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06.11.2021

What is Tramadol?

Tramadol is an opioid medication that is used for treating pain. The FDA has issued multiple warnings due to a high risk of dependency and addiction, plus the potential for dangerous side effects. While Tramadol can be used responsibly, it is often the first painkiller that leads people down the road of addiction.

The serious warnings include:

  • Misusing the drug can cause addiction and overdose.
  • Your breathing might slow down dangerously or stop entirely.
  • If a child accidentally ingests a dose, they could die. Children should not use the medication.
  • Using the medication while pregnant can cause your baby to have a chemical dependency on it.
  • If you combine the medication with any benzodiazepine, you could die.
  • Many types of medication have negative interactions with this.

Because of the number of warnings and the high risk of abuse, doctors don’t prescribe Tramadol as much as they used to. But it might still be prescribed as one part of a more comprehensive pain care management plan. You can get it in its generic form or manufactured under the brand name Ultram.  The medication is taken orally in tablet form. There are both instant release and extended release formulas. With immediate release drugs, the effects are felt immediately. With extended release drugs, the effects take longer to set in, but they also last for significantly longer.

How Tramadol Works

Tramadol is an opioid agonist, which means that it binds to your brain’s opioid receptors. It is one of several prescription opioid agonists on the market. These drugs are prescribed for pain. They alter the way the brain interprets pain by mimicking endorphins.  Endorphins are naturally occurring substances in the brain. When they attach to different parts of the brain, they cause pain relief. With opioids, you get pain relief similar to endorphins, but the effects tend to be more intense and immediate.

There are a variety of side effects. Some are common and not cause for concern. It’s likely that the medication will make you drowsy, so you shouldn’t drive after taking it. Other common side effects might include nausea, headache, constipation, dizziness, fatigue, dry mouth, and sweating.  These common side effects tend to subside after a couple days or weeks, at least if they’re mild. With more severe symptoms, it’s important to talk to your doctor.

Potentially Serious Side Effects

There are several potentially serious side effects that can occur while taking this medication. Abusing the medicine or accidentally taking doses too close together can lead to overdose, coma, and death.  One potential side effect is a condition called serotonin syndrome. This occurs when the brain becomes flooded with so much serotonin that the levels are toxic. It can lead to death or lifelong complications. Some of the symptoms are quicker reflexes, reduced coordination, agitation, psychosis, fast heart rate, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea.

Some people experience dangerous problems with their breathing. Your rate of breathing might slow down, or you might begin breathing very shallowly. Lack of oxygen might lead to confusion, fatigue, dizziness, and fainting.  Another serious issue is physical dependence. Even if you don’t develop a psychological need for the drug, you might still experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking it. The withdrawal symptoms might then make you start taking it again, which leads to an ongoing cycle of drug use.

Some people develop adrenal insufficiency, which is when your body stops producing cortisol. If left untreated, this can be fatal. The main symptoms are constant exhaustion.  In addition, some people have developed seizures. In people with epilepsy, seizures might get worse.

Medication Interactions

Many other classes of medication interact with tramadol. Some of the interactions might cause mild and manageable symptoms, while others can be life-threatening. It’s important to talk to your doctor about all of your medications and supplements. If you are using tramadol without a legal prescription, be sure that you look up the medication interactions as well.

Antidepressants, linezolid, lithium, migraine medications, St. John’s wort, and MAOIs can combine with tramadol to dangerously increase serotonin levels. This increases the risk of serotonin syndrome.  Benzodiazepines should never be combined with opioids because they can slow your breathing and nervous system activity to the point of coma or death.  Some antipsychotics can also cause your breathing and central nervous activity to lessen.

If you or someone you love is suffering from a Tramadol addiction, call 844-903-2111 to talk to one of our counselors now.