Tramadol Addiction: Definition, Common Signs & Options For Help


Have you seen someone you know behave rather strangely lately? Does that person look more agitated than usual or get irritated easier?

The person may be on some kind of prescription medication for pain. However, determining whether those opioids have generated an addiction isn’t easy.

If you think Tramadol has gotten a toll on you or someone else, you’re not alone. Opioids like tramadol are highly addictive, and they can go unnoticed if you’re not careful.

Fortunately, learning the basics of Tramadol addiction empowers you to take control. Read on to find the most common signs of addiction and how you can recover from it.

What Is a Tramadol Addiction?

Tramadol is an artificially-created opioid painkiller, similar to morphine and oxycodone. It’s significantly milder than morphine, but all opioids are addictive, and it’s possible to get hooked on this common painkiller.

Do Tramadol Addiction Urges Go Away?

As with all opioid urges, getting a Tramadol addiction to go away entirely on its own can be difficult. However, research indicates that treatments like methadone can provide long-term relief from addiction urges. Unfortunately, some people will stay on options like this for years; others may use them for the rest of their life.

Aside from managing the urges, getting rid of a Tramadol addiction usually requires external help and support. Such support includes keeping all opioids out of the area and providing social encouragement to stay clean.

Forms of Tramadol Addiction

While there are no official types of tramadol addiction, it can manifest as Opioid Use Disorder, a subcategory of substance abuse problems characterized by dependency and then addiction to opioids.

When someone is dependent on Tramadol, they experience symptoms of tolerance and withdrawal. This means the person will begin to feel discomfort when not using Tramadol, and they will feel the urge to increase the amount they consume to maintain any pleasure from it.

Once the person reaches the addiction stage of Tramadol, it means their brain will have gone through several biochemical changes and will cause a sudden behavior change. The user will see no other way of functioning without constantly consuming Tramadol, and this will become the main thing on their mind. It gathers control over the whole behavior of the person.

Tramadol Addiction Statistics

Tramadol is not as addictive as stronger opioids, as shown by about a 4% misuse of prescriptions between 2015 and 2017. However, while it’s lower than other opioids, four percent is a significant percentage.

According to a 2017 survey on substance abuse, it’s estimated that over 1.75 million people abused Tramadol in the year before the study. Not every instance of misuse leads to addiction, but it is more common than many people realize.

Tramadol is also a factor in some mixed-drug cases. A report from Texas in 2019 found that about 22% of deaths involving benzodiazepine (often in the forms of Valium or Xanax) also involved Tramadol.

Opioid misuse is more common in some communities, with areas like rural farming being especially susceptible to it. Research notes that about 77% of farmers and farm workers think accessing opioid painkillers is simple, even without a prescription, and about 26% have done so.

Also worth noting is that while Tramadol is thought of as a mild opioid, hydrocodone has the lowest level of addiction at about 0.57%. However, even with this, researchers do not conclude that there are any safe opioids.

What Are the Signs of Tramadol Addiction?

Here are some of the most common signs of addiction to Tramadol. However, note that these are fundamentally similar to other opioid addictions, so it can be hard to conclude that someone is abusing Tramadol unless you can locate their stash of drugs and identify it.

  • Small Pupils People taking Tramadol may have small pupils, which some describe as pinpoints. While pupils can naturally dilate throughout the day as someone moves between different lighting levels, small pupils from opioid abuse often persist regardless of lighting levels.
  • Drowsiness People suffering from Tramadol addiction may experience drowsiness throughout the day. This drowsiness can make it dangerous to drive or operate other heavy machinery.
  • Headaches Tramadol addictions often lead to headaches and other complaints, which addicts may try to alleviate by taking more Tramadol. When doing so, they may try to offer the excuse that their head hurts quite bad, so they need a painkiller to deal with it.
  • Slurred Speech: Opioid addiction can also lead to people slurring their speech in regular conversations. Slurring is most common when they’ve recently taken a dose but may persist throughout the day if they’ve abused an opioid for a long time.
  • Clumsiness: Tramadol addicts often experience clumsiness or otherwise impaired movement. They may have difficulty with tasks that require fine motor control and may occasionally stumble and fall while walking. Tramadol drug addiction tends to worsen over time.
  • Doctor Shopping: People with Tramadol addiction often change doctors frequently, looking for a new supplier. Many find it possible to get one prescription from a doctor, but when they have a refill request denied, they’ll ask someone else. Doctor shopping can wind up taking a lot of their time.
  • Early Refills: Addicts may try to get refills much earlier than they’re expected to be filled. An addict may claim that they lost their previous pills or say they want a longer supply of them “just in case.” Trying to get early refills can be part of doctor shopping, as they may want to get as much as they can from each doctor before moving on to the next.
  • Compulsive Use: A common sign of addiction is compulsively using Tramadol, whether or not it’s needed to help manage pain. Some people start experiencing withdrawal symptoms and begin using Tramadol again to avoid them, which can progress dependency to full addiction.
  • Reclusive Behavior: Addicts may become more reclusive and start insisting on having more time alone than they used to. As you might expect, the main reason for this is to be able to take Tramadol in secret.
  • Mixed Use: Cravings for Tramadol can lead people to start taking other drugs simultaneously. Mixing drugs can significantly strengthen addiction and make it much harder to get through detox and rehab.

Types of Unhealthy Tramadol Behavior

At more severe levels, Tramadol addiction can lead to things like seizures. Seizures are more common with higher doses (about 400 mg daily) and if someone is also taking antidepressants.

People who become dependent on tramadol or are addicted to it will begin to have suicidal thoughts. If someone begins to show more depressing tendencies like lack of affection or neglecting social gatherings, they can be going through a tramadol addiction.

What Is the Main Cause of Tramadol Addiction?

Tramadol addiction usually begins with either long-term unnecessary use of the drug. In this context, unnecessary means situations where it’s not prescribed by a doctor. Many people are casual about using it because they assume it’s less dangerous than other opioids, and lowering your caution this way can quickly lead to dependence.

Researchers are unsure of the exact causes of opioid addiction, but studies suggest that about half of the risk is genetic. Anyone susceptible to opioid addiction is at a higher risk of developing addiction from a lower dose of this drug.

There’s no exact timeline for how long it takes to become addicted to Tramadol, but even people susceptible to addiction usually don’t get addicted in just one or two days. Most types of addiction to Tramadol start with taking it for pain relief, after which people continue using it or up the dose because they feel like their initial dose isn’t working well enough.

It’s worth noting that addiction can occur in people with no known history. A 2010 report analyzed a patient who presented with Tramadol addiction after originally taking it for pelvic pain. After several days of inpatient treatment, he was able to go home.

Tramadol wasn’t on the DEA’s schedule of drugs but has since been classified as Schedule IV, which is the second-lowest level. The thing to remember here is that a low risk of abuse and dependence is not the same as no risk.

How Tramadol Addiction Affects the Brain

Like most drug addictions, Tramadol addiction usually starts with beneficial elements that make the drug attractive. Users may experience things like higher energy levels, alertness, or general good cheer. The positive feelings can motivate people to take it recreationally.

Unlike some other opiates, Tramadol occasionally has antidepressant effects, and people may also take it for that. However, when not used as prescribed, people can build up a tolerance and start taking more Tramadol to regain the high.

What Is the Personality of a Tramadol Addict?

Tramadol addicts tend to develop more aggressive personalities. As life changes to focus on the drug, people experiencing this addiction may get upset at others, especially when they’re not currently on it. Their entire life may revolve around obtaining and using it.

Aside from harming relationships, effects like these often get worse over time as addicts start taking stronger doses or mixing in other drugs. Many addicts compulsively pursue the strongest drugs they can get, which can lead to overdoses and death.

Is Tramadol Addiction a Mental Health Issue?

Yes. All addictions are mental health issues, alongside any physical components, and Tramadol addiction is no exception to this. On the positive side, this means that helpful support groups exist and have a lot of experience dealing with Tramadol addiction as a mental health problem.

What Mental Illnesses Go Hand in Hand With Tramadol Addiction?

Mental illnesses have a close correlation with all forms of opioid addiction. According to a 2016 survey, over 60% of people with opioid dependence had a mental illness, and almost a quarter of them had a more severe mental illness.

Generally, people who have mental health disorders are more likely to receive opioid prescriptions, and from there get addicted.

How Do I Stop My Tramadol Addiction?

The best way to stop a Tramadol addiction is to go through a medically-guided withdrawal plan. The exact process depends on things like the overall severity, but doctors often start by reducing the dose of Tramadol and slowly easing off rather than going entirely off it immediately.

Can Tramadol Addiction Ever Be Cured?

Although it’s difficult to say that someone is perfectly cured, most people who go through a proper detox and care process can usually break away from Tramadol and stop the urge to take it. The most severe withdrawal symptoms usually vanish about a week after a proper tapering off, but mild effects may linger for up to two years.

What Is the Most Common Treatment for Tramadol Addiction?

The most common treatment for Tramadol addiction is a medically-supervised withdrawal, followed by rehab and social support. Medical guidance is important because withdrawal symptoms occasionally include paranoia, hallucinations, confusion, and panic attacks.

Lesser symptoms can include insomnia, chills, diarrhea, nausea, aching, sweating, and moderate anxiety. Most people will experience at least some of these effects while withdrawing from opioid addiction.

Professional care environments are one of the best places to limit the effects of opioid withdrawal and make it easier to break a habit completely. These places usually have medicine and other treatment options that can significantly reduce the impact of withdrawal symptoms.

Detox is only the first step in most addiction treatment plans. Most people need a long-term care plan to ensure successful management of withdrawal from opioid addiction. Think of it as a marathon, not a race, and remember to keep moving forward.

Do not attempt to create a treatment plan by yourself. Talk to your doctor or another qualified expert to see if something like addiction rehab is right for you.

What Can I Replace Tramadol With?

It’s difficult to truly replace Tramadol because it doesn’t act the same way as most opioids. It’s also one of the milder options in its family, so there isn’t as much to replace it with compared to drugs like morphine.

If you’re taking Tramadol for pain relief, other options like ibuprofen or acetaminophen may be appropriate. Medications for addiction may focus on things to alleviate withdrawal symptoms rather than an outright alternative for this drug.

As with creating a treatment plan, do not try to replace Tramadol without consulting a doctor. Only an expert can tell you if a replacement drug is right for your situation. Remember, even if a common drug like ibuprofen is fine normally, it may have negative reactions with something else your doctor wants you to take.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common questions that people have about Tramadol addiction.

What happens if you take Tramadol every day?

Addiction is likely inevitable if you take Tramadol daily. Most people will start developing a physical dependence on Tramadol in about ten days of regular use, assuming a total dose of around 250 MGs.

Is Tramadol a dirty drug?

Yes. Dirty drugs are any that bind to many possible receptors in the body, and Tramadol falls into this category. Note that the term “dirty drug” does not refer to drugs that are inherently more dangerous or poorly made. Rather, it focuses on how they work in the body.

Additional Addictions To Be Aware Of

Here are some other addictions you should know about if you or someone around you is addicted to Tramadol.

  • Morphine Addiction: Morphine is a stronger opioid than Tramadol, so it produces similar but stronger effects and is easier to get addicted to.
  • Ketamine Addiction: Ketamine is a powerful derivative of PCP, which can immobilize people and produce notable hallucinatory effects.
  • Kratom Addiction: Kratom is an opioid-like substance with similar effects. However, as it’s legally available in many areas, some people find it much easier to access than Tramadol.

Wrapping Up

Tramadol addiction is a serious and surprisingly common condition. The important thing to know is that treatment is possible and effective. If you or someone you know is suffering from Tramadol addiction, talk to your doctor as soon as possible, and you can start on the road to recovery.


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