Tramadol, also known by its pharmaceutical name, Ultram, is a less abused version of the drug class, opiates.
Derived from the opium produced by the poppy plant, opiates are painkillers created to mimic the effects of heroin, morphine, and codeine. The pharmaceutical versions you may be more familiar with are Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, Norco, Dilaudid, and Opana. These drugs are highly abused when used in any way other than prescribed by a doctor, and the progressive from abuse to addiction is quick. A major problem with opiates is that when pills are no longer available to an opiate addict, he or she quickly turns to heroin, which introduces a whole new set of complications and risk factors.
This version of an opiate was created as an alternative to more addictive and widely abused drugs in its class. While the intent has remained somewhat intact, meaning Tramadol has lower overdose and addiction cases than other prescription opiates, the drug is still capable of being abused and the user can still develop physical and psychological dependence (i.e. addiction) to Tramadol.
When any opiate is stopped, the user’s body and brain react. Opiate withdrawal symptoms are unpleasant and extremely painful at times, but the effects are not fatal, as is the case with withdrawal from other drugs, like alcohol. Everyone reacts differently to withdrawal, so an individual choosing to stop drug use should seek medical attention for the detoxification process.
Tramadol Withdrawal Timeline
When you have decided to stop using Tramadol, what can you expect to experience?
The first symptoms are that of a cold: sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, paired with feelings of depression. Next, what seems like a cold progresses to what feels like the flu. Opiate addicts going through withdrawal report achy muscles, major digestive issues, like stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. Sweating is constant, you want to sleep but cannot fall asleep or stay asleep, and you are unable to eat much of anything.
Again, every person’s experience with withdrawal from any drug will be different, but in the case of Tramadol, you can expect to encounter the following withdrawal symptoms within the first few days without Tramadol, classified as acute withdrawal symptoms:
- Bone, joint, and muscular pain
- Runny nose
- Stomach cramps
- High blood pressure
- Rapid pulse or irregular heartbeat (tachycardia)
- Excessive yawning
- Dilated pupils
- Watery eyes
- Muscle cramps
From there, post-acute withdrawal symptoms affect the user for several months, and even up to a year and a half. During this time period, the brain is recalibrating and working to rebalance the neurotransmitters that were greatly altered by Tramadol abuse. You experience this as mood swings, problems with sleep, and emotional discomfort. Again, Tramadol withdrawal is not life-threatening, but will take some time to maneuver through.
When medically monitored during withdrawal, there are medications that can help with the process. Methadone, Naltrexone, Buprenorphine, Suboxone, and several other pharmaceutically manufactured drugs can alleviate some of the pain and discomfort you feel as your body returns to prior functioning.
What You Can Do
Staying hydrated is a major component of successful opiate withdrawal. The idea is to flush all harmful and toxic chemicals out of your body, so lots of fluids, plus healthy eating, and exercise (once the acute symptoms of subsided) are all great ways to aid the detox process.
Staying abstinent from all mind-altering substances is also important. Alcohol and other drugs will delay the healing you need during this time.
Enrolling in a substance abuse treatment program sets you up for sustained sobriety from the drug class that is hardest to stop using.