Tramadol Addiction and Abuse

General Information

Tramadol is an opioid pain medication commonly prescribed for mild to moderate pain. Compared to medications like oxycodone and hydrocodone, Tramadol has fewer risks of abuse, and that has led to it being prescribed very frequently by doctors. Unfortunately for some people, they do develop an addiction to Tramadol. While it’s less addictive than substances like fentanyl or heroin, it still has the potential for abuse and then later addiction.

Tramadol Addiction and Abuse

When someone takes Tramadol regularly, they may need to take more and more of the drug to feel “normal.” That’s because any time the body is in pain, and it is given a prescription painkiller; the body tends to develop rebound pain as a result. It’s your body’s way of fighting back against medications that try to suppress it from letting you know you’re in pain. Sadly, sometimes the body’s response to prescription painkillers is to ramp up the pain itself so that in the end, you need to take more and more of the painkiller to suppress the pain. 

Addiction and Abuse

Abusing a drug and being addicted to a drug are separate problems. When someone abuses a prescription narcotic like Tramadol, they may be doing something as seemingly harmless as taking an extra pill. Deviating from the prescription’s instructions in any way might be considered abuse of a drug. However, abuse lacks the properties of addiction, such as craving, drug-seeking behavior, or the onset of withdrawal symptoms.

Abuse leads to addiction. Some people who start off taking their prescription in the way the medicine is prescribed will be distraught to find themselves taking more, perhaps telling themselves that they’re in legitimate pain. It’s okay to take a pill or two extra here and there. If a person carries on this pattern of behavior over months or years, they will eventually develop an addiction. Addiction is much more severe than abuse, but abuse is essentially the precursor to addiction. If you’re abusing a drug, it might be time to speak with a professional or seek treatment.

Symptoms and Warning Signs

The warning signs of abuse are subtle in the beginning, distressing in the mid-stages, and as loud as thunder when full-blown addiction sets in. Hallmarks of early tramadol abuse include taking more Tramadol than is prescribed to you, seeking out prescriptions from more than one doctor, and finding yourself taking the medication to “feel better,” not just for pain. 

When full-blown addiction sets in, you’ll be very aware of it, but you may try to tell yourself that it’s no big deal. After all, you might be in genuine pain. It’s easy to fool yourself into thinking it’s okay to take your medicine, even if you’re no longer using it as medicine for pain, but as something to ward off withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms are by far the most noticeable hallmark of abuse. When you go without the medication or attempt to take it just as prescribed, you might notice:

  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Increased pain
  • Sweating
  • Irritability
  • Craving

Treatment and Rehab

Early abuse and full-blown addiction have a lot of stages in-between. Substance abuse problems are the destination. They’re more like a long road with many stops. Whether you’re in early abuse or late addiction, life is going to be harder than it should be, and sometimes people need help. After all, if your body and mind are physically and psychologically dependent or addicted to drugs, you’ve, in some ways, lost control over the situation. Caring healthcare professionals can intervene and show you the map to safety.

Outpatient treatment might work well for someone who still has their basic social and career path intact. You might benefit from outpatient counseling and group meetings that put you in touch with helpful peers willing to share their experience and build a nice community of recovering folks. If your addiction has progressed to the point where you’ve lost friends, family, jobs, and financial stability, in addition to your health, then inpatient rehab might be a better option. Inpatient rehab is most helpful in getting you past the difficult first stages where withdrawal is occurring. 

Withdrawal and Detox

Withdrawal is a group of symptoms that occur when you stop taking a drug you’re addicted to. It includes the things mentioned above: physical manifestations of addiction. When deprived of a drug you’re addicted to, your body and mind will crave it. If the physical addiction is bad enough, your body may react horribly to not getting a drug it’s used to. You might vomit, sweat, and feel extremely ill. Tramadol withdrawal, like any other opioid withdrawal, is incredibly depressing and may even include a clinical depression feature that many people overlook. When you cease taking opioids like Tramadol, your mind is no longer naturally providing you with chemicals that make you happy. The Tramadol did that, and so your mind stops producing those chemicals as much. It will take time for your mind and body to adjust and start producing those chemicals naturally again.

Detox is a great inpatient program that helps people with substance abuse disorders cope with their withdrawal symptoms. You’ll have the 24 hours a day support of counselors, nurses, and peers. The inpatient setting keeps you safe from outside triggers that might make you want to use it. Some detoxes are like a hospital setting, while others provide you with a residential type area to recover in. Not every detox uses medication therapy to help you through withdrawal, but if you do need medical detox, be sure to seek out treatment centers that provide medications that help to ease the symptoms of withdrawal. 

How long does Tramadol stay in your system?

Tramadol’s half-life is 6.3 hours. A drug’s half-life is the amount of time it takes for 50% of that drug to leave your body. Multiply that number by two to see how long Tramadol is actually in your system (dosage matters, too). As for drug testing, Tramadol will show up in urine tests for 1-4 days after the last use. It shows up in blood for 12 hours to 24 hours. Saliva tests will detect Tramadol for as long as 48 hours. Hair sample testing will show Tramadol use in the past 4-6 months. 

Getting Help

If you’ve struggled with Tramadol abuse and believe that you have a problem, you’re not alone. There are so many struggling every day to come to grips with an opiate or opioid addiction; people who don’t know what to do. Thankfully, there are thousands of detoxes and residential programs across the country that can help. All you have to do is seek out that help and go for it.