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What is Tramadol?
Tramadol is a type of prescription-only opiate pain killer designed to treat moderate and severe pain. It can also be known by the brand names Ultram ™ and ConZipTM. Although its chemical makeup has caused some question over the years about whether or not it is a true opiate, the drug is a schedule IV controlled substance and has a high risk of addiction. Technically speaking, tramadol is an opiate agonist and it affects the brain and central nervous system to interfere with the way the body perceives pain.
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What Are The Effects of Tramadol?
Tramadol affects the brain and central nervous system. Tramadol attaches to certain receptors in the brain, and this helps the central nervous system block the sensation of pain. As with almost any prescription drug on the market, tramadol can cause side effects. Some of the more common side effects include drowsiness, dizziness, itching, nausea, headache, and constipation. Because of the opiate content of the medication, tramadol comes with a high risk of abuse, misuse, and addiction. Patients should be carefully screened and warned of the dangers that come with being introduced to a substance with a high potential for abuse. The effects of tramadol can be changed or intensified if the patient drinks alcohol or takes other opiate drugs, benzodiazepines, or certain antihistamines at the same time as tramadol. Tramadol abuse can allow the user to potentially feel a sense of euphoria, also known as “getting high”. When the body breaks down tramadol, it acts on the body in the same manner as other more powerful opiates, which is why it has a high potential for abuse.
Is Tramadol Addictive?
Tramadol addiction is a real and very serious consequence of using this drug. The prescription will be accompanied by documentation warning the user of the risk of addiction, abuse, and misuse. People who seek out the drug “on the street” or use it recreationally when it is not prescribed to them may not know or have access to this information. Therefore, the risk of addiction in these type of users is as high or higher than for those who are prescribed the drug and take it as directed. Patients who are prescribed tramadol for long periods of time or higher doses are at the biggest risk of becoming addicted or abusing tramadol. This is because long term use often causes physical addiction even when this is not intended. So, both groups of people are at risk first for tramadol abuse. Signs of tramadol abuse include:
• Taking doses more frequently or in larger amounts than prescribed
• Mixing the medication with other medications
• Feeling the urge to use the medication to ease stress or to feel “normal”
Tramadol is addictive because it attaches to the same receptors in the brain as fully opiate substances. Users who become addicted run the risk of switching to a more powerful drug like OxyContin, Percocet, or even heroin to chase the high feeling. Tramadol can be considered a “gateway” drug in the family of opiate medication and substances.
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How Addictive is Tramadol?
Tramadol abuse is serious and can quickly lead to tramadol addiction. Opiate drugs like tramadol have the potential to be extremely addictive. Patients that ultimately suffer from tramadol addiction may experience difficulty when trying to stop taking the medication suddenly. Stopping suddenly after using tramadol for a long period of time can cause a person to go into withdrawals. If you or someone you know is trying to stop taking tramadol and cannot seem to cut down, please seek professional help. Some signs of tramadol addiction are:
• Needing to take higher doses of the medication to feel the same effects
• Intentionally taking too much in order to “feel high”
• Crushing the pills to snort or inject them
• “Doctor shopping” to get additional prescriptions of tramadol or other opiate medications
• Going into withdrawal when the medication runs out or doses are missed – symptoms include sweating, tremors, anxiety, nausea, and generalized pain
Tramadol addiction is life-threatening. Overdosing on an opiate drug suppresses the central nervous system and slows breathing rates dangerously low. Patients have fatally overdosed on tramadol because of the serious effect on breathing.
It is possible to become addicted to tramadol or have fatal side effects even when using the medication exactly as prescribed. If prescribed the medication for a long period of time, the body can become physically addicted. When physical addiction occurs, the body has learned to rely on the substance to function “normally”. The person in this situation may not feel the psychological effects of tramadol addiction, however when they attempt to stop taking the medication without tapering down, may feel the physical symptoms of withdrawal. If you or a loved one identifies with the signs of tramadol addiction listed above, it may be time to seek out professional help.
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