Opioids are among the most effective medications for pain. But with that comes the price of a high potential for dependence and addiction. Though they are an important medication for the treatment of severe pain, they’ve also led to an addiction crisis in the United States. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), more than 130 people die in the U.S. daily because of an opioid overdose.
Tramadol is a prescription opioid painkiller. It is generally used in cases of moderate-to-severe pain conditions that cause chronic pain or pain after surgery. Opioids like Tramadol are effective as pain medications, but they have the potential to cause dependence, addiction, and withdrawal. Having a predisposition toward addiction or a family history of substance abuse can make you more likely to have problems with prescription opioids.
Tramadol, like other opioids, makes its way through the brain’s chemical messaging system and interferes with or alters how the messages are sent and received. More specifically, Tramadol blocks pain messages from being sent and received by nerve cells, preventing pain signals from reaching the brain. Tramadol binds to opioid receptors in the brain and body. These receptors are designed to bind with your own naturally occurring opioids called endorphins.
Endorphins are responsible for regulating your body’s pain response, helping you to rest and recover from mild injuries. But severe pain may be too much for your endorphins to block. Prescription opioids are more potent than your endorphins, so they block pain more efficiently. However, your body can adapt to their presence in your body, causing tolerance and chemical dependence. If you stop using the drug, your body will become chemically imbalanced, causing withdrawal symptoms to follow.
Using tramadol regularly for too long or using it in high doses can make the body to adapt its brain chemistry around it. As your body gets used to an opioid, it may start to build up a tolerance. To achieve the same effects as when you first started, you will need to increase your dose. If you do, your body may start to rely on Tramadol to maintain normal brain chemistry. If you stop using it, your brain chemistry will be out of balance without the foreign chemical.
Quitting the medication in cold turkey fashion may cause more intense withdrawal symptoms, but opioid withdrawal isn’t usually life-threatening. However, opioid withdrawal symptoms can be extremely unpleasant. People who go through opioid withdrawal often compare it to a particularly bad case of the flu, since it can bring on a fever and runny nose, and nausea. Tramadol withdrawal symptoms can include:
Though Tramadol withdrawal isn’t typically life-threatening, it’s essential to get enough fluids through the process. Symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and sweating can cause you to lose water quickly. The rare fatal cases of opioid withdrawal occurred as a result of dehydration.
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You will most likely feel your first symptoms of withdrawal within the first day after your last dose. If you were used to a high dose, you might feel them in under 12 hours. Early symptoms may include a runny nose, watery eyes, and yawning. It will feel like you’re coming down with a cold.
Your symptoms will worsen over the next few days until you reach peak symptoms. The most intense symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, body aches, and fever. You will also have intense drug cravings.
After your symptoms peak, they will start to go away. As symptoms improve, the most intense physical symptoms will be the first to go. Psychological symptoms, such as anxiety and depression, may last a bit longer.
Symptoms like anxiety and drug cravings that haven’t gone away after a month may need to be treated for them to be effectively managed. It’s normal for some symptoms to be long-lasting if you’ve developed a severe substance use disorder.
Tramadol withdrawal, like other opioids, isn’t as dangerous as withdrawal from other types of drugs like central nervous system depressants. However, it can be extremely unpleasant. Between uncomfortable symptoms and powerful drug cravings, opioid withdrawal can be extremely challenging to get through on your own without the possibility of relapse.
Medical detox is the highest level of care in addiction treatment and involves 24-hour medically managed treatment services daily. Detox typically lasts between five to 10 days, depending on your needs. This level of care is reserved for people who are likely to go through intense withdrawal symptoms. However, it can also help people who have medical needs that must be addressed alongside withdrawal symptoms. When you enter an addiction recovery program, medical and clinical professionals will help determine whether medical detox is right for you.
According to NIDA, detoxification is an important step in addiction treatment for many people. Still, it’s usually not enough to effectively address substance use disorders that have reached the severe stage. Addiction treatment involves multiple levels of care that are equipped to address varying levels of need. If you have serious medical or psychological needs, you may go through an inpatient or residential treatment which involves 24-hour medical or clinical monitoring.
If you can live on your own without a high risk of relapse or medical complications, you may be able to enter an outpatient treatment program. Through treatment, your recovery plan will be tailored to your situation and needs.
You may be able to choose from individual, group, and family therapies, along with others, depending on your needs.
Addiction is a chronic disease that progresses and worsens the longer it remains untreated. Opioid addiction is very hard to recover from on your own. Its pervasive nature makes it likely that it will start to take over parts of your life, even your health and finances. If you or someone you know is struggling with an opioid use disorder involving Tramadol, seek addiction treatment as soon as possible. Learn more about how opioid addiction treatment might be able to help you to take the first steps toward recovery and sobriety today.
Darke, S., Larney, S., & Farrell, M. (2016, August 11). Yes, people can die from opiate withdrawal. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/add.13512
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016, February). 8: Medical detoxification. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/teaching-packets/understanding-drug-abuse-addiction/section-iii/7-medical-detoxification
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019, January 22). Opioid Overdose Crisis. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis
U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2019, January 15). Tramadol: MedlinePlus Drug Information. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a695011.html