What is Tramadol Withdrawal?
Once a person develops a dependence to tramadol, quitting the drug will cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Even using tramadol as prescribed can lead to dependence and withdrawal.
Withdrawal is the result of the body becoming chemically addicted, or altered, from taking tramadol on a continuous basis—even after only a few weeks. This happens because users develop a tolerance to tramadol, meaning they must take more frequent and larger doses to feel the drug’s effects. In response, the brain adapts to the constant presence of the drug and adjusts chemically.
Because of the influx of tramadol, the brain attempts to self regulate by speeding up and slowing down some of its processes. When the user suddenly stops taking the drug, the brain goes into “overdrive,” causing moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms.
Most experts recommend tapering off of tramadol instead of stopping “cold turkey” to ease withdrawal symptoms. While most people detoxing from Tramadol describe the symptoms as flu-like, there is the potential for serious withdrawal effects, such as severe anxiety, panic attacks and hallucinations.
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Symptoms of Withdrawal
Tramadol withdrawal symptoms vary from individual to individual. It is best to taper off the drug over time in order to minimize negative withdrawal symptoms.
Tapering off tramadol involves slowly reducing the dosage over time.
Common tramadol withdrawal symptoms include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle pain
- Blurred vision
- Mood swings
- Tingling sensations
- Abdominal cramps
Because tramadol is an opioid painkiller, withdrawal symptoms can mimic symptoms of other opioids, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone. Tramadol also effects the same areas of the brain as antidepressants. Those going through tramadol withdrawal may experience both opioid and antidepressant withdrawal symptoms.
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Duration of Withdrawal
Withdrawal symptoms usually begin within hours of discontinuing or dramatically reducing use of tramadol. Symptoms can linger for several weeks. Certain factors can influence the duration and severity of withdrawal symptoms, such as the length of time spent using tramadol, how often they took the drug and the dose. However, most withdrawal periods last about two weeks.
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Tramadol Withdrawal Timeline
|Days 1-3||Onset of general withdrawal symptoms, including feelings of pins and needles, sweating, nervousness, nausea, anxiety, palpitations, insomnia and drug cravings.|
|Days 4-7||Drug cravings persist, along with insomnia, disorientation and confusion, and blurred vision.|
|Days 8-14||Symptoms should be fairly mild by this point. Depression, anxiety, and irrational thoughts may persist.|
Tramadol detox is very uncomfortable and should be done under a doctor’s supervision. Because tapering the dosage is a common practice to aid in the withdrawal process, a doctor may schedule a stepped down dosing protocol and monitor the withdrawal symptoms over a period of weeks.
If symptoms are not tolerated well, a doctor may recommend over-the-counter medications or prescribe medications to help manage the withdrawal symptoms, such as:
- Metocloperimide for nausea and vomiting
- Loperimide for diarrhea
- Ibuprofen or acetaminophen for muscle aches
- Clonidine for anxiety and sweating
- Valium for anxiety and insomnia
[My moment of clarity was] when my mother came and took my children away from me. I entered treatment that night…I was given meds to keep me comfortable. [Detox] lasted about 10 days.
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Treatment for Tramadol Addiction
For years, doctors prescribed tramadol for pain management, assuming it was a painkiller with a low risk for addiction. However, new research shows tramadol can be habit forming. In July 2014, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reclassified tramadol as a schedule IV controlled substance, implying its potential for abuse.
Treatment for tramadol addiction is needed when an individual has developed the behaviors outlined in the DSM’s diagnostic criteria for determining the signs of addiction. Depending on the severity of the addiction, there are several treatment options for tramadol users, including detox, inpatient rehab, outpatient treatment and ongoing therapy and support.
Because of the withdrawal symptoms associated with tramadol addiction, users should always detox under the supervision of a medical professional—especially those with severe addictions.
Inpatient and outpatient programs often offer medically assisted detox to lessen the symptoms of withdrawal. Various therapies, support groups and ongoing treatment options are also available to help maintain sobriety in recovery from tramadol addiction.
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