What is Tramadol?Tramadol (also marketed as Ultram or Ultracet) is a prescription opioid pain reliever used for the treatment of moderate pain. It works via two molecular mechanisms in the brain:
Immediate Effects and Adverse Effects of Tramadol Use
Tramadol relieves pain and possibly depression-related symptoms in patients with co-morbid mental health conditions.
While tramadol itself has a weak affinity for the mu-opioid receptor, several of its metabolites have far more affinity, likely leading to some of the desirable effects of tramadol use.
Unlike other centrally acting opioids (such as morphine or heroin), tramadol doesn’t seem to have a clinically relevant respiratory depression effect on patients (only seen in patients who take considerably more than the recommended dose).
By prescription, tramadol is most frequently taken orally, although intravenous and intramuscular formulations exist.
Effects that are associated with tramadol administration include:
- Lack of inhibition.
- Mellowed affect.
Some adverse effects associated with tramadol use include:
- Loss of appetite.
Long-Term Effects of Tramadol
Generally speaking, tramadol has a low abuse potential (especially when compared to other opioid analgesics).
For years, tramadol was heralded as a non-abusable replacement option for many of the existing opiate painkillers.
However, because tramadol is such an effective pain medication, the potential for abuse naturally does exist and we’ve now seen tramadol abuse becoming more prevalent over the past few years.
If a user takes tramadol repeatedly over a period and develops a tolerance for the drug, an overdose may occur when that user takes more than normal to achieve the desired effect.
Tramadol overdoses can be very serious if they occur, and can cause:
- Neurological toxicity.
- Respiratory failure.
- Serotonin syndrome.
- Mild cardiovascular disruption.
Symptoms of overdose may include:
Because tramadol abuse is not prevalent, long-term studies of the consequences of tramadol abuse have not been conducted.
How Tramadol Addiction Changes Your Life
The vast majority of tramadol abusers actually have a history of substance abuse (typically a substance other than tramadol), and many have been prescribed the medication legally for pain control purposes.
However, due to developed tolerance, users can become out of control and use far more tramadol than recommended, ultimately becoming addicted both physiologically and psychologically to the drug.
Tramadol addiction can have adverse effects on the user's social, occupational, and mental health.
Many tramadol abusers report strained family relationships, as well as troubles in the workplace and/or at school. Due to their perpetual need to obtain tramadol, many abusers report financial trouble associated with clinic visits or purchasing the drug illegally.
Pregnant women may also experience trouble with their developing fetus while using tramadol, as the newborn may be physiologically addicted when born to a tramadol-addicted mother.
Tramadol Addiction and Mental Health
Historically, people who become addicted to tramadol frequently suffer from comorbid, or co-occurring substance abuse as well, often times other opioids (such as heroin or morphine).
A Tramadol addict who is also receiving treatment for depression or anxiety is at an increased risk of serotonin syndrome.
There is an increased prevalence of substance abuse in patients reporting mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, and tramadol is no exception.
Unique to tramadol, abusers may experience hallucinations while using or withdrawing from tramadol, which may present more like a psychiatric crisis instead of an addiction crisis, because of the overlapping symptomatology.
Tramadol, in addition to its analgesic effects, also decreases reuptake of neurotransmitters that are involved (and often imbalanced) in clinical depression. Therefore, a tramadol addict who is also receiving treatment for depression or anxiety is at an increased risk of serotonin syndrome.
Serotonin syndrome can be life threatening, and is characterized by a markedly increased concentration of serotonin in the synapses between neurons in the brain.