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Side Effects of Tramadol Abuse | Long & Short Term

Authored by Granite Recovery Centers    Reviewed by James Gamache    Last Updated: August 27th, 2021


James Gamache Medical Reviewer
Jim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) and Licensed Masters Level Addictions Counselor (MLADC). He has been working in the field of mental health/addiction treatment since 1995. Jim earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services from Springfield College in 2000, and a Masters Degree in Social Work from Boston University in 2002. In 2002 Jim was hired by the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester holding the position of Clinical Case Manager. From 2004-2019, Jim was employed at WestBridge Inc. During his time at WestBridge, Jim held the following positions; Clinician, Team Leader, Director, & Chief Operations Officer. In 2019 Jim transitioned employment to GateHouse Treatment Center as the Clinical Director for 10 months. In October of 2020 Jim transitioned to Granite Recovery Centers and is currently serving as the Senior VP of Clinical Services and Quality Assurance.

Tramadol ranks among one of the strongest pain killers in use in the medical industry. Case in point — they are given to patients who have undergone surgery. Some doctors recommend them when regular painkillers no longer have the desired effect.

Tramadol belongs to a class of drugs called opioid agonists and works by changing how the brain senses pain. Like endorphins, it is a medication used to treat moderate and severe pain with the onset of pain relief beginning within an hour. The prominent immediate-release tablet is also available under the brand name Ultram. Tramadol treats moderate to severe chronic pain when it’s urgently needed.

Tramadol is a controlled substance that’s distributed under the supervision of a doctor. You may be required to take it with other medications as part of combined therapy. This drug is known to cause addiction, and misuse can result in overdose and death. Therefore, one should be careful to use this medication as prescribed by his or her doctor. Tramadol is available as an orally taken tablet as well as injections. Patients should inform their doctors about any side effects they experience from using this medication.

Note: Recent Research on Tramadol

Medical researchers for the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published the risk of mortality among 90,000 patients a year after receiving their first prescription for tramadol and other pain relievers like diclofenac, codeine and naproxen.

The researchers found that there is a higher risk of death with the use of tramadol than other prescribed anti-inflammatory medications.

  • Diclofenac: 2.2% of tramadol users died versus 1.8% of diclofenac users
  • Naproxen: 2.2% of tramadol users died versus 1.3% of naproxen users
  • Etoricoxib: 2.5% of tramadol users died versus 1.2% of etoricoxib users

However, it is not entirely clear whether tramadol caused the higher death rates. Underlying conditions, like age and existing health problems, may be contributing factors.

Some of the common side effects of tramadol include:

  • Dizziness
  • Lack of energy
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Constipation

The effects last a few days to a couple of weeks but are mild.

When a person fails to take tramadol, withdrawal symptoms arise due to physical dependence. These may include:

  • Feeling irritable
  • Anxiousness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Fast breathing rate
  • Dilated pupils
  • Teary eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Yawning
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Muscle aches
  • Back and joint pains

Other serious side effects may include serotonin syndrome, breathing problems, adrenal insufficiency, androgen deficiency, seizures and addiction when used persistently.

Taking tramadol with some medications raises your risk of side effects. Depression drugs such as sertraline or fluoxetine, headache drugs like sumatriptan, hypnotics such as zolpidem, anesthesia drugs like Pentothal or propofol, and antipsychotics such as thioridazine increase side effects.

What Happens When I Forget to Take Tramadol?

If you forget to take tramadol, there are no side effects. Do not take two doses at the same time, trying to make up for the forgotten ones. If you forget regularly, set alarms to remind yourself. Ask your pharmacist about efficient ways of remembering to take your medicine.

What Happens When You Stop Taking Tramadol?

Taking tramadol for a long time leads to tolerance. When you stop taking it suddenly, you may experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. They can include:

  • Shaking
  • Feeling agitated
  • Anxiousness
  • Agitation

Talk to your doctor first when you decide to stop taking your prescription.

Coping With Side Effects

The side effects of tramadol vary from one individual to the other. In case you are experiencing these side effects, try out the following tips to suppress them.

  • Headaches. Drink plenty of fluids and get adequate rest. Do not take tramadol and alcohol at the same time. Headaches go away after the first week. In case the headaches persist, talk to your doctor.
  • Dry mouth. Chew sugar-free gums, and suck on sugar-free sweets. An artificial saliva prescription may help keep your mouth moist.
  • Vomiting. Consume simple meals, and restrict yourself from eating rich or spicy food. Take your tramadol prescription after you have eaten. Frequent sips of water also help.
  • Constipation. Take more fiber into your diet. The best sources of fiber are fruits and vegetables. Drink water regularly. Gentle exercises, like short walks and swimming, help the situation. If constipation persists, get a different medication from your doctor.
  • Dizziness. It usually wears off after one week as your body gets accustomed to tramadol. Drinking alcohol only makes you more tired. Avoid it at all costs.
  • Sweat. Wear loose clothing, or use a strong antiperspirant. Keeping cool using a fan also helps.

Overdose

If you suspect that someone has had a tramadol overdose, give him or her naloxone, and call for help. Look out for the following symptoms.

  • Troubled breathing
  • Coma
  • Seizure
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Passing out

Do not share your medication with someone else. It is illegal. Do not use it for another condition unless your doctor tells you to. It is wise to teach your family members how to deal with a tramadol overdose to ensure you are safe.

Who Should and Shouldn’t Take Tramadol?

Dosage information for tramadol tablets will depend on your age, the condition, other present medical conditions and how you react to the first dose. This drug can be prescribed for pain relief in child dosages for patients between 0-17 years of age, adult dosages for those who are 18-64 years old, and senior dosages for patients above 64 years old.

People suffering from seizures, mental health issues, addiction problems, head injuries, stomach-related problems, liver or kidney disease, and breathing problems should avoid taking this drug.

Other groups barred from taking the drug are pregnant women since tramadol may affect the fetus. Women who breastfeed are also advised to avoid taking tramadol since the drug passes to the feeding child. Seniors who have liver- and kidney-related problems should also avoid taking this drug. Patients with allergies to opioids should also avoid taking tramadol since it can cause severe allergic reactions. Individuals who drink alcohol are advised not to take this drug since it causes serious side effects.

Tramadol helps with short- and long-term treatment. If you stop taking the drug suddenly or fail to take it, you may experience withdrawal symptoms. Your medication may fail to work well or stop working if you miss doses or don’t take the drug on schedule. Taking too much tramadol is also dangerous to your health.

Use With Other Prescriptions

The combination of tramadol with other drugs contributes to the overall side effects. The effects tend to be more severe, unlike when on tramadol alone. When you visit your doctor, ensure you tell him or her that you are taking other medicines.

Prescription drugs for the following conditions are likely to cause prolonged side effects.

  • Pain relief
  • Depression
  • Relief
  • Infection
  • Psychiatric conditions
  • Tension or anxiety
  • Allergies

In some instances, some prescriptions weaken the effect of tramadol. Your doctor should know if you are taking:

  • Rifampicin (an antibiotic)
  • Buprenorphine (a painkiller)
  • Carbamazepine (treats epilepsy)
  • Ondansetron (stops the feeling of sickness)

Pregnancy and Tramadol – Are There Any Side Effects?

Taking tramadol is not very safe during pregnancy. If you are taking tramadol and start to experience problems with your unborn child, consult your doctor. There is a high likelihood that tramadol is the cause.

Do not take tramadol during the end of your pregnancy because there is a chance your newborn baby may experience withdrawal symptoms. For pregnant women experiencing severe pain, tramadol is the best solution. Seek the advice of your doctor.

Breastfeeding and Tramadol

It is safe for you to breastfeed while taking tramadol. Tramadol is unlikely to cause any harm to your baby because it flows into breast milk in small proportions. However, in case your baby is premature, has an illness, or had a low birth weight, seek the advice of your doctor before breastfeeding.

Precautions

It’s always better to be safe than sorry.  Before taking tramadol, tell your doctor:

  • If you have a tramadol allergy or any other allergy
  • Your medical history. Inform your doctor if you have a brain disorder, liver disease, substance use disorder, stomach or intestinal problems, breathing problems, kidney disease, depression, or obesity.

Tramadol may make you drowsy. If you use it with alcohol or marijuana, you may become dizzy. Do not drive or operate machinery under this condition.

Tramadol can result in QT prolongation (an irregular rhythm of the heart). It is rarely fatal, but it can cause dizziness, fainting and irregular heartbeats. Make sure you seek medical attention.

Children tend to be more sensitive to tramadol’s side effects. If your child is experiencing severe side effects, consult your doctor for help. Additionally, older adults can develop hyponatremia (a salt imbalance) while using tramadol.

Getting Help for Tramadol Side Effects – Granite Recovery Centers

Tramadol’s side effects can take a toll on your well-being. Get medical help if you are having or are aware of someone who is experiencing them. Granite Recovery Centers offer professional rehabilitation services. We have been providing these services for the past 10 years.

Overcoming tramadol’s side effects can be challenging. You require the utmost patience and perseverance. We offer the following services.

  • Mental health program. We take you through dialectal and cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). Our motivational interviews, process groups and one-on-one individual sessions can help you overcome these side effects.
  • Structured sober living programs. Our homes in Manchester ensure you live in a supportive environment, which helps you adapt to the challenges of experiencing side effects.
  • Intensive outpatient program. Green Mountain Treatment Center provides holistic therapies, individualized treatment plans, primary drug rehab program, medical detox, clinical modalities and client-to-client program.
  • Top-notch residential addiction centers. We have three centers in New Hampshire. Green Mountain Treatment Center, New Freedom Academy and Granite House. Services available at these centers include evidence-based therapies, discharge planning, detox programs and structured client schedules.
  • Alumni program. Since many people seek our services, Granite Recovery Centers help you form a strong bond with your peers. The program is essential because you get to interact with individuals who are also seeking to achieve sobriety. You get a sense of belonging.

We are the best at what we do, and we do it with utmost care and professionalism. Recovery is a challenging process, and not everyone can endure it. Taking the bold step and coming to us shows that you care about your health and life. We reciprocate this by ensuring you complete the journey successfully.

Conclusion

Beyond a doubt, tramadol is a vital weapon against pain. However, the side effects of this drug can be extremely difficult. We have analyzed all possible dimensions about tramadol’s common and fatal side effects, coping with these effects, medical precautions and getting help. At Granite Recovery Centers, we will help you cope with these side effects. Seek our services today, and you will not be disappointed. You are not alone. You deserve help. Granite Recovery Centers provides medical detoxification for people who do not need immediate medical intervention, are not a danger to themselves, and are capable of self-evacuation in the event of an emergency.

At Granite Recovery Centers, we want to provide accurate information about health and addiction so that our readers can make informed decisions.

We have credentialed medical doctors & clinicians who specialize in addiction treatment review the information on our website before it is published. We use credible sources such as government websites and journal articles when citing statistics or other medically related topics.