Tramadol Addiction Treatment

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What is Tramadol?

Tramadol is a painkiller prescribed for chronic or long-lasting pain. It is intended to be taken once per day to alleviate pain around the clock. Ryzolt, ConZip and Ultram use tramadol as a main active ingredient, and can be immediate-release or extended-release prescriptions. Tramadol is an opioid, meaning it is a synthetic compound that mimics the effects of opiates, derived from the opium poppy flower. Misuse of tramadol and other prescription opioids can result in dependency, abuse and addiction.

Tramadol is a controversial drug for its role in the recent and ongoing opioid epidemic. Even when properly prescribed by a doctor, tramadol can be habit-forming, leading to addiction. It is often prescribed for chronic pain, but it should only be prescribed for acute pain in non-cancer pain patients. If the pain-relieving effects of tramadol wear off and leave the patient in pain, it can be tempting to take excessive additional doses. Tramadol is labeled by the DEA as a Schedule IV controlled substance, but to many, it has similar dangerous effects as other narcotics, making it dangerous to increase your dosage without your doctor’s instructions. Tramadol’s addictive properties have led to Ryzolt and Ultram being sold on the street, sometimes under the name of Ultras.

Tramadol side effects and dangers

When treating chronic pain with tramadol, there are common side effects even when taking it correctly. Tramadol side effects include:

  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Sleepiness and lethargy
  • Skin rash
  • Mood changes such as anxiety and fear

Tramadol use crosses the line into abuse and addiction when it is misused. Taking more than the prescribed dosage is considered misuse because it goes against your doctor’s instructions. If your current tramadol dosage is not providing effective relief, it is important to talk to your doctor about what to do, instead of self-medicating with excessive additional doses.

It is illegal to share, give away or sell tramadol because of its dangerous overdose risks. Prescriptions are filled for specific people in specific doses, and the effects can have adverse reactions on others. Taking an incorrect tramadol dose can result in a life-threatening overdose.

Signs of tramadol overdose include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Extreme drowsiness leading to coma
  • Constricted pupils
  • Low blood pressure
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Death

Naloxone can be a life-saving treatment for opioid overdose, but administration of naloxone for tramadol overdose may increase the risk of seizure.

The path to serious abuse of tramadol can begin when the desired effect is the high produced by the drug instead of pain relief. Crushing, chewing or dissolving the pills destroys the time-release mechanism of the drug and allows the body to absorb it faster. This absorption is even more damaging when the drug is snorted or injected. The euphoric high comes faster, but so does bodily harm and the potential for addiction.

If a person addicted to tramadol is unable to access the drug, they may look for ways to buy it illegally. Because illicit tramadol is not controlled by a pharmacy, it frequently contains unknown and harmful ingredients. Even worse, a person’s craving for tramadol can be relieved by a cheap, plentiful alternative: heroin. This is a common scenario in today’s opioid epidemic.

Tramadol abuse and addiction signs

Any use of tramadol outside of a doctor’s instructions is considered drug abuse. This includes tampering with tramadol pills by chewing, crushing, cutting or dissolving them in order to ingest, snort or inject a higher dose than prescribed. Even if the tramadol pills are not tampered with, taking more pills than prescribed is also abuse of the drug.

Tramadol addiction signs include:

  • Taking more than the prescribed dosage
  • “Doctor shopping” for multiple prescriptions
  • Tampering with tramadol before taking it
  • Refusal to undergo appropriate examination, testing or referral
  • Repeated “loss” of prescription

Tramadol withdrawal symptoms and treatment

It is possible to develop a physical dependency on tramadol, which should be discussed with your doctor. A physical tramadol dependency occurs when the body adjusts to the presence of the medication and depends on that medication to function normally. A tramadol prescription can include dosing instructions from your doctor to taper off the dosage to reduce and eliminate this physical dependency. This type of medication management is important—those who are physically dependent on tramadol will experience opioid withdrawal symptoms if they stop their tramadol prescription too suddenly. If the opioid withdrawal symptoms are extreme, they could drive the patient to continue using the substance despite significant harm—the definition of addiction.

Tramadol withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Restlessness
  • Tearing
  • Runny nose
  • Yawning
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Irritability and anxiety
  • Aches and cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased breathing and heart rate

Tramadol withdrawal stabilization, also known as detoxification or detox, is usually done in a similar way as other opioid withdrawal treatment. In general, the opiate withdrawal stabilization procedures resemble those used for withdrawal from sedatives: longer-acting opioids are substituted for shorter-acting ones and the patient is stabilized on the longer-acting opioid medication, such as Suboxone. The patient will be most uncomfortable during the first one to three days of the opioid withdrawal phase, so a combination of clonidine (an alpha-adrenergic agonist), a sedative such as phenobarbital, and a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory such as Motrin (generic name ibuprofen) is frequently combined with the longer-acting opioid to help make the patient more comfortable for the first two to three days of the conversion to Suboxone. Usually after day three of the correct dose of Suboxone, a patient’s opioid withdrawal symptoms and cravings have almost completely subsided.

Tramadol addiction treatment options

Most users of tramadol need help with their addiction and require residential drug treatment. Few people can safely stop using without a certified detoxification and evidence-based addiction treatment program.
Withdrawal and recovery from tramadol addiction is most effectively accomplished under the supervision of board-certified medical professionals, who can assist with the intense cravings for the drug, along with dangerous withdrawal symptoms, such as disturbed sleep patterns, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rate, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, muscle aches and flu-like symptoms.

Typically, tramadol abusers go through a detoxification program – or withdrawal stabilization – before beginning a long-term treatment program. Patients can be prescribed anti-addiction medications to lessen the withdrawal symptoms.

The detoxification process alone is not a cure for tramadol addiction. A comprehensive, personalized addiction treatment program, like the program at Enterhealth, is crucial for a successful recovery. A combination of therapeutic and pharmacological addiction treatment can help those with tramadol addiction regain a stable and productive life and address the underlying issues creating the desire to use. Research shows that integrating both types of treatment is the most effective approach to restoring a degree of normal function to the brain – and provide a more positive, life-long outcome.

Effective behavioral treatments for tramadol addiction can be administered in a residential or outpatient setting after withdrawal stabilization. A treatment plan may include:

  • Individual counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy sessions
  • Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)
  • Wellness, nutritional and stress management treatment services

Anti-addiction medications approved for tramadol addiction treatment work through the same opioid receptors in the brain that tramadol prescriptions affect. Medications such as Suboxone (buprenorphine) and Vivitrol (naltrexone), block the effects of tramadol, reduce cravings and allow healing to continue. These medicines treat opioid addiction through the same receptors as the addictive drug, but are safer and less likely to result in addiction.

Tramadol addiction recovery with Enterhealth

People suffering from tramadol addiction may feel hopeless, but they are not alone. Enterhealth Ranch and Enterhealth Outpatient Center of Excellence can help you or a loved one begin recovery at our 43-acre residential opioid addiction treatment center just north of Dallas-Fort Worth, and our outpatient opioid addiction treatment program center in the Preston Center area of Dallas, Texas.

At Enterhealth, our goal is to treat the whole person for a lifetime. We offer a better chance to recover through our advanced, evidence-based treatment approach, designed and administered by board-certified addiction psychiatrists, physicians and other experts, that is proven to be more effective than traditional twelve-step approaches.