Tramadol is a prescription medication used to treat moderate to moderately severe pain after an operation and for those with chronic pain.
It is often prescribed for people with arthritis, nerve damage, and other painful chronic conditions in immediate or extended-release forms.
The US is facing an opioid epidemic of both legal and illegal opioid substances with the number of drug overdose deaths increasing by almost 5% from 2018 to 2019. This number has quadrupled since 1999. Tramadol was introduced as a safer alternative to prescription opioid drugs; however, the rate of drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids, such as tramadol, has increased by over 15% in 2018 to 2019 alone.
In the past, it was commonly thought that tramadol was safer than other opioid analgesics. However, as of August 2014, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) made tramadol a Schedule IV Controlled Substance. Now that the drug has been deemed a Schedule IV substance, health care professionals may be less likely to prescribe it to patients for pain.
However, there is an argument that those addicted to the substance will instead turn to other illicit substances or acquire the substance illegally.
Prescription Drug Abuse
The United States is witnessing an opioid crisis with 75,673 opioid overdose deaths recorded in 2021. Despite regulations from the Drug Enforcement Administration, this number rises each year. In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies reassured the medical community that there was no risk of patients becoming addicted to prescription opioid pain relievers and other prescription drugs such as tramadol. This led healthcare providers to prescribe these prescription opioids at greater rates, ultimately contributing to the high rate of substance abuse problems we now face, with prescription drug abuse increasing each year according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
What is Tramadol?
Tramadol comes in the form of a tablet, an extended-release tablet, an extended-release (XR) capsule, and a liquid solution. It is sold under several commercial names, including ConZip, Ultram, and Ultram ER. The capsules, tablets, and liquid should all be taken orally every four to six hours, or as prescribed by a doctor. The extended-release tramadol (XR) version is intended to manage symptoms for a longer time period and is prescribed to adults who require constant pain management, often for chronic pain.
Tramadol is a synthetic opioid agonist, meaning that tramadol binds with certain opioid receptors within the brain, affecting pain sensations and feelings of discomfort.
When tramadol is misused for recreational purposes, it can create an immediate sense of happiness and pleasure that has often been compared to a morphine high.
Tramadol abuse is any use of the substance in a way not prescribed by a doctor. This includes taking the drug more frequently than your doctor prescribed, taking the drug without a prescription, and other methods of use such as snorting tramadol.
People who have become dependent on the drug may revert to methods such as snorting tramadol to increase the effects of the drug or to counteract a tolerance that may have developed.
Dangers of Snorting Tramadol
Snorting tramadol increases the intensity of its effects and can cause feelings of euphoria. This ‘high’ euphoric feeling is the main reason that individuals are snorting tramadol. People who misuse the drug by snorting tramadol, may crush multiple tablets into tramadol powder form to snort and achieve a euphoric high.
It is thought that snorting tramadol is one of the fastest methods of feeling the effects. Intranasal ingestion causes tramadol to be rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream through mucous membranes that line the nose and throat, avoiding the digestive system and liver metabolism process. As a result, when a person is snorting tramadol, the synthetic opioid reaches the brain much faster.
However, snorting prescription medications such as tramadol pills instead of the intended oral ingestion often causes the euphoric effects of the drug to subside faster. This means that those people who snort tramadol are more likely to ingest it in a binge-like fashion.
One of the main side effects of snorting tramadol is tissue damage to the nose, sinuses, and throat. Moreover, snorting the drug significantly increases the risk of overdose as users are less able to track how much of the substance they have consumed.
Tramadol side effects such as seizures and overdose can be dangerous and even lethal. Tramadol can cause respiratory depression, and too much tramadol can cause adverse consequences including overdose which is a serious medical emergency and requires immediate medical attention.
Other dangerous effects of snorting tramadol include:
- Bloody nose
- Respiratory infections
- Muscle and joint pain
- Itchiness or rash
- Weight gain or loss
- Severe headaches
- Mental confusion
- Loss of coordination
- Feelings of depression or anxiety
- Developing a physical dependence on tramadol
A person who snorts tramadol is also at increased risk of serotonin syndrome, another side effect associated with tramadol abuse. Serotonin syndrome is a severe drug reaction, usually caused by frequent doses of a medication that alters the production of serotonin. Serotonin syndrome is the result of excessively high levels of serotonin in the brain, which can cause disruptions to the brain’s communication pathways.
Dangerous side effects of serotonin syndrome may include:
Delusions and hallucinations.
- Elevated blood pressure.
- Elevated body temperature.
- Increased heart rate.
- Loss of motor coordination.
Tramadol Addiction Treatment
A substance use disorder can develop rapidly, leaving a person feeling completely out of control. What may begin as consuming prescription pain medications more regularly than your prescription states, can rapidly progress to snorting tramadol and developing a substance addiction. It is estimated that about 80% of people who use heroin initially misused prescription opioids. Due to the fact that users often build a tolerance to tramadol, they may end up turning to other substances to achieve the euphoric or comforting effect they once had from oral consumption of a seemingly harmless prescription drug such as tramadol.
Treatment Process for Tramadol Addiction
The treatment process for tramadol addiction begins with detoxification, where all traces of the drug are removed from a person’s system. After prolonged tramadol use, the body can become used to the presence of a drug, often resulting in drug dependence. This is where your body has become so used to the presence of a substance that when you stop taking it, you will experience withdrawal symptoms.
Tramadol withdrawal symptoms include:
- Anxiety or panic
- Excessive sweating
- Trouble sleeping including insomnia
- Runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
- Body aches and pains
Opioid detox can result in potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms in some cases, so it is generally safest to undergo this process in a medically supervised setting. This is referred to as medical detox and medical professionals can provide additional support through this process, as uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms can be incredibly distressing and cause relapse.
Once the substance is entirely removed from a user’s body, people will often continue treatment in an inpatient or outpatient rehab setting, depending on their personal preference or needs.
Inpatient substance abuse treatment for tramadol use and addiction often combines medication-assisted treatment with behavioral therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to ensure that both the physical and psychological issues related to a person’s struggle with addiction are properly addressed.
In cases of severe opioid addiction, addiction treatment centers may prescribe methadone, but methadone has significant use potential of its own.
At Ebb Tide, we understand how confusing and overwhelming addiction can be. We offer dual diagnosis addiction treatment, as we understand abuse of tramadol and other pain medications is often related to mental health issues. Tramadol and other opioids can quickly cause an increased risk of psychological dependence, but you don’t need to overcome this alone.
We believe that recovery is always possible. If you are ready to enter addiction treatment, contact our treatment center today to seek professional medical advice from a healthcare professional and learn more about our addiction treatment plans. Whatever your life circumstances, we believe recovery is within reach, and want to help you on your journey to recovery from addiction.