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Tramadol is a medication prescribed for the treatment of moderate to severe pain. It is an opiate analgesic, and it works by manipulating how the brain and central nervous system responds to pain. Tramadol is a habit-forming medication, and tramadol addiction can develop from chronic use of the drug.
Addiction is a chronic and relapsing condition in which a person loses control over their drug use. With chronic use, whether with a prescription or illegally, the body becomes dependent on opiates such as tramadol and it can begin to crave it. Addiction can develop out of this dependence as your brain becomes more and more accustomed to having the drug. Addiction treatment is often necessary to help people overcome an addiction to tramadol.
How is Tramadol Abused?
Tramadol abuse takes place if a person takes more of the medication than they are prescribed, takes it longer than prescribed, in a way other than as prescribed, or if it is taken without a medication. Tramadol is prescribed in a tablet or capsule form, and sometimes the pills are crushed up and snorted when abused.
Tramadol abuse is dangerous whether you are prescribed the drug or not, and it can result in addiction very easily.
Tramadol Effects and Side Effects
As an opiate painkiller, tramadol’s effects are meant to dull any physical pain a person is experiencing, and can be sedative. Tramadol also has side effects, as most medications do. The US National Library of Medicine describes the following side effects of tramadol:
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- Uncontrollable shaking of part of the body
- Muscle tightness
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation
- Dry mouth
- Loss of appetite
Some side effects can be very serious. If you experience any of the following side effects you should call 911 or your doctor for help right away:
- Hives, rash, blisters
- Difficulty swallowing or breathing
- Loss of consciousness
- Lack of coordination
- Fast heartbeat
It is possible to take too much tramadol, overdose and lose consciousness or even die. Prescription drug abuse is a huge problem in the United States today, and it contributes to many overdose deaths. Tramadol abuse and addiction can certainly contribute to that. According to the Food and Drug Administration, taking tramadol with other substances can in some cases increase the risk of overdose.
If you or someone you love is using or abusing tramadol it is important to be aware of the signs of an overdose. These include:
- Decreased size of the pupil
- Difficulty breathing
- Extreme drowsiness
- Slowed heartbeat
- Muscle weakness
- Cold, clammy skin
In the event of a tramadol overdose you must call 911 or get to a hospital immediately.
Signs of Tramadol Abuse and Addiction
If you believe that someone you know may be abusing tramadol or even be addicted to it you may have noticed some changes in their behavior or even how they look. It can be hard to spot prescription drug abuse as people often try to hide it, but there are some telltale signs that many people display.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse and others, signs of tramadol abuse include:
- Having very small pupils
- Doctor shopping, or going to several different doctors to get as much of the drug as possible
- Running out of prescriptions early
- Stealing from the medicine cabinets of others
Tramadol abuse does not necessarily entail dependence and addiction, though it can develop into these conditions. Chronic abuse of the drug can cause tolerance to develop, which means you need more of the drug to feel the same effects as before. With tolerance often comes dependence, as you are taking more tramadol more often your body gets used to it. This can lead to addiction. Signs of tramadol addiction include:
- Making attempts to stop using tramadol but failing
- Developing tolerance
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms (muscle pain, chills, runny nose, diarrhea, anxiety) when you try to stop using the drug
- Stealing from others to fuel your habit
- An otherwise unexplained change in hangouts or group of friends
- Decreased performance in school or at work as your focus becomes fixed on getting the next high
Tramadol addiction is hard to overcome, but the help and support provided at recovery centers can get you where you want to be.
Help for Tramadol Addiction
Tramadol addiction treatment can help you overcome your addiction and begin your life again, free from the chains of addiction. Addiction treatment will start with a detox stage in which you will undergo withdrawal – supervised by treatment professionals – and rid your body of drugs and alcohol. Medications may be prescribed during this time to help you cope with withdrawal symptoms.
Medication-replacement therapy is common in opiate addiction treatment, and it may continue throughout your rehab experience and potentially after. Medications used in tramadol addiction treatment may include methadone, buprenorphine or Suboxone. They are intended to relieve cravings, reduce the risk of relapse, and to allow people to get on with their lives.
Another important component of addiction treatment is counseling. While in active addiction, it is not uncommon for people to lose sight of what it means to have a healthy lifestyle. Counseling can help you develop healthy habits, learn new skills, and teach you other things that will help you build a drug-free life. In addition, counseling for tramadol recovery will help you cope with drug cravings and any underlying factors that contribute to your addiction.
Tramadol addiction treatment often takes place in an inpatient or an outpatient treatment center, and support groups are a big part of both of these.
Some of the differences are as follows:
- Outpatient Treatment: You will live at home and go to treatment at pre-appointed times. Often both individual and group treatment options are available. It is very helpful to have a support system in your home environment while in outpatient treatment, especially because of your potential exposure to triggers and temptations.
- Inpatient Treatment: You will live in the treatment facility and have access to around-the-clock care and support. You will definitely have both individual and group treatment and will have a large opportunity to connect with peers in a similar situation. Inpatient treatment tends to be more costly than outpatient treatment.
Ultimately what you decide is up to you, your finances, and other factors. When choosing a program you will want to consider insurance coverage, location, length of treatment, and the program’s accreditation and other qualifications.
Support groups are an important part of tramadol addiction recovery, as well. It is common for rehab programs to encourage and facilitate involvement in a 12-step program like Narcotics Anonymous. These programs help people remain abstinent from drugs and alcohol by receiving support from peers who have been through addiction as well. Other programs, such as SMART Recovery, have similar goals but go about them in a more person-centered, rather than spiritual, manner.