Warning Signs, Symptoms and Signs of Tramadol Addiction

This Page was last reviewed and changed on June 15th 2021

Content Overview

Many people do not worry about tramadol because the potential for abuse is considered quite low. However, the reality is that some individuals will abuse this drug and go on to develop an addiction. To prevent this from happening, it is important to know how to recognise the warning signs and symptoms of both abuse and addiction.

While tramadol is considered one of the least potent opioid medications, it is still possible to develop an addiction to it. Continued regular use can lead to an increased tolerance, which makes the drug less effective than it was when it was initially taken. Many users will develop a physical dependence where they will experience withdrawal symptoms whenever they try to quit tramadol. This can happen not only to those abusing the drug, but it is also common among long-term users, even at therapeutic doses.

While physical dependence does not necessarily mean an addiction is present, it is usually a precursor to addiction. It is therefore important to be alert to the warning signs of tramadol addiction so that you can take immediate action should they arise.

When Does Drug Use Become Drug Abuse or Addiction?

In the case of prescription medication such as tramadol, drug use can quickly progress to drug abuse, and often without the individual realising what has happened. Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem across the world and it often occurs in legitimate users of medications like tramadol.
With many people mistakenly believing that all prescription drugs, including opiates, are completely safe or else underestimating the dangers of abusing them, countless numbers have progressed from drug use to drug abuse and addiction without fully appreciating what was happening.

When medication begins to lose it effectiveness, which tends to happen when tolerance develops, many think nothing of taking higher doses to achieve the desired relief. They fail to appreciate that this is classed as abuse and that it can significantly raise their risk for addiction as well as countless issues in many areas of their life.

Negative Effects

The abuse of tramadol is associated with a range of negative consequences. While taking the drug can help to relieve pain and make the user feel relaxed and sleepy, there are negative side effects too.

These include dizziness, diarrhoea, fainting, itching, raised blood pressure, muscle weakness, excessive sweating, blood disorders, fatigue, constipation, drowsiness, confusion, hallucinations. Taking tramadol long term can result in physical dependence followed by addiction. There is also the risk of cognitive impairment with long-term use.

How it Can Change Your Loved One

When an addiction to tramadol does develop, changes in behaviour are very common. If your loved one is abusing tramadol, you are likely to see changes in his or her personality. Tramadol use can cloud the mind and affect the part of the brain responsible for good judgement and logical thinking. It is these changes that lead addicts to continue abusing a substance, even when they know it will result in harmful consequences.

You might notice that your loved one has lost interest in the things that he or she once enjoyed, and he/she now prefers to spend time alone rather than with family members or friends. The affected person might also be experiencing mood swings. Moods tend to be down when the effects of tramadol are wearing off, but when the drug is taken again, these moods lift again.

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Shifts in Behaviour

Drug addiction causes major shifts in behaviour. It is hard to maintain normality when life is controlled by a specific substance. If you are addicted to tramadol, you will struggle to maintain normality. Your life will start to revolve around the use of the drug and you will have little time for anything else.

You will become more manipulative in your efforts to satisfy your cravings, and you might start lying to others, particularly your doctor. Painkiller addicts often exaggerate their symptoms to ensure that their doctor continues to fill their prescription, alternatively, he or she might visit other doctors in a bid to get more than one prescription.

As the addiction grows, you may do things that you would never have dreamed of doing before, such as lying to loved ones or stealing from them to feed your habit. You may even get desperate enough to engage in criminal activity if it means getting the drug you crave.

Tramadol Addiction and the Brain

When taking tramadol for a while, your brain will start to change in response. In fact, your brain will get so used to tramadol that it will be unable to function without it. It will lose its ability to deal effectively with pain or pleasure, and you may not be able to feel normal unless you have taken the drug.

If you then try to quit tramadol, you are likely to experience a range of withdrawal symptoms that will make you feel quite unwell.

Signs of an Overdose

Taking tramadol in high doses can lead to an overdose. But even if you take it as directed, you could suffer an overdose if you combine it with another sedative substance such as alcohol or other drugs. It is never advisable to drink alcohol while taking tramadol as it could lead to the severe depression of your central nervous system. This can then cause respiratory failure, cardiac arrest, and possible death.

It is important to be aware of the following signs of tramadol overdose so that you can get immediate medical care if they arise. And know that the effects of a tramadol overdose can be reversed with early intervention. Without further ado, the following are some of the signs of a tramadol overdose:

  • Extreme weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Shallow breathing
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Constricted pupils
  • Respiratory distress
  • Cold clammy skin
  • Blueish tinge to lips and fingernails

Overdose Prevention

Overdose can be prevented by taking care when using tramadol. It is important to take the medication only as prescribed by the doctor and to never increase the dose without first consulting a medical professional.

It is also important not to take tramadol without a prescription. Even if a family member or friend suggests that you take some of their tramadol to treat a painful condition, it is wise to refuse. Taking it is both dangerous and illegal.

As mentioned above, tramadol should never be mixed with other sedative substances, while buying it online carries significant risks. It is impossible to know how pure or what the strength it is unless it has been prescribed by a doctor.

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Early Warning Signs of Teen Tramadol Use

Tramadol may be attractive to teenagers who believe that getting high on prescription medication is a safe and legal way to have fun. Unfortunately, abuse of tramadol by teenagers can quickly lead to addiction, which could very quickly then spiral out of control.
If you have a teenage son or daughter, it is important to be alert to the warning signs of tramadol abuse. Physical signs can include:

  • confusion
  • sleepiness
  • itching
  • dry mouth
  • sweating
  • loss of appetite
  • agitation
  • nervousness

Although the above signs in and of themselves are no sure indication of tramadol abuse, if they are coupled with behavioural changes such as a loss of interest in things that he or she used to enjoy, or a drop in school performance, you would be right to be worried. If you believe that your child might be affected by drug abuse or addiction, it is important to address the issue immediately because early intervention can be key to long-term and successful recovery.

Common Physical Warning Signs of Tramadol Addiction

Tramadol use is associated with a variety of physical symptoms. Although these can occur with therapeutic use, they are commonly associated with abuse. Examples include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • sweating
  • constipation
  • loss of appetite
  • mood swings
  • headaches
  • muscle aches
  • sleep problems
  • trouble concentrating
  • dizziness
  • constant drowsiness.

Common Emotional and Social Warning Signs of Tramadol Addiction

Addiction can also have an impact on your emotional state and affect you socially. When you develop an addiction to tramadol, your personality will likely start to change. You will find that you prefer spending time on your own, but this will make you withdrawn. You might start isolating yourself from others as you will believe that nobody understands how you are feeling. This can leave you feeling lonely.

As your preoccupation with tramadol grows, you may lose motivation and interest in other things. You might become paranoid and anxious and you may be prone to mood swings.

Anyone with an addiction will exhibit certain behavioural warning signs as the illness progresses. In the early days, these signs might be subtle, but they may be enough to set alarm bells ringing among loved ones.

Your family members and friends might notice behavioural changes in you, such as a decline in motivation for work coupled with unexplained absences, or a drop in performance and grades at school.

You might become more secretive and you may appear to be acting suspiciously as you try to keep your addiction a secret. You could become moody and sullen and you might avoid eye contact with those you love.

Symptoms of Tramadol Withdrawal

If you have tried to cut back on tramadol use or quit it completely, you will probably have noticed by now that you felt quite unwell. This is a common occurrence when physical dependence has developed. The withdrawal symptoms associated with tramadol are the result of your brain and body trying to adjust to the removal of a substance that they have learned to rely on.

Many people who try to stop taking opiate drugs like tramadol say that they felt as if they had the flu and struggled with symptoms that included a runny nose, body aches, restlessness, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, nausea, and vomiting.

As tramadol has been depressing your central nervous system for so long, you might find it begins to speed up when the drug is removed. This can lead to rapid breathing, a rapid heartbeat, and high blood pressure. You might also feel agitated, restless, and anxious and will possibly have trouble sleeping and thinking clearly.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do drug abuse and addiction develop?

When it comes to prescription drugs such as tramadol, drug abuse usually begins when tolerance takes hold. Once the medication becomes less effective, you may believe that upping the dose is the best solution. Unfortunately, doing so without instructions from your doctor is classed as abuse.

If you continue to increase your dose of tramadol each time it loses its effectiveness, you will significantly increase your risk of both physical dependence and addiction. Drug addiction usually occurs when a person gets caught in a cycle of abuse and withdrawal. It is signified by an overwhelming need to use the substance, despite knowing it will result in harm.

How to know when your teen has a drug problem?

If you suspect your teen is dabbling in drugs, it is vital to remain alert to the early warning signs. A change in friends and a drop in school grades could signify something is not quite right. Similarly, if you notice a sudden change in behaviours, such as an increased need for privacy or a loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed, it might mean that he or she has a problem.

You should also look out for symptoms such as mood swings, fatigue, constricted or dilated pupils, loss of appetite, and disorientation. If you are worried, speak to your doctor for advice about what the next steps are. Alternatively, 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.

How can you know if a family member is addicted to Tramadol?

If someone you love is using tramadol for pain relief, you need to be alert to the signs of abuse and addiction. Drug use can quickly progress to drug abuse and then addiction without the user being fully aware of what is happening.

Drug abuse tends to occur when a drug such as tramadol becomes less effective over time. This can lead some individuals to abuse the drug by increasing their dose without consulting a doctor. Tramadol addiction occurs when the use of the drug starts to interfere with normal everyday living. If your loved one’s behaviour has changed, and his or her ability to meet responsibilities and commitments is diminished, it might be due to tramadol addiction. If the affected individual continues to use the drug even though it is having a negative impact on daily life, it is time to seek help.

What does Tramadol treatment involve?

Tramadol treatment involves a detox in the first instance, typically followed by a programme of rehabilitation. Both are necessary if full recovery is to be achieved. Detox will help you to quit tramadol and get through the withdrawal process. You can then get started on the rest of your recovery journey with rehab, which will help you to learn more about why you became addicted.

Rehab treatment involves both individual and group counselling sessions as well as other recovery-based activities that will help to heal your mind, body and spirit as well as teach you how to live a substance-free life going forward.

What to do if you are concerned for a loved one?

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. Hoping that the problem will go away and hence doing nothing is a normal response, but it will not help anyone. All it will do is allow your loved one to continue with his or her addictive behaviour unchecked.

If you are worried, it is unlikely to be without reason. Speak to the person in a calm manner and express your concerns. Do not get angry, even if he or she does. Remember that the individual may not yet be ready to admit that the addiction exists. However, by raising your concerns, you are doing the right thing and forcing him or her to consider the possibility that his or her tramadol use is out of control.

When to go to rehab for Tramadol addiction?

Many addicts are confused about when to get help as they believe they must reach a certain point before rehab is necessary. The reality is that if you have an addiction to tramadol, treatment is necessary. You do not have to wait until you are in danger of losing everything you hold dear before you get treatment. In fact, the sooner you get help, the sooner you can get your life back under control. Early intervention greatly improves your chances of a full recovery.

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