WHAT IS TRAMADOL
Tramadol oral tablet is a prescription drug that’s available as an immediate-release and extended-release tablet. Tramadol also comes as an extended-release oral capsule. Immediate-release drugs are released into the body right away. Extended-release drugs are released into the body slowly over time.
Both tramadol oral tablets are also available as generic drugs. The immediate-release tablet is also available as the brand-name drug Ultram. Generic drugs usually cost less than the brand-name version. In some cases, they may not be available in all strengths or forms as the brand-name drug.
Tramadol is a controlled substance. This means it can only be used with a doctor’s close supervision.
Why it's used
Tramadol is used to treat moderate to severe pain.
Tramadol may be used as part of a combination therapy. This means you may need to take it with other medications.
HOW DOES IT WORK
Tramadol belongs to a class of drugs called opioid agonists. A class of drugs is a group of medications that work in a similar way. These drugs are often used to treat similar conditions.
Tramadol works by changing how your brain senses pain. Tramadol is similar to substances in your brain called endorphins. Endorphins bind to receptors (parts of cells that receive a certain substance). The receptors then decrease the pain messages that your body sends to your brain. Tramadol works in a similar way to decrease the amount of pain your brain thinks you’re having.
EFFECTS OF TRAMADOL ABUSE
As mentioned, in addition to its opioid-like effects, tramadol also increases brain levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine, similar to the changes induced by antidepressant drugs including venlafaxine (Effexor).
Users have reported that such mood-elevating properties caused them to take higher doses of the drug - or take it more often - than had been prescribed.
In addition to the euphoric and mood-enhancing effects sought by tramadol abusers, taking this drug for nonmedical purposes, or taking it in a manner different from that prescribed by a doctor, can have negative and sometimes dangerous results. These include disturbed sleep patterns resulting in insomnia, and the aforementioned increased risk of convulsions or seizures.
Additionally, abusing tramadol can lead to tolerance and dependence.
Individuals who abuse tramadol for an extended period of time and develop psychological dependence may begin to experience compulsive cravings to take the drug and to feel that they need it to cope with everyday problems. People who are psychologically addicted to tramadol can feel anxiety if they do not have access to the drug and will engage in behaviors such as doctor shopping or prescription forgery in order to maintain their supply.
Dependence and Overdose Risk
Habitual users who become tolerant to tramadol need to increase the amount or frequency of the doses they take in order to achieve the desired effects. This puts them at risk of accidental overdose, symptoms of which include:
Decreased size of the pupils of the eyes (miosis).
Slow breathing or difficulty breathing.
Cold, clammy skin.
Slow or irregular heartbeat.
Loss of consciousness.
Abusers who continue to take tramadol long enough and at high enough doses will eventually develop a physical dependence on the drug and experience unpleasant, or even dangerous, symptoms of withdrawal if they stop taking the medication.
The withdrawal symptoms caused by tramadol overlap with both opiate and anti-depressant withdrawal syndromes and include: