Tramadol is a synthetic opioid painkiller, a narcotic pain reliever for moderate to moderately severe pain.
Although it is one of the least potent painkillers available and can only be used under a doctor’s directions for legitimate conditions, frequent and prolonged tramadol use can lead to increasingly-high tolerance and addiction. Tramadol is marketed under different brand names: ConZip, Ryzolt, Tramal, Ultram, Zamadol, Zydol, Tramacet. Common street names for tramadol include trammies, chill pills and ultras.
Perhaps you’re concerned for someone else who you feel has become dependent on Tramadol. Whatever your reason for reading here we can show you how to recognise a Tramadol addiction and how to come off the drug safely and for good.
- Tramadol is a prescription medicine used to treat moderate to severe pain. Although it is not advisable to take it for longer than a few weeks, some people with chronic pain are prescribed Tramadol for a considerable period of time.
- Tramadol is an opioid which means it relaxes you and makes you feel happy.
- For this reason, it is also used recreationally at parties and clubs and is also called ‘chill pill’, ‘trammie’ or ‘ultra’.
- Addiction to Tramadol is not an exact science and it can depend on the amount taken and for how long, as well as your physical and mental health, family history and relationship with other substances, including alcohol.
- You may struggle to recognise your, or someone else’s, addiction to Tramadol.
- Physical signs of Tramadol abuse include mood changes, dizziness, nausea, and slurring words.
- Thinking about Tramadol all the time, taking more than your prescribed dose, feeling unwell when you stop taking it and trying to buy it illegally when you run out are also signs that you have a Tramadol addiction.
- It is best to stop taking Tramadol gradually and with professional addiction treatment. By doing this you can minimise withdrawal symptoms which can range from mild to severe.
Is Tramadol Addictive?
It can be difficult to understand that something you are taking with the doctor’s blessing for pain or following surgery can result in drug dependency, but Tramadol can be addictive if taken for a prolonged amount of time.
You may have thought that as it is legal it is harmless, but Tramadol is a controlled drug in the UK which means it has the potential for addiction or abuse. Even people with no history of substance abuse can find themselves addicted to Tramadol.
If you take it recreationally, you may have purposely chosen Tramadol thinking it was a safer alternative to other opioids such as heroin and you wouldn’t become addicted. Rest assured you’re not alone and with the right addiction treatment you can stop taking Tramadol safely and for good.
It is easy to build up a tolerance to Tramadol, which means you need more to achieve the same effect, whether that is to dull the pain or get a buzz. You can have a physical addiction to Tramadol and coming off it suddenly can result in severe withdrawal symptoms.
Tramadol addiction can be a very serious downward spiral. A young woman who was prescribed Tramadol for a herniated disc increased her dose first to reduce the pain, then to prevent any pain and eventually because her regular dose made her feel less anxious, happier and allowed her to see ‘life in pink’. When she could no longer get her hands on any Tramadol she made numerous suicide attempts.
Is Tramadol Psychoactive?
If a drug is psychoactive it means it affects the brain and changes mood, behaviour, thoughts and feelings. Tramadol is psychoactive, making you feel relaxed and upbeat and this can lead to its misuse.
The fact it increases the amount of the brain’s good-feel chemicals, serotonin and norepinephrine, encourages people to keep on taking it as it makes them feel ‘happy all day’. It is also said to boost energy and improve sexual performance.
If you stop taking Tramadol suddenly and without support unpleasant withdrawal symptoms can kick in after just six hours. This is why so many people reach for another Tramadol.
How is Tramadol Classified in the UK?
Tramadol is a class C drug, which means it is considered to be ‘soft’ and a harmless alternative to class As such as ecstasy or heroin. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Any drugs that affects the brain can result in addiction.
Tramadol is only available on prescription and can’t be bought over the counter in pharmacies. If you buy it on the street or on the hidden part of the internet known as the ‘dark web’, you can’t be sure it hasn’t been cut with any other harmful substances such as fentanyl or even if it contains any Tramadol at all.
Despite the fact it is not an illegal drug, buying Tramadol outside of a prescription can land you a prison sentence.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Tramadol Abuse?
Taking Tramadol for longer than prescribed or in higher doses than dictated, buying it illegally for a buzz, or mixing it with other drugs or alcohol, are all examples of Tramadol abuse.
Even the way you take it – crushing the pills and snorting them to enhance their effect – is a sign that your relationship with Tramadol is out of control and that you need addiction treatment.
It is important that you recognise the signs of Tramadol abuse in you or a loved one before it spirals into an addiction that can be harder to kick. Symptoms can be physical and psychological and range from mild to severe, but they can be vague. This means Tramadol addiction is hard to identify, especially if it is affecting people you’d never imagine would be impacted by substance abuse.
Signs to look out for might be them running out of Tramadol earlier than usual, complaining about needing more, going to more than one doctor to get another prescription or faking an injury to get more.
When it comes to how Tramadol addiction makes you feel, nausea, dizziness and slurring words are signs that you are taking too much. You will also have intense cravings and an obsession with getting your hands on more, to the point that it impacts your work and personal life.
Don’t think it can’t cause harm because it is prescribed. Tramadol works by depressing the central nervous system and slowing down its functions, including brain, heart and lung activity. If taken to excess, this can result in overdose and even death.
Physical Symptoms of Tramadol Abuse
- Nausea and vomiting
- Slurred speech
- Dry mouth
- Muscle aches
Psychological Symptoms of Tramadol Abuse
- Mood changes
- Poor coordination
- Intense cravings
- Obsession with getting more
Tramadol is particularly dangerous if mixed with other drugs – even over-the-counter cold and cough medicines – as it can lead to something called serotonin syndrome. This raises the level of serotonin in your body which raises heart rate and blood pressure and can in extreme cases cause seizures.
Combining alcohol and Tramadol is also dangerous.
When Should You Get Help for a Tramadol Addiction?
Addiction doesn’t come with a rulebook and it can be subtle to the point that you don’t realise you have a dependency until your health is impacted or you have lost your job or family.
If your Tramadol addiction has taken you by surprise you may not be ready to accept that you have a dependency or any problem at all. This is understandable but rest assured that you are not alone and it is possible to get help discreetly.
If you or a loved one can’t get through the day without Tramadol, can’t stop taking it as when you do withdrawal symptoms kick in, have had your mood or behaviour changed by Tramadol and can’t stop thinking about how to get your next fix, you need help. You are not in control of Tramadol, it is in control of you.
You need to be honest with yourself. Only you will know how intense the cravings are and whether you’re taking more than your prescribed dose or obtaining it illegally as you can no longer get it from your doctor. Maybe you’re putting yourself in risky situations to buy it illegally. Who is in charge here? Tramadol or you?
If you are concerned about a loved one, explain in a gentle and non-judgmental way that you are there for them. Maybe you can offer to visit their GP with them or look into the support and help they need. They may feel confused that medicine they have taken in good faith is now dominating their life.
How is Tramadol Addiction Treated?
Even though Tramadol may have been prescribed to you and is not an illegal street drug, the safest and most successful way to kick a Tramadol addiction is with professional help. It is very difficult to stop taking it suddenly, on your own, as the cravings are so intense you may well relapse and the withdrawal symptoms can make you feel unwell physically and mentally.
Gradually reducing your use of Tramadol over a few weeks is a safe way of undergoing Tramadol detox. You may be prescribed a Tramadol alternative such as monoxodine or clonidine, which are used to treat high blood pressure. This tapering off helps you minimise withdrawal symptoms and avoid relapsing.
You also need support to understand why you became addicted in the first place – whether that was unintentional and your Tramadol usage got out of hand or you were looking for what you thought was a safe buzz as a means of escapism.
Just like addiction doesn’t affect everyone the same way, not everyone responds to the same treatment, but there will definitely be something out there that suits you. Tramadol addiction treatments include:
This is when someone, usually a friend, family member or partner, tells you they’re worried you may be abusing Tramadol. Maybe they’ve seen changes in your behaviour that you haven’t or that you’ve put down to stress or tiredness.
Although you may feel embarrassed or in denial, having someone with whom you can confide, who can help you find addiction treatment and maybe accompany you to visit your GP could be the helping hand you need.
If you are the person thinking of intervening, do some research before approaching the person so you can offer a solution to their problem. Saying, ‘I’ve heard of an online Tramadol support group that you can join’ could be the start of their recovery out of Tramadol addiction for good.
When an addiction comes from non-deliberate misuse – or after chasing what you thought was a safe high – it can leave you feeling ashamed and feeling like you’re completely alone. The fact is you’re not. There are many people in the same situation, all feeling isolated and all in need of help.
Support groups, be they online or face to face, bring together people like you who have a Tramadol addiction. You can be open, honest, and candid and find a connection with people who understand what you’re going through and can offer empathy and guidance.
Therapy can help identify the reasons you developed a Tramadol addiction in the first place, unpick these and arm you with strategies for dealing with any triggers that would previously have you reaching for the Tramadol.
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to counselling and therapy. It can be individual, group, family, even equine therapy with horses. It’s important that you find the one that suits you as outcomes can depend very much on how it is delivered and by whom.
If you have work or family responsibilities that you need to be present for, outpatient treatment at one of the country’s many treatment centres could suit you. Here you have access to professionals who can help you manage your Tramadol detox, medicines to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms and therapy to understand the root of your addiction.
Addiction treatment is offered at a time convenient to you and you can access help remotely when you can’t physically be there. You also receive ongoing support to help you avoid relapse and continue your life addiction-free.
The safest and most comfortable way to kick your Tramadol addiction for good is by moving into a rehab centre, with its hotel facilities, where you can receive help and support 24/7. This type of wraparound care can reduce your cravings and therefore the chance of you relapsing.
Tramadol addiction treatment begins with a personalised tramadol detox programme. The detox goal at Castle Craig is to get the patient clean in a safe environment. Our Consultant Psychiatrist thoroughly assesses each patient’s medical condition to determine their individual tramadol (ConZip, Ultram) detox regime.
The preferred method of tramadol detox involves scheduling a gradually decreased dosing protocol while supervising the patient’s withdrawal symptoms. This is the most comfortable method as it makes detox more comfortable for the patient and minimises negative withdrawal symptoms while the user’s system slowly adjusts.
Depending on individual patient needs, other medication may be prescribed to help ease the tramadol (ConZip, Ultram) withdrawal process.
This is particularly important if you have a serious addiction or have been combining Tramadol with alcohol or drugs, as you may have severe withdrawal symptoms. In residential rehab you can be monitored at all times to ensure you detox safely.
What to Expect When You Withdraw from Tramadol?
Tramadol withdrawal symptoms can start just six hours after your last dose and can last for up to two weeks. Physically, you may feel as though you have the flu and find yourself cold or feverish, sweaty, with aching muscles and a runny nose.
Psychological symptoms can include depression, anxiety, confusion, and irritability. You may struggle to concentrate which may impact your work. In rare cases, withdrawal symptoms can be severe and include psychosis, which can make you a danger to yourself and others.
For this reason, it is essential you reach out for support and don’t endure withdrawal symptoms alone.
Tramadol Addiction FAQ
How can I be addicted to a medicine my doctor has prescribed?
All medicines can affect the brain and can result in addiction.
How can I be addicted to Tramadol if I’m only taking what the doctor gave me?
Addiction effects everyone differently. If you have tried to stop taking Tramadol and can’t, you need help.
I don’t think I can cope without Tramadol. Is there an alternative?
Speak to your GP about non-medical treatments or medical substitutes for Tramadol.
Will my pain return if I stop taking Tramadol?
Speak to your doctor as there are many other painkillers available.
I’m so embarrassed. Will everyone know I have a Tramadol addiction?
No. Addiction treatment is private and discreet.
Can I overdose on Tramadol?
Yes, it is possible to overdose on Tramadol. If you are worried about this, you need to seek help now.
Rehab Treatment for Tramadol Addiction
Castle Craig rehab clinic provides a structured, integrated, addiction recovery treatment programme for tramadol addiction. Each patient has their own individual treatment plan – starting from the detox stage of treatment into the therapy programme. A wide range of psychotherapies in individual or group settings, as well as complementary therapies are available to all patients.
As we offer a residential rehab programme, this requires patients to live at our clinic. This type of treatment program is considered the best environment for achieving long-lasting recovery. Patients spend their days focusing on their recovery in individual and group therapy sessions, attending educational lectures and relapse prevention seminars, while recovering physically through healthy, regular meals and exercise.
People that were previously addicted to ConZip, Ultram or struggling with addiction to other tramadol-based drugs can address the psychological aspects of their addiction. During rehab, they work with a personal therapist to learn how to stay sober and deal with the emotional issues brought on by their addiction.
At discharge, each patient receives a two-year personalised aftercare plan that includes referral to 12-step NA-type support groups and other ongoing resources that Castle Craig rehab clinic organises for ex-patients.
Get Help for Tramadol Addiction and other Opioids
If you or someone you care about is abusing tramadol (ConZip, Ultram) or seeking recovery from addiction to Tramadol or other prescription painkillers, contact us to get help. Castle Craig Rehab has over 30 years experience in treating opioid addiction.