This Page was last reviewed and changed on June 15th 2021
Tramadol addiction is similar to any other type of addiction in that professional help is usually required to get better. Fully recovering from tramadol addiction means quitting the drug and learning how to move on to a substance-free life. Detox is necessary for the first instance for those with a physical dependence on the medication but for your comfort and safety reasons, it is advisable to complete the process in a dedicated detox clinic.
Once an addiction to tramadol has developed, professional help will almost certainly be required to break the cycle of abuse and then learn how to move on to a substance-free life. However, before you can put your days of relying on tramadol to function behind you, you will need to get through the process of withdrawal.
Withdrawing from opioid drugs can be both complicated and very unpleasant. Thankfully, if the process takes place in a dedicated detox facility, it can be made much easier and far more comfortable. Furthermore, the risk of serious complications will be greatly reduced when medical staff are in attendance.
Although tramadol is one of the least potent opioids available for the treatment of pain, it is still an addictive drug when abused. Those who do abuse it are at risk of physical dependency that can swiftly be followed by addiction. It should be mentioned though that physical dependency can even occur in those who do not abuse the drug and just who take it as directed but for a prolonged period.
Once physical dependency does develop, you are likely to experience withdrawal symptoms when quitting or significantly cutting back on tramadol use. The reason for this is that your brain will have rewired itself around your use of the drug and subsequently relies on it to help deal with pain. You might also find that you are unable to experience feelings of pleasure unless you have taken tramadol. When you suddenly stop using the drug then, your brain must learn to deal with these emotions by itself once more.
As tramadol depresses the central nervous system, it causes many physiological functions to slow down. Breathing, heart rate, and reaction times all tend to become slower if you are a regular user of tramadol. When you stop using the drug, these functions will respond by speeding up again in an effort to restore a normal baseline once more.
Although tramadol withdrawal is associated with unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, it is rarely life-threatening. If your addiction is not severe, you may be able to withdraw from the drug at home using a tapering schedule provided by your doctor. However, detoxing within a supervised facility is widely regarded as the safest and most comfortable way to break the cycle of drug abuse.
Tramadol Withdrawal Symptoms
When you quit tramadol, a variety of withdrawal symptoms could occur as your brain and body begin to heal themselves and try to restore normality. These can include:
Causes of Tramadol Withdrawal
As mentioned above, your brain and body get used to the presence of tramadol when you take it in high doses or when it is used regularly. In fact, your brain learns to rely on tramadol to function normally so should you try to stop using it, it will have to readjust. This can take both time and result in a range of withdrawal symptoms.
Tramadol acts on various parts of the brain to block pain and induce feelings of warmth, pleasure and relaxation. When these areas of the brain are stimulated, chemicals are released; it is these chemicals that help you to feel good when you take the drug.
Taking chemicals to stimulate the production of certain chemicals causes your brain to adjust its own natural production. When you stop taking the chemicals that it has been relying on, the brain must once again take responsibility for producing these chemicals. It is this that can lead to a range of psychological withdrawal symptoms.
Physical symptoms usually occur when the drug you were taking to depress your central nervous system is withdrawn. Your body will race in response to the removal of tramadol as it tries to get back to normal. This causes symptoms such as agitation, restlessness, and a rapid pulse.
Treatment for Tramadol Withdrawal
During tramadol withdrawal, you may feel very unwell, possibly in a similar way to how you would feel if you had a bout of the flu. Thankfully, there are things that can help to make you feel better. In a detox facility, for example, staff can administer medications that provide relief for some of the symptoms being experienced.
So if you are suffering from nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea, for example, your doctor may prescribe medication that will help to ease the discomfort. If you experience symptoms of depression or anxiety, then it is likely your doctor will prescribe medications that will help to lift your mood.
Holistic therapies are also used during tramadol withdrawal. Some clinics utilise these treatments to help reduce stress levels, improve overall well-being, and to curb cravings. The use of techniques such as meditation and mindfulness can help you to relax and focus on the here and now instead of spending your time thinking about other things.
Does Tramadol Withdrawal Work?
Breaking free from tramadol is the first step on the road to full recovery. It is this process that allows the body to eliminate the toxins that have accumulated due to the tramadol use. To overcome your addiction, you must quit tramadol, and quit it for good. In detox, you will have the care and support of fully trained, experienced individuals who can help you to achieve this goal.
The unpleasant symptoms normally associated with tramadol withdrawal are often an obstacle to recovery as many users will quickly return to the drug to avoid feeling so ill. However, you should remember that no matter how ill you feel, you will get better. Furthermore, in a dedicated detox facility, the impact of tramadol can be significantly reduced, meaning that the worst of the symptoms can be avoided and those that do occur can be treated effectively.
In a nutshell, withdrawal from tramadol works best when it is handled correctly. Detoxing in a supervised facility is the safest and most comfortable way to break free from this medication.
Medications for Tramadol Withdrawal
In a detox facility, your care team are likely to use a variety of medications to ensure that you are more comfortable during the process. As you are likely to experience a range of symptoms that may make you feel quite unwell, it might be deemed appropriate to use a substitute opioid drug while you withdraw from tramadol.
Methadone and buprenorphine are two opioid drugs that are regularly used during withdrawal from other opioids. Methadone is suitable because it is a longer-acting opioid drug that stays in the system much longer than tramadol. As it acts on the same brain receptors as tramadol does, you are unlikely to experience the same symptoms that you would if you were to suddenly cease tramadol without any medication.
Buprenorphine is also a useful substitute for tramadol due to the way it binds to the same opioid receptors. However, because of it being a partial opioid agonist, it does not activate these receptors in the same way that tramadol does. This means that while it can prevent the worst withdrawal symptoms from occurring, it will not induce the same feelings that tramadol does.
Another benefit of substituting buprenorphine for tramadol is that taking more than the recommended dose is unlikely to cause major problems. This is because buprenorphine has a plateau effect and because of this, the desire to use it is curbed.
As well as drugs to help reduce the severity of the withdrawal process, it may be necessary for other medications to be administered to ease any discomfort you are experiencing. As tramadol withdrawal can lead to symptoms such as depression and anxiety, mood-enhancing medications like antidepressants may be prescribed to ease the symptoms.
Tramadol Withdrawal Psychosis
Psychosis is the name given to the condition that causes the sufferer to temporarily lose touch with reality. When withdrawing from a drug such as tramadol, it is possible to develop what is known as drug-induced psychosis. This can cause you to feel panicky or have false beliefs about the situation you are in. While psychosis is an atypical withdrawal symptom of tramadol withdrawal, it can occur from time to time.
If you are affected by tramadol withdrawal psychosis, you will need to be cared for by professional staff with experience of your condition as there is a risk that you could harm yourself or others. You may feel a sense of despair or hopelessness and you might become paranoid and anxious. These feelings could cause you to make decisions that you would not otherwise make if thinking clearly.
You should note that suffering from psychosis during tramadol does not mean that you have a psychotic disorder. The symptoms of psychosis related to opiate withdrawal usually subside after a few days.
Medical Detox from Tramadol as Part of a Whole Treatment Plan
The recovery process from tramadol is not a quick fix and medical detox is just the first step on the road to recovery. While detox is a vital part of the process, it is not the only one and it should, therefore, be included as part of a whole treatment plan.
Breaking the physical addiction is the aim of medical detox. It is during this process that your brain and body can begin to heal themselves and start to get back to normal. But addiction is a very complex illness and you need to do much more than just quit the drug you were abusing.
There is very likely to be an underlying reason why you began abusing tramadol in the first place. While for some individuals the cause of the addictive behaviour is obvious, in others things are not so clear. Talking and behavioural therapies can help you to identify the reason you developed an addiction to tramadol and then give you the chance to learn how to live without drugs and other mood-altering chemicals in the future.
Tramadol Addiction Detox
You know by now that detox is necessary for those with a physical dependence on tramadol. To summarise, detox is the name given to the removal of toxins from the body, and it should ideally take place in a special detox clinic.
You should know that when you quit tramadol, the detox process begins naturally. Your body will adjust to the removal of the drug you have been taking and, in its efforts to get back to normal, various functions will go into overdrive. This can result in the range of withdrawal symptoms that are likely to make you feel unwell.
If you were to detox at home, which is not advisable, by the way, you might find it harder to cope with these symptoms, making a return to tramadol much more likely. Detoxing under the care and supervision of a team of fully trained staff members will make it more likely you are successful in your attempts to quit tramadol.
Tramadol detox can proceed in any number of ways. You might quit the drug abruptly, and then be provided with medications to ease the withdrawal process. Alternatively, your care provider might prescribe a substitute opioid drug so that your experience of withdrawal is less severe.
Another method of detoxing is to have your dose of tramadol reduced gradually over the course of a couple of weeks until you can quit it fully. The benefit of this type of tapering detox is that it gives your brain and body time to get used to the removal of the drug they have learned to rely on. As you might imagine, this can also reduce the severity of the process.
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Tramadol Detox Protocol
Before you begin the detox process in a dedicated clinic, your care team will sit with you and discuss your options. They will present you with what they believe to be the best approach and will explain it in full so that you are aware of what the process will be like.
A plan will be put in place before you start the detox, which is known as the detox protocol. It will include information about you and your history of tramadol abuse. It will also include medical information that is relevant to your detox and any medications that you are taking or allergic to.
It is important to have a tramadol detox protocol in place so that all staff members are aware of the procedure to be followed. With a plan in place, everyone will know the medication that has been approved for you and what your dosage should be.
A detox protocol will also include information about diet and any psychological interventions that have been agreed in terms of helping to make the process easier for you. It might be necessary for you to be given a daily dose of vitamins and minerals; if this is the case, information on this will also be included in your plan of care.
Tramadol detox can take a couple of weeks, so during that time, you are likely to be staying in the clinic. With changes in staff from one day to the next, having a detox protocol in place will ensure continuity of care.
Physical Dependence vs. Addiction
There is a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to addiction, particularly in relation to the issue of physical dependence. While most people with an addiction to tramadol will also be physically dependent, having a physical dependence does not automatically mean having an addiction.
With tramadol, a physical dependence is often a consequence of abuse. However, it can also happen to those who have not abused the drug but have been taking it at therapeutic doses for a prolonged period.
Having a physical dependence on tramadol means that you will almost certainly experience withdrawal symptoms when you either stop using it suddenly or if you cut back dramatically on your use.
An addiction is more than just a physical dependence: it is an overwhelming need to use a drug, even when using it will cause harm or negative consequences. An addiction will also interfere with your ability to live a normal life. You are likely to become preoccupied with tramadol to the point where your need for it takes over and crowds out everything else.
You might, for example, lose interest in things that were once important to you, and your relationships will suffer. Despite all these negative consequences, you will have no control over your need for the drug and will be unable to stop using it, even if you desperately want to.
Taking high doses of tramadol or mixing it with other substances significantly increases the risk of overdose. What users of the drug should also be aware of is that tolerance to tramadol can quickly reduce, after even a short period of abstinence.
Those who begin a detox programme but then return to the drug may suffer an overdose if they try to take the same amount of the drug that they were taking before they started their detox. The maximum recommended dose of tramadol is 400mg per day. So, those who take amounts in excess of this are risking an overdose that could have fatal consequences.
As a central nervous system depressant, tramadol can cause respiratory depression and has also been linked to seizures. Taking it with other depressant substances can have severe consequences. It is not uncommon for respiratory failure and cardiac arrest to occur when more than one depressant substance is taken at the same time.
Most people who overdose on tramadol will do so unintentionally. Those who do have an addiction to the drug might begin sourcing tramadol online or on the streets. It is impossible to know how pure tramadol is or what the strength is when it is sourced from anywhere other than a medical professional.
Tramadol overdose causes the following symptoms:
Cold clammy skin
Loss of consciousness
Blue fingernails and lips
If you notice the above symptoms after taking more tramadol than your recommended dose, or if you have mixed the drug with alcohol or another substance, it is important to seek urgent medical attention.
Tramadol Addiction Treatment and Rehab
Treatment for tramadol addiction starts with a detox which is then followed by a rehab programme. After a detox, you can get started on rehab; this will take place in either a residential or day care clinic. During rehab, you will learn all about the reasons why you became addicted to tramadol and the various triggers that drive your maladaptive behaviour. You will also be taught how to avoid a relapse in the future by developing positive coping strategies.
Tramadol Addiction Withdrawal and Detox Statistics
In 2016, Northern Ireland’s top pathologist claimed that tramadol was claiming more lives in the country than any other drug.
According to a World Health Organisation report on tramadol, data showed that the rate of tramadol abuse in the United States in the first three years after it was introduced was 1-3 cases per 100,000 patients.
97% of those who abused tramadol already had a history of substance abuse.
Analysis of adverse reactions associated with tramadol use between 1995 and 2000 showed that almost 40% were considered to be caused by withdrawal after chronic use.
Even after the introduction of new brands and generic formulations of tramadol into the US, abuse of the drug was found to be almost exclusively in those with a history of substance abuse.
This indicates that when it comes to pain medications such as tramadol, abuse is rare in pain patients using the drug at therapeutic doses.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does tramadol withdrawal affect my health?
Withdrawal from tramadol can cause a range of symptoms that may make you feel unwell. You might find it difficult to sleep and you could suffer from muscle aches, nausea, and vomiting. The good news is that your symptoms will pass and your overall health and well-being will improve.
Will my information be kept confidential?
It is natural to want your information kept private when you are being treated for addiction. This is an illness that is viewed in a negative light and you might be worried about what others will think if they discover you are affected.
Whoever is providing your care has a duty to protect your privacy and to keep your information confidential. Staff at rehab clinics are bound by strict confidentiality policies and will never share your details with a third party without your permission.
Am I addicted?
The first sign of abuse is an increased tolerance; increasing your dose of tramadol to achieve a certain level of satisfaction or pain relief could be the start of a cycle of abuse. When you develop a physical dependence on tramadol, you will almost certainly notice withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit or whenever the effects of the drug wear off.
Many people spiral down the path of addiction when they get caught in a cycle of abuse while trying to avoid withdrawal symptoms. A sign that you might be addicted to tramadol is an overwhelming need to use the drug even when knowing that there are likely to be negative consequences if you do.
How serious is tramadol detox?
Tramadol detox is rarely life-threatening, but it can leave you feeling miserable. It is important therefore to seek professional help or you may find that you return to the drug to avoid the symptoms.
However, a return to tramadol use after a period of abstinence can lead to a fatal overdose because your tolerance to the substance will have decreased significantly.
Can medications help me detox from tramadol?
Many types of medication are used during tramadol detox. These include substitute opioid drugs such as methadone and buprenorphine, or an opioid blocker like naltrexone. Naltrexone stops opioid drugs such as tramadol from having an effect.
Other medications can be used to ease the symptoms you do experience, like mood enhancers, and medications to stop vomiting and diarrhoea.
Can I die from tramadol withdrawal?
It is highly unlikely that fatal complications will arise during the detox process, but if you were to return to tramadol after a period of abstinence, you could suffer an overdose. Your tolerance levels will drop dramatically even with just a couple of days of abstinence, so taking the same dose as you were using before you began your detox could be much more than you can handle and hence potentially lead to dire consequences.
How do I detox from tramadol?
There are several ways to detox from tramadol. Your care team will advise on the most appropriate method for you. You might be advised to stop taking tramadol completely, or a tapering schedule may be recommended. Some providers prefer to use opioid replacement therapy, where you will be given a substitute opioid drug while you withdraw from tramadol.