does Tramadol Work?
Tramadol is a strong painkiller that acts on opioid receptors, the central nervous system, monoamine reuptake systems to numb pains, and induces a feeling of relaxation. Those that use tramadol frequently expose their brains to changes in the chemical pathways and alterations in the structures and composition of the brain. The ardent user will become tolerant to the effects of the drug. The implication is that the drug will no longer have an effect at the same dosage as earlier. The individual would have to keep increasing the intake of tramadol every time in order to achieve the same level of effect. This is referred to as drug tolerance. So how can one tell that they have become addicted to Tramadol?
When a person starts to experience withdrawal symptoms and craving tramadol it is a clear indication of addiction. Tramadol, while creating a high, activates opioid receptors in the brain and blocks neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine from going back into the system. Tramadol, like every opioid, has two withdrawal phases; the early and late phases.
Typically, the early phase begins when the medication has left the bloodstream while the late phase occurs a while later.
1. Early Tramadol Withdrawal Symptoms
Some of these symptoms are general with opioid withdrawal and has a few similarities with the flu. The early tramadol withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Runny nose
- Fast breathing
- Muscle aches
- Tearing up
2. Late Tramadol Withdrawal Symptoms
The DEA reported that these traditional symptoms are experienced by 90 percent of addicts while 10 percent may experience more extreme symptoms such as hallucinations, paranoia, numbness, anxiety, confusion, and other symptoms.
- Loss of appetite
- Pupil dilation
- Stomach cramps
- Craving the drug
- Inability to focus
How To Stop Tramadol Addiction
Addiction to tramadol can present with mild to severe symptoms depending on the length of time that the user has used the drug and to what capacity. A person who is addicted may begin to experience withdrawal symptoms once the drug has left the bloodstream, which in some cases can take a short period of time.
Trammies have a short half-life, and the immediate release forms have the effectiveness of a 1-4 hour range, while the extended-release versions may peak at 4-6 hour range. Once the drug leaves the system the individual begins to experience a lot of discomforts.
There are ways to manage tramadol addiction. One method that you should never try is quitting cold turkey. Quitting cold turkey is extremely dangerous and can lead to overdose and other health problems. One possible way to stop tramadol addiction is to taper off the drug.
How To Taper Off Tramadol
The bane of successful recovery from tramadol addiction is recurrent withdrawal symptoms. Tapering off tramadol is a technique that works by methodically decreasing the amount of tramadol used at each exposure until the body begins to adjust to smaller dosages through self-detoxification. This technique is not free of withdrawal symptoms; however, the smaller dosages would ensure that the individual only gets a small amount when it is absolutely necessary. Tapering off tramadol should only be conducted and managed by a medical professional to avoid complications.
The first step is to have a medical professional to create a tramadol tapering schedule. Physicians usually recommend a reduction rate of 10% daily for individuals with a shorter history of use and 10% weekly for patients who have used tramadol for years. The frequency of tramadol administration can be adjusted continuously over time and the taper method can be effective if managed by a physician.
Stop Tramadol Addiction With Medical Detox
Medical detox is one of the best ways to stop tramadol addiction. Medical detox is highly effective because it helps to deal with cravings and withdrawal effects. Addiction to tramadol affects various regions in the brain and increases the desire to use the drug. There are also intense psychological effects that may make “quitting the drug” a challenge.
There are three types of drugs that are approved by the FDA for the treatment of opioid withdrawal, they are Buprenorphine, Methadone, and Naltrexone.
Buprenorphine is a long-acting partial opioid agonist. It reacts with opioid receptors for a longer period of time than tramadol. The drug minimizes withdrawal symptoms of tramadol and does not cause any mind-altering effects. The FDA approved four types of buprenorphine for the treatment of opioid withdrawal: Suboxone, Zubsolv, Bunavail, and Subutex. The first three contain naloxone, an opioid antagonist. The naloxone in these products prevents the products from being abused as it precipitates withdrawal symptoms when taken in excess.
Buprenorphine is used in different stages of medical detox and is extremely helpful in the prevention of relapse.
The best options for tramadol medical detox are a long-acting opioid agonist and this is what makes Methadone one of the most preferred options for opioid addiction treatment. The duration of action of methadone is extremely long (half-life of about 59 hours). This is why the drug can easily stand in as a substitute medication for a short-acting opioid such as tramadol. It helps to keep addiction to tramadol at bay, however, the drug methadone is an opioid, and that being said, it also has the potential for abuse and addiction.
If a person uses methadone for a longer period than prescribed by a doctor, they can develop a dependency on the medication; therefore it is advised to use the drug with caution.
The opioid antagonist is well suited for early tramadol withdrawal that is when tramadol is completely ejected from the system, at the start of opioid abstinence. Naltrexone works by blocking opioid receptors from getting activated by the ingested opioid drug.
In general, a physician may decide to use a combination of medications and supplements to treat tramadol addiction. Tapering off tramadol is effective but long-term addicts are better off with medical detoxification. These pharmaceuticals help to manage withdrawal symptoms and greatly reduce the cravings, enabling treatment even at a critical stage.
Holistic treatment and the use of therapeutic tools and resources are also quite effective against tramadol addiction. They assist in regulating the stress levels and mood of the patient as well as reducing cravings. NIDA has recommended a combination of therapy, pharmaceuticals, and various supportive techniques in the treatment of opioid dependency and addiction.