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Understanding Tramadol Addiction

Understanding Tramadol Addiction - A Family Guide
Tramadol is a pain-killing prescription drug that is given to patients to treat intense or moderate pain, for instance after having a medical procedure such as an operation. Other names for Tramadol include Ultrum, Invodol, Zydol, Larapam, Mabron, Maneo and Marol, among others. Tramadol is often administered when other painkillers have no effect on relieving pain. It comes in tablet and liquid form, and liquid drops that can be mixed into a drink of water. It can be administered intravenously, but this should only be done by medical professionals.

Tramadol is a highly effective pain killer that blocks pain signals that travel from the brain. It can make those who take it feel nauseous and unsteady. It can also cause sleepiness, and those taking it are advised not to operate machinery or drive when under its influence. No more than 400mg of Tramadol should be taken in a single day.

Tramadol gets to work very quickly once it is in the body, and those taking the drug can feel its effects usually within an hour. It is designed for short-term use only. Some Tramadol capsules are for ‘slow-release’ in the body, meaning that they are gradually released over a 12 or 24 hour period. This type of Tramadol is used for patients with long-term pain. If slow-release capsules are broken or chewed, the body usually experiences the entire dose of Tramadol in one go. This could cause an overdose, and is a behaviour common in those who are addicted to the drug.

Effects and Abuse of Tramadol

The most common effects of Tramadol include feeling drowsy and disorientated. Those under its influence may find it difficult to stay awake and appear confused. Like other opioid drugs, tolerance can soon build up over time, meaning that the user requires more Tramadol before they start to feel its effects. As the dose taken continues to increase, so does the chance of overdose and risk of health complications such as sickness and vomiting, vertigo, digestive issues, confusion and tiredness. Tramadol is not as strong as heroin, but it does have similar relaxing effects on the body that are just as addictive. Users feel calm, happy and relaxed when taking it, but can then sink into low moods as the drug wears off and withdrawal is felt.

Common signs of Tramadol abuse are:

  • Fluctuating moods and irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Feeling extreme tiredness and fatigue
  • Dizziness/fainting
  • Constipation and digestive issues
  • Lack of appetite
  • Confusion
  • Clammy/sweaty to touch
  • Itchiness
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Raised blood pressure
  • Fitting

Warning Signs of Tramadol Addiction

Tramadol is a highly addictive painkiller. If abused, it can be very difficult to break a cycle of addiction.

Warning signs of a Tramadol addiction include:

  • Using Tramadol on a frequent basis
  • Getting admission to a doctor to get them to prescribe more Tramadol
  • Overpowering cravings for Tramadol
  • Taking more Tramadol than prescribed
  • Spending money (that should be used for other costs) on obtaining Tramadol
  • Failing to meet family and professional responsibilities due to Tramadol addiction
  • Disinterest in life, family and work
  • Taking risks that are out of character while under the influence of Tramadol
  • Repeatedly trying to stop taking Tramadol (and then failing)
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when Tramadol isn’t taken

As Tramadol is a synthetic opioid, it has been suggested that the drug mimics mu-opioid receptors within the brain. This means that it artificially recreates the effects of the natural pain-relief system within the body, and can also prevent hormones such as serotonin from rising back to natural levels once the substance starts to wear off (in cases of abuse).

Tramadol Withdrawal Symptoms

People who abuse Tramadol for long periods of time can become addicted to it, meaning that withdrawal symptoms are experienced when the use of the drug is discontinued. Going ‘cold turkey’ or suddenly stopping the taking of the drug can prove dangerous in this case, due to the chemical changes that have taken place within the brain as a result of the addiction.

Withdrawal symptoms related to Tramadol abuse include:

  • Depression
  • Restlessness and anxiety
  • Muscular cramps and pain
  • Stomach/digestive and bowel issues
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis
  • Feeling irritable/mood swings
  • Confusion
  • Fitting/seizures

If you or someone you love is experiencing withdrawal symptoms as a result of Tramadol addiction, a medically supervised detox is the best way forward. A detox will help to eliminate painful withdrawal symptoms in a safe and healthy way, with emotional support at every stage.

Support for Tramadol Addiction

It is very difficult to come to terms with an addiction – whether it is yourself having problems, a friend or a family member. Detox is often the best way to stop taking Tramadol in a safe manner, without the risk of relapse. When the drug is finally out of your system, the process of stabilisation begins. A detox can take several days in mild cases, or several weeks in extreme cases. Undertaking a detox is a process that a patient must be prepared to commit to. It helps to have a friend or family member who can support you.

Following a detox or course of treatment, other methods of support include:

  • Attending Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings
  • Building a solid support network of family and friends who understand your situation
  • Seeking a fulfilling hobby or other activities to distract from drug use
  • Trying to get frequent sleep and exercise
  • Training your mind to think differently about drug taking
  • Meditation
  • Making plans for the future

Treatment of Tramadol Addiction

Treatment for Tramadol addiction usually follows a detox programme. The aim of a treatment plan is to give patients the tools they need to prevent relapse. Patients are thoroughly assessed before they begin treatment. During this time, they will be able to speak to a counsellor to discuss any other underlying physical or mental conditions they are experiencing that contribute to their drug addiction (such as depression). Treatments for Tramadol addiction are similar to other opioid addiction therapies. You can begin to undertake treatment alone, in a group, or with family/friends.

There are a number of different drug addiction therapies available, and how patients respond depends on what works for them individually. Many patients find that cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is highly effective at teaching them how to cope with cravings, reduce the risk of relapse and deal with ‘trigger’ situations. Contingency management (CM) therapy programmes include cash rewards and vouchers to give patients an incentive and to motivate them in their progress. Treatment can be intense when it first begins, but over time gets easier as longer periods of time are spent drug-free.

Medically Supervised Tramadol Detox

A medically supervised detox is a process by which toxins (in this case Tramadol), is removed from the body in a safe manner, under the guidance of medical professionals. As soon as a person stops taking Tramadol, the body naturally kicks in its own detox process. It will adjust to the removal of the drug and will attempt to put itself back to a normal pre-drug-abuse state. As the body tries to do this, various chemical and physical processes go into overdrive, causing unpleasant withdrawal symptoms as the body tries to sort itself out. A supervised Tramadol detox will generally take around two weeks, although the time it takes will depend on the severity of the addiction.

Detoxing at home is highly dangerous, as there is a greater risk of relapse and overdose should withdrawal symptoms become too hard to bear. Detoxing in a medical environment such as that at East Coast Recovery is the best way to achieve success.

Medications such as Methadone may be administered to make withdrawal symptoms more comfortable and easier to deal with. If dependence on Tramadol is generally mild, medications may not be necessary, and a care plan of healthy eating, vitamins and minerals may be given instead to give the body its best chance of healing and recovery.

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