Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, MD, FFARCSI

Tramadol is a synthetic opioid medication used to get relief from moderate to severe pain. Tramadol is known to be a narcotic analgesic, which causes the brain to change how your body is feeling and responding to the pain. While tramadol is known to be an effective pain-relieving drug, it is also known to cause dependence. So how to recognize tramadol addiction and how to treat it? Let us understand this in detail.

What is Tramadol and What are its Side Effects?

Tramadol is one of the most popularly used pain relievers prescribed for moderate to severe pain. It is a synthetic opioid and it is known to bind to the opioid receptors in the brain, mimicking the body's natural pain-relief system, thus providing relief from the pain. Tramadol is available in an extended-release tablet form or in a long-acting capsule form as well. The effects of tramadol, when swallowed orally, become apparent within a span of four to six hours. While tramadol is not as strong an opioid as some other prescription drugs or other illicit opioids such as methadone, codeine, or heroin, it is still known to cause dependence.

The commonest side effects of tramadol include euphoria, the sense of overall well-being and relaxation, pain relief lasting for 6 to 8 hours, constipation, dizziness, headaches, fatigue, slowdown in breathing, itching, erectile dysfunction, vomiting and/or nausea and sense of confusion. Knowing how to recognize tramadol addiction can help in finding better ways to manage and treat it.

How to Recognize Tramadol Addiction?

If you think that a loved one is addicted to tramadol, then the first step is to recognize the signs of symptoms of tramadol addiction. So how to recognize tramadol addiction? Keep in mind that when a loved one starts using tramadol for a long time, it is bound to change the chemistry and structure of their brain over a period of time, making it extremely difficult for them to simply stop taking the medication one fine day.

If a person gets addicted to any substance, they start hiding their substance abuse from their friends, loved ones, and family. If you suspect someone close to you being addicting to tramadol, there are some signs of addiction that you can look for.

Here is some important information on how to recognize tramadol addiction. Watch out for

  • Personality changes such as anxiety, mood swings and euphoria
  • Changes in appearance like sudden and unexplained weight gain or weight loss, pinprick pupils, poor hygiene, etc.
  • Behavioral changes such as secrecy, aggressive behavior, and paranoia
  • Withdrawal from society causing a strained relationship with family, friends
  • Establishing new relationships with other substance users
  • Health issues such as poor nutrition, insomnia, and exhaustion
  • Monetary or legal issues including frequent need for money to buy the medication
  • Decline in performance either at work or at school

If you are able to recognize tramadol addiction symptoms, seeking medical opinion can help in confirming it and preventing further complications. If you are considering an intervention, then keep in mind that a positive outcome is not always guaranteed, so while an intervention may prompt the substance user to seek help for their addiction, it can also backfire, causing the person to withdraw, feel shame and anger.

Commonest Signs and Symptoms to Recognize Tramadol Addiction

Some of the commonest signs and symptoms of tramadol addiction, that help to recognize tramadol addiction include:

  • Having an overpowering urge to use the drug
  • Regular tramadol use
  • Increasing the dosage of tramadol to achieve the normal effect
  • Never running out of the medication and always having a constant supply available at hand
  • Spending money that is needed for bills or other essentials on buying tramadol
  • Failing to meet other obligations due to the use of tramadol
  • Continuing to use tramadol in spite of its side effects
  • Engaging in risky behavior to ultimately obtain the medication
  • Willing to take risks that are out-of-character otherwise, while under the influence of tramadol
  • Trying to and failing to stop the use of tramadol
  • Experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms once you stop using tramadol

Ways to Treat Tramadol Addiction

Treatment alternatives for tramadol addiction are more or less the same for any opioid addiction. If you are wondering how to treat tramadol addiction, here are two main treatment options, which include:

  • Therapy: Psychotherapy is one of the commonest ways to treat tramadol addiction. Led by a psychologist, psychiatrist, or a counselor, there are several types of therapy available for treating tramadol addiction. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the common types of therapy used for helping the substance user identify and change their behavior and attitude that leads to drug use. Therapy also teaches you how to cope with the cravings and reduces the risk of a relapse. There are also therapies known as contingency management (CM) therapies that are targeted at opioid addiction and incorporate rewards such as vouchers or cash prizes in return for drug-free urine samples. The longer you remain drug-free, the higher the value of these rewards. While therapy is intensive to last through during the first couple weeks, as time goes on, it becomes easier to deal with therapy and also the frequency of these sessions decreases.
  • Medication: There are many medications available used to treat tramadol addiction. These are known as maintenance medications, such as methadone, and are used for easing the withdrawal symptoms, without giving a 'high' similar to tramadol. There are some types of maintenance medications which prevent tramadol from activating the opioid receptors of the brain, thus switching off the 'high' that tramadol generally gives. The exact type of medications that need to be used to treat tramadol addiction is best decided by the physician and it is necessary to follow medical advice.
  • Detoxification - Detoxification will help you stop taking tramadol as quickly and as safely as possible. The process of detox can include medications that will ease these withdrawal symptoms. Before the start of the detox program, your doctor will first also perform a physical examination, including blood tests, to determine that there are no other underlying conditions that have to be addressed. Detoxification can last for several days to many weeks. The exact timeline depends on how dependent your body has become on tramadol.

How to Manage Tramadol Withdrawal?

While the physician, psychotherapy team and the family work together to treat tramadol addiction, managing tramadol withdrawal is equally important. It is not an easy to withdraw from tramadol addiction. While everyone experiences withdrawal or detox symptoms different, some generalized side effects of tramadol detox/withdrawal include anxiety, agitation, diarrhea, insomnia, cravings, stomach cramps, sweating, shivering, muscle pain, nausea/vomiting and restlessness. Some people may also experience more severe withdrawal symptoms like extreme anxiety, panic attacks, confusion, numbness and tingling, state of confusion, hallucinations or paranoia.

Conclusion

Recovering from any addiction takes time and patience. The same holds true for recovering from tramadol addiction. Knowing how to recognize tramadol addiction is the first step, further which the plan to treat tramadol addiction can be made. Along with your doctor and your family members, you will be able to overcome your tramadol addiction in no time.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: August 25, 2018

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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