June 9th, 2023
It is a common misconception that people can only become addicted to illegal drugs. In fact, there are many legally obtained medications that can be highly addictive and lead to prescription drug addiction. Tramadol is a powerful medication that is used as a painkiller, but the issue of tramadol addiction in the UK has been rising steadily in recent years. However, it is important to know that if you or a loved one are addicted to tramadol, there is help available.
On this page, we will explain why people become addicted to tramadol, the warning signs to look out for and where to seek the help you need.
What is tramadol?
Tramadol is an opioid medication that is typically prescribed for the treatment of moderate to severe pain. It acts on the brain’s receptors, depressing the central nervous system and blocking pain signals from travelling from nerves in the body to your brain. It is prescribed for both acute and chronic pain and is usually available in tablet form or sometimes as a liquid. During tramadol abuse, pills are often crushed and then snorted in the same way as other powdered drugs. This induces similar effects to other opiates, such as a warm feeling, relaxation, sedation, and well-being.
Tramadol is sold under the following brand names:
How does tramadol addiction develop?
There are various routes to tramadol addiction. You may start out with a post-surgery prescription to relieve pain but enjoy the effects so much that you begin to take more than you were prescribed. In this case, over time, you will begin to develop a tolerance to the drug, which means you need to take more and more to get the same effects. With this prolonged, excessive use, you can become dependent on tramadol so that if you try to stop taking the drug, you experience unpleasant symptoms. This often results in individuals finding themselves caught in a cycle of abuse, trying to avoid these symptoms.
Tramadol is also used by some people to numb the pain of past experiences or to self-medicate from symptoms of a mental health disorder such as depression or anxiety. Taking higher doses of tramadol to get through tough times or mask the symptoms of these conditions can again result in an addiction-forming. At this stage, you will experience constant cravings for the drug and a compulsive desire to use it, despite negative consequences occurring when you do.
Tramadol addiction in the UK
Tramadol abuse and addiction have become an ever more serious problem in the UK. One of the main reasons is that some doctors prescribe the drug too readily or without properly assessing the patient’s risk factors. A study by the University of Manchester found that tramadol prescriptions increased 700% between 2006 and 2017, with 14.6% of patients becoming long-term users within a year of receiving their first prescription. With this trend continuing over the subsequent years, we need to be ever more mindful of tramadol addiction and how to avoid it.
The effects of tramadol addiction
Tramadol addiction can have serious negative effects on every aspect of your life and health. When an addiction develops, you may feel that you are unable to cope with everyday life without the drug and experience intense anxiety if you can’t obtain it. With continued use of the drug, you may experience physical symptoms of tramadol addiction, including insomnia, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and constant drowsiness.
Some people combine tramadol with other substances or take it in a way in which it was not intended, such as by crushing the pills and snorting the powder to enhance the effects. Tramadol should never be mixed with other sedative drugs or alcohol due to the potential for serious complications. When one or more depressant substances are combined, the consequences are often severe. The central nervous system will be affected, and this could result in breathing and heart rate slowing to dangerous levels. A severely depressed central nervous system can result in respiratory failure, cardiac arrest, and death.
As your tramadol addiction progresses, it will creep into every aspect of your life, with harmful consequences wherever it touches. You are likely to become preoccupied with the drug and your life will start to revolve around it. You may find yourself avoiding loved ones, neglecting your responsibilities and experiencing financial problems due to losing your job or performing poorly at work.
In addition, tramadol addiction can also lead to the use of illegal drugs, which in turn can result in drug addiction. This often occurs because a person is unable to acquire a tramadol prescription, so they buy illegal drugs instead to satisfy their cravings. This not only puts you in danger, as street drugs are notorious for containing all kinds of harmful substances, but it can also get you in trouble with the law.
Tramadol addiction in pregnant women is very dangerous as tramadol can cause severe and even life-threatening withdrawal symptoms that can occur in new-born babies.
Tramadol overdose can have lethal consequences, particularly if it is taken in a higher dose than prescribed or if it is mixed with another substance.
Tramadol overdose signs can include:
- Shallow breathing
- Bluish tinge to fingernails and lips
- Respiratory distress
- Heart problems
- Low blood pressure
- Loss of consciousness
If you notice any of the above signs after taking tramadol in either a large quantity or combining it with another drug or alcohol, it is important to seek help immediately.
The danger signs of tramadol addiction
Addiction is incredibly cunning and is often able to convince you that your tramadol abuse is not an issue. For example, if you were originally prescribed tramadol for an injury, your addiction may tell you that you are still in pain and you need to keep taking it.
In order to see through this deception, you need to be able to recognise the symptoms of tramadol addiction so that you can get the help you need as soon as possible. These symptoms may include:
- Visiting more than one doctor for multiple prescriptions or trying to obtain tramadol on the dark web or through other illicit means.
- Exceeding the frequency or dosage of your prescription.
- Lying about your tramadol use from friends or family.
- Faking an injury or self-harming in an attempt to get a tramadol prescription.
- Being unable to stop taking tramadol even though it is negatively affecting your life.
If you recognise any of these tramadol abuse signs, get in touch with us for professional advice.
Spotting the signs of tramadol abuse in a loved one
Recognising tramadol abuse signs in a loved one can be more difficult than spotting illicit drug abuse because tramadol is legal with a prescription and doesn’t require a pipe, needles or other paraphernalia. However, knowing what to look out for is crucial in getting your loved one the help they need before it is too late. Here are some signs to look out for:
- Taking tramadol for reasons other than it was prescribed, such as a minor headache or stress
- Running out of their tramadol prescription before they are supposed to
- Changes in personality and secretive behaviour
Although the above signs in and of themselves are no sure indication of tramadol abuse, if you are worried about a loved one, it is important to address the issue immediately because early intervention can be key to long-term and successful recovery.
It is also crucial that you don’t make excuses for your loved one or enable their tramadol abuse in any way, such as by providing them with tramadol or money to buy it. This will only make the problem worse and could even get you into trouble. Tramadol is a Class C drug in the UK, and being in possession of tramadol without a prescription could mean a two-year prison sentence and an unlimited fine, while selling or supplying tramadol to another person can result in a fourteen-year prison sentence.
Can tramadol addiction be cured?
Tramadol addiction is a multi-faceted condition, but it is possible to achieve long-term recovery. With an effective tramadol rehab programme, you will learn what triggers your addictive behaviour so that you can learn how to cope with those triggers when they rear up. With dedication and a will to get better, you have every chance of overcoming your addiction and starting a whole new life totally free of tramadol.
If you are ready to start your new life, get in touch with us today for expert advice.
What to do next
If you or a loved one is being affected by tramadol addiction, it is crucial to seek help right now. The sooner treatment begins, the sooner you can begin your road to recovery. UKAT has helped hundreds of people overcome their addictions and rebuild their lives. To find out more about our tramadol addiction treatment programmes, contact our Admissions team for support.
Myths about tramadol addiction
- Tramadol is not a dangerous drug because it is available on prescription…
Tramadol abuse and addiction can be just as harmful as illegal drugs.
- It is impossible to become addicted to tramadol if you follow the doctor’s instructions…
While addiction is rarer when doctors’ instructions are followed, it is still possible to become addicted after taking the drug only a few times.
- It is okay to take leftover prescription tramadol for later pain…
You should only take tramadol when prescribed by a doctor for a specific injury or ailment.
Frequently Asked Questions
How to know when your teen is abusing tramadol?
If you suspect your teen is dabbling in drugs, it is vital to remain alert to the early warning signs. A sudden change in behaviour or a loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities may mean that there is a problem. If you are worried, call us
here at UKAT for information on how to approach your teen.
Are heroin and tramadol the same thing?
As heroin and tramadol both belong to the same family of drugs, you might be forgiven for thinking they are the same thing, but they are not. While both stimulate the same areas of the brain, heroin is a much stronger substance than tramadol. Tramadol is a prescription drug designed for the treatment of moderate to severe pain and is available via a medical professional. Heroin is a street drug that has no accepted medical benefits.
What to do if you are concerned a loved one may be addicted to tramadol?
If you are worried about someone you care about and believe that he or she has developed an addiction to tramadol, it is vital that you act immediately. Speak to the person in a calm manner and express your concerns. Remember that your loved one may not yet be ready to admit that the addiction exists. However, by raising your concerns, they may at least start to consider the possibility that their tramadol use is out of control.