Tramadol Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatment

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Can you get addicted to tramadol is one of the most common questions asked by those prescribed this opioid for the management of moderate pain. Although tramadol addiction risk is perceived as lower than that associated with other opioid painkillers, physical dependence and addiction may develop. Read on to find out more about tramadol addictive potential and discover how to engage with evidence-based treatment near you.

Is Tramadol Addictive?

While tramadol is often considered to have a lower risk of addiction than other opioids, it still carries the potential for dependence, especially with long-term use or misuse. Tramadol works by binding to mu-opioid receptors in the brain, similar to other opioids, and also increases the levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin and norepinephrine. This dual action contributes to its effectiveness as a pain reliever but also plays a role in its potential for addiction.

With regular use, tolerance to tramadol forms, meaning that higher doses are required to deliver the initial pain-relief effects. Tolerance often accelerates the development of physical dependence, a phenomenon associated with the manifestation of withdrawal symptoms if the medication is abruptly stopped.

Tramadol should be prescribed and used according to strict medical guidelines to minimize the risk of addiction. Physicians often monitor individuals closely for signs of misuse.

The risk of addiction can vary from person to person, influenced by individual factors like genetics, history of substance abuse, and the presence of mental health disorders.

Tramadol Addiction Symptoms

Tramadol addiction can be viewed through the lens of the 11 criteria for opioid use disorder as outlined in DSM-5-TR (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, revised text). These criteria encompass a range of behavioral, physical, and psychological symptoms:

  1. Using tramadol more often or in larger doses than you initially meant to.
  2. Wanting to cut down on tramadol but finding it hard to do so.
  3. Spending much of your time getting, using, or recovering from tramadol.
  4. Feeling a strong need or urge to use tramadol.
  5. Tramadol use is getting in the way of meeting your responsibilities at work, school, or home.
  6. Continuing to use tramadol even though it’s causing or worsening problems in your relationships or social life.
  7. Stopping or reducing important social, work, or fun activities because of tramadol use.
  8. Using tramadol in risky situations, like while driving.
  9. Continuing to use tramadol even when you know it’s causing or worsening a health problem, either physical or mental.
  10. Having to use more tramadol to get the same effect or finding that the same amount doesn’t work as well as it used to.
  11. Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not using tramadol.

Tramadol addiction (opioid use disorder) is diagnosed from mild to severe, according to the number of criteria present. 

Tramadol Withdrawal

Withdrawal from tramadol can occur if the medication is used regularly over a period of time and then suddenly stopped or significantly reduced in dosage. Tramadol withdrawal can be both uncomfortable and challenging.

Tramadol withdrawal symptoms can include both physical and psychological effects. Common physical symptoms are sweating, nausea, muscle aches, tremors, and flu-like symptoms. Psychological symptoms might include anxiety, irritability, depression, and sleep disturbances.

The onset and duration of withdrawal symptoms can vary. Symptoms typically begin within a few hours to a few days after stopping the medication and can last for several weeks, depending on the duration and intensity of tramadol use.

To minimize withdrawal symptoms, gradually taper off tramadol rather than stopping abruptly. This should always be done under the supervision of a healthcare provider. Medical supervision can help manage and alleviate withdrawal symptoms. In some cases, other medications might be prescribed to ease specific symptoms, like sleep problems or anxiety.

Some people may experience prolonged withdrawal symptoms or PAWS (post-acute withdrawal syndrome), where symptoms like mood swings, anxiety, and sleep disturbances persist for months after discontinuation.

Understanding the nature of tramadol withdrawal is important for anyone considering stopping its use, especially for those who have been using it for an extended period or in higher doses. Professional guidance ensures the safest and most effective approach to discontinuing tramadol and managing withdrawal symptoms. 

Treatment for Tramadol Addiction

Treating tramadol addiction involves a comprehensive approach that addresses both physical dependence and the psychological aspects of addiction. The first step in treating tramadol addiction is normally a medically supervised detoxification process. This helps safely manage withdrawal symptoms and begins the process of weaning the body off the drug.

In some cases, medications may be used to ease withdrawal symptoms and cravings, helping to prevent relapse. MAT is often combined with counseling and behavioral therapies for a more comprehensive treatment approach.

Various forms of counseling and therapy are central to treating tramadol addiction. CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), for instance, helps individuals understand their addiction, develop coping strategies, and learn to recognize and avoid triggers that lead to drug use.

If there are co-occurring mental health disorders, such as depression or anxiety, addressing these conditions in tandem with addiction treatment is crucial for effective recovery.

Support groups like NA (Narcotics Anonymous) or other peer support programs can provide ongoing encouragement and a sense of community for individuals recovering from tramadol addiction.

Long-term recovery often requires ongoing support. Aftercare planning might include continued therapy, support group meetings, and strategies to maintain sobriety and prevent relapse.

Encouraging healthy lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise, a balanced diet, and stress management techniques, can also support recovery and overall well-being.

Each person’s journey to recovery is unique, and treatment plans should be tailored to meet their specific needs. With the right treatment plan, recovery and a return to a healthier, drug-free life is achievable. 

Get Treatment for Prescription Drug Addiction at Ohio Recovery Centers

At Ohio Recovery Centers, we specialize in the outpatient treatment of prescription drug addiction. By choosing an outpatient program at our rehab in Cincinnati, OH, you can still meet your everyday commitments while engaging with evidence-based addiction treatment. If you require more input and structure in your recovery, we also offer more intensive outpatient programs.

All prescription drug addictions are unique so treatment programs at our Cincinnati rehab allow for this by blending evidence-based therapies and holistic interventions. Crucially, all of our treatment programs also incorporate a comprehensive aftercare component. Call 877-679-2132 today and begin your recovery from tramadol addiction in Ohio tomorrow.

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Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
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Christopher Glover CDCA

My name is Christopher Glover, and I am from Cincinnati, Ohio. I am currently in school and working to grow in competence to better support our community. As a recovering individual I know the struggles that you or a loved one can go through and that there is help for anything you may be struggling with.

The hardest part is asking for help and we are here as a team to best support you and your decision to start your journey towards a better future. Connect with Chris on LinkedIn

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Amanda Kuchenberg PRS CDCA

I recently joined Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers as a Clinical Case Manager. I am originally from Wisconsin but settled in the Cincinnati area in my early 20s.  My career started in the fashion industry but quickly changed as I searched to find my drive and passion through helping others who struggle with addiction. 

As someone who is also in recovery, I wanted to provide hope, share lived experience, and support others on their journey.  I currently have my Peer Recovery Support Supervision Certification along with my CDCA and plan to continue my education with University of Cincinnati so I can continue to aid in the battle against substance addiction. Connect with Amanda on LinkedIn.

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Patrick McCamley LCDC III

 Patrick McCamley (Clinical Therapist) is a Cincinnati native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2019. Patrick received his bachelors degree in psychology from University of Cincinnati in 2021 and received his LCDC III (Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2022. Patrick has worked in Clinical Operations, Clinical Case Management, and Clinical Therapy throughout his career.

Patrick has tremendous empathy and compassion for the recovery community, being in recovery himself since 2018. Patrick is uniquely qualified to be helpful because of the specific combination of his academic background and his own experience in recovery.

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Bill Zimmerman CDCA

Bill Zimmerman is a Greater Cincinnati Area native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2018. Bill received his (Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2020.

Bill has worked in Clinical Operations in both support and supervision, and Program facilitating and 12 step recovery support during his career. Bill has a passion for the recovery community, having been in recovery himself since 1982. Connect with Bill on LinkedIn

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Taylor Lilley CDCA, PRS

Growing up in Louisiana with addiction running rampant on both sides of my family. A life away from drugs and alcohol seemed impossible for someone like me. I remember what it was like sitting across from someone thinking there is no way they could ever understand what I was going through.

Sharing my experience offers a credibility and a certain type of trust with clients that only someone who has walked down this road can illustrate. To immerse myself further into the field of addiction, I am currently studying at Cincinnati State for Human and Social Services.  I hope I never forget where I came from, if I can do it, so can you!

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Thomas Hunter LSW

Hello my name is Thomas Hunter. I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. I am a licensed social worker.In my scope of practice I have worked in the areas of mental health and recovery for thirty years. The clients I have worked with in my career have ranged in age from seven to seventy.

I strive each day to serve my purpose of helping those in need and I believe I do so by utilizing all of my experiences to accomplish my goal of supporting those who desire to establish their sobriety and maintain it in their recovery. Connect with Thomas on LinkedIn.

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Mary D.Porter,LICDC

 My name is Mary D. Porter. I received my Masters of Social Work in 2008 from The University of Cincinnati. I received My Licensed Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor Licensure in 2001. I retired from The Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center on April 14, 2014. Currently, I am the Associate Clinical Director for The Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers in Cincinnati.. Due to the fourth wave of the Opioid Epidemic in 2019,  I decided to enter back into the workforce to assist the addicted population.

The overdoses were astounding and I wanted to help.  I consider myself  to be an advocate for the addicted population. My compassion, resilience, empathy, wisdom, knowledge, experience and  love I have for this forgotten population goes beyond words. I consider what I do for the addicted population as a calling versus a “career,” because I too was once an “addict and alcoholic.” Today I am 45.5 years alcohol and substance free.

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Ben Lemmon LCDC III

Hello, my name is Ben Lemmon, and I’m the Vice President and Clinical Director at Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers. I’ve been working in the addiction and mental health field since 2013 and decided to enter the field after overcoming my own challenges with addiction.

When I first meet a client, I always explain to them that the reason we are meeting is because they are not capable of obtaining or maintaining sobriety, and my goal is to create a person that can maintain sobriety. I believe a person’s personality is made up of their thoughts, feelings and actions and my job is to help clients identify the thoughts, feelings and actions that have them disconnected from recovery and provide them with the tools to live a healthy and happy life. Connect with Ben on LinkedIn