Tramadol Withdrawal & Detox–Symptoms, Timeline, and Treatment
Tramadol is a prescription opioid used to relieve pain, marketed under several trade names, including Ultram. When tramadol was first introduced in 1995, it was an unscheduled drug, as it was originally thought to be less addictive than other types of opioids.1 However, reports of misuse began to surface, and the FDA eventually issued updated warnings about the potential for abuse and tramadol addiction.
Tramadol is often diverted and misused for non-medical purposes.1 At certain doses, tramadol can elicit an increase in dopamine release which can reinforce repeated use.2 Like many other prescription opioids, people may be more likely to get addicted to tramadol when they take more tramadol than prescribed, take it in a way it was not prescribed, or take it to get high.2 Dependence may develop with repeated use, which may lead to withdrawal when drug use is decreased or stopped.2
If you or your loved one has developed an issue with tramadol, you may wonder how to stop using it, but worry about what withdrawal from tramadol may be like. In this article, we discuss withdrawal symptoms from tramadol, a general timeline, and how to find tramadol addiction treatment.
Tramadol Dependence and Withdrawal
With the continued use of tramadol, dependence may develop, which means that a person needs tramadol to feel normal, as their body has adapted to its effects.2 Once a person becomes physically dependent on tramadol, they are at risk of experiencing withdrawal symptoms if drug use is reduced or stopped.3
Since withdrawal can be uncomfortable and may even be associated with certain complications, medical support is typically recommended.4 Ideally, a drug detox program performed in a professional setting with medications for opioid withdrawal management as well as close monitoring by a treatment team can keep people more comfortable and safe as they stop using tramadol.
What Happens During Tramadol Withdrawal?
When you experience withdrawal from tramadol, you may experience a set of symptoms that result as the body adapts to the absence of a substance on which it has become reliant to feel normal.5
Withdrawal occurs in part due to functional changes in a part of the brain called the locus coeruleus. The locus coeruleus produces a neurochemical called noradrenaline, which regulates alertness, blood pressure, and breathing. However, when a person uses an opioid like tramadol, its mu opioid receptor activation leads to a suppression of noradrenaline activity, which can lead to some of the typical effects of opioid intoxication, including sleepiness, lower blood pressure, and slowed breathing.
Over time as a person keeps taking opioids, the brain upregulates noradrenaline activity to offset the effects of opioids. At this point, should a person stop taking opioids like tramadol, the now unchecked hyperactive noradrenaline activity can lead to sensations typical of withdrawal, such as anxiety, tremors, muscle cramps, and gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea.6
Suddenly quitting tramadol or other opioids after a sustained period of compulsive misuse or after significant dependence has otherwise developed—which some people call going cold turkey—may not be a good idea, as the sudden cessation can result in severely unpleasant symptoms.3
The fear of withdrawal can be a major barrier for many people being able to stop using opioids.4 However, detox programs have helped many manage tramadol withdrawal safely and comfortably.4
Symptoms of Tramadol Withdrawal
Acute tramadol withdrawal will often be similar to the withdrawal experienced in association with other types of opioids.7 Symptom severity may vary from one person to another based on the amount of tramadol having been consistently used, the duration of such use, and the corresponding level of physical dependence.3,7
Although the withdrawal experience is unique for everyone, some common tramadol withdrawal symptoms include:1,7,8
- Teary eyes.
- Runny nose.
- Dilated pupils.
- Bone and muscle pain.
- Abdominal cramping.
- Nausea and vomiting.
For the majority of people, tramadol withdrawal is similar to experiencing the flu.1 However, in an estimated 10% of cases, tramadol withdrawal may be somewhat atypical and include symptoms such as numbness of the extremities, extreme anxiety, panic attacks, confusion, hallucinations, and paranoia.1
At times, some people may experience certain medical complications in association with withdrawal. For example, pre-existing cardiac illnesses could potentially be acutely worsened because of heightened autonomic nervous system activity in opioid withdrawal. In other cases, severe gastrointestinal distress could lead to diarrhea and/or vomiting that could lead to pronounced dehydration and electrolyte disturbances.7
Though the likelihood of serious medical complications is relatively low, a program of supervised detox and medically managed withdrawal may be the ideal setting to keep a person as safe and comfortable as possible while withdrawing from tramadol.4
How Long Does Tramadol Withdrawal Last?
Tramadol is a relatively short-acting opioid, so symptoms of withdrawal might begin as early as 8-24 hours after the last use of tramadol.2,7
While no two people will have exactly the same experience, as a short-acting opioid, the tramadol withdrawal timeline could last for around 7-10 days before symptoms largely resolve.7 The character and severity of the side effects of tramadol withdrawal often change as withdrawal progresses.7
Treating Tramadol Withdrawal Symptoms
Symptoms of tramadol withdrawal can be intense and highly unpleasant.7 There is no need to suffer needlessly with these symptoms of withdrawal and try to do a detox from tramadol at home on your own. Going through a managed withdrawal can help control cravings and better prevent relapse by helping to manage the intensity of withdrawal symptoms for tramadol.4
A professional detox program can provide a safe and comfortable environment to go through withdrawal. Medications may be used during detox to help ease symptoms and manage cravings.3 Medications to manage opioid withdrawal include the full opioid agonist methadone, partial opioid agonist buprenorphine, and non-opioid adrenergic receptor agonist medications like clonidine and lofexidine. Both methadone and buprenorphine bind to and activate opioid receptors in the brain to help ease tramadol withdrawal symptoms and cravings.7,8
Detox is often the first step for tramadol dependence and addiction. After detoxing, many people seek continued care through opioid treatment programs that can include inpatient and outpatient options for care. Group and individual therapy, 12-Step groups, and aftercare programs are often part of substance abuse programs.
Find Out if Your Insurance Plan Covers Tramadol Addiction Rehab
American Addiction Centers can help people recover from tramadol use and opioid use disorder (OUD). To find out if your health insurance covers treatment at an American Addiction Centers facility, click here, or fill out the form below. Your information is kept 100% confidential. You can also click here to find a rehab near me.
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