Tramadol, marketed as Ultram, is an opioid drug used to treat moderate to moderately severe pain. It works by altering the brain’s perception of pain. Tramadol may also be used as an antidepressant because it prevents the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain, which improves a person’s mood and energy levels.
Some people abuse tramadol because of its relaxing and pleasurable effects. If you suspect that your loved one may be misusing this drug, there are several indicators to look for.
Signs your loved one is abusing tramadol may include:
- using tramadol outside of prescription guidelines
- multiple tramadol prescriptions or no prescription
- changes in behavior because of tramadol use
- physical signs of tramadol abuse
- tramadol withdrawal symptoms
Using Tramadol Outside Of Prescription Guidelines
If your loved one has been prescribed tramadol for pain relief, it may be difficult to tell if they are abusing it. Tramadol abuse occurs when a person uses it in any way other than prescribed, such as taking a higher dose, taking it more often or taking it for a longer duration.
A person abusing tramadol may also try alternative methods of ingesting the drug. These include chewing the tablet, dissolving it under the tongue, crushing and snorting it or mixing it with water to inject.
Tramadol is formulated to be dispersed through the body gradually. Taking it in any way other than swallowing the tablet whole causes an entire dose to reach the bloodstream at once, producing a more intense effect.
If your loved one is abusing tramadol by snorting or injection, you may notice powder residue on their clothes or paraphernalia such as rolled paper or syringes among their things.
Multiple Tramadol Prescriptions Or No Prescription
If your loved one is taking more tramadol than prescribed by their doctor, they have to get the excess pills from somewhere else. Some people go “doctor shopping,” visiting multiple doctors to get prescriptions for the same drugs. They may also buy tramadol online or get it from a friend.
Some websites sell drugs like tramadol without requiring a prescription. If your loved one does not have a prescription, finding tramadol among their belongings is likely a sign of abuse. Tramadol comes as a round or oval white tablet or a yellow and green capsule.
Illicitly obtained tramadol may be stored in baggies, plastic wrap, unmarked containers or pill bottles with unusual labeling.
Changes In Behavior Because Of Tramadol Use
People who abuse tramadol often begin to act differently. They may attempt to hide their drug use and behave secretively, disappear for long periods or lie about where they’ve been. You may notice them spending time with a new group of people and losing interest in things they once enjoyed, such as social activities and friendships.
Though tramadol is thought to be less addictive than other opioids, abusing it can lead someone to become mentally dependent on it. Addiction is a disease that changes the way a person’s brain works, which is reflected in their behavior and priorities.
If your loved one has become addicted to tramadol, or if they are regularly abusing it, they will probably spend a lot of time seeking and using the drug. They may believe they need it to get through the day.
This is often accompanied by a decreased ability to focus and perform well at work or school, which could result in job loss, increasing the financial strain of excessive drug use. Your loved one may begin selling things or stealing money to continue paying for tramadol.
Physical Signs Of Tramadol Abuse
A person who is abusing tramadol may show signs of intense relaxation and calm. Opioids are central nervous system depressants, which means they slow breathing and heart rate for an overall sedating effect. This is especially evident when they are taken in excess.
Too much tramadol can result in an overdose, indicated by severe respiratory depression, loss of consciousness or a coma which can lead to brain damage or death.
Abusing tramadol also increases the risk of adverse side effects, such as:
- nausea or vomiting
- severe itching
- physical weakness
- dry mouth
Serotonin syndrome is another negative effect of tramadol abuse. This occurs when the body has an overload of serotonin, and can cause:
- agitation and confusion
- dilated pupils
- fast heart rate
- high blood pressure
- muscle spasms
- sweating or shivering
- high fever
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Tramadol Withdrawal Symptoms
With prescribed use, your loved one may develop a tolerance to tramadol, meaning that the drug has less of an effect on them over time. For continued effectiveness, a doctor may increase the dosage, but your loved one should not do so on their own.
Over time—generally several days or weeks—the body can become dependent on tramadol, especially if it is taken in high doses.
If your loved one is physically dependent and abruptly stops taking tramadol, they will experience withdrawal symptoms such as chills, weakness and cramps, as well as increased blood pressure, breathing and heart rate.
Physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms are not necessarily signs of tramadol abuse, but they can lead a person to continue taking the drug and develop an addiction.
Treatment For Tramadol Abuse And Addiction
Treatment for tramadol abuse and addiction usually begins with medically supervised detox, which provides medical care for individuals who are physically dependent on opioids. Once the body is rid of tramadol, the addiction can be addressed without the distraction of physical cravings.
Since everyone has a different experience with tramadol addiction, we create individualized treatment plans at Vertava Health. Our residential rehab facilities provide holistic and multidisciplinary care to address how addiction affects your loved one’s life and health.
This may include medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction, which combines medication like Suboxone (buprenorphine) with counseling and evidence-based therapies to prepare your loved one for lifelong recovery.