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The Effects of Tramadol Use

  1. Table of ContentsPrint
  2. Is Tramadol Harmful?
  3. Short-Term Effects of Tramadol
  4. Side Effects of Tramadol
  5. Long-Term Effects of Tramadol
  6. Tramadol Dependence
  7. Tramadol Withdrawal Treatment

drugabuse_shutterstock-232260205-girl-tramadol-FITramadol is a synthetic opioid analgesic (painkiller) that is often prescribed for moderate to severe pain, like arthritis pain. It is also known by its brand name, Ultram.

People who have chronic pain may be prescribed an extended-release version of tramadol, which allows them to experience continual pain relief without needing to take the medication as frequently.

Tramadol Effects question 1

Is Tramadol Harmful?

This drug is a narcotic, which means that some people may be at risk for addiction if they:

My pain typically would occur over two or three days. I took one or two a day until it eased. But I noticed on the days I took tramadol I felt more relaxed and coped with life better. Since the doctor had prescribed so many, at least two or three boxes, I started taking one every day....They had come from a doctor, so I was sure they couldn’t harm me.....I didn’t worry whether they were safe or not, I just needed them.

Jina Kauser

  • Use it for a long period of time.
  • Take larger doses than recommended.
  • Take it more frequently than has been prescribed.
  • Take it for nonmedical purposes.

Addiction is characterized by:

  • The compulsive need to take a drug.
  • Desperation to obtain more.
  • The inability to function without the drug.

Tramadol Effects question 2

Short-Term Effects of Tramadol

Tramadol works by blocking pain signals traveling between the nerves and the brain. However, it has several different targets in the nervous system, and it is not clear which of these mechanisms are most important for tramadol’s pain-relieving properties. However, two well-known effects of tramadol are considered to be the most relevant for its ability to relieve pain and encourage abuse.

Don't let a tramadol addiction control your life. Learn about treatment and recovery today.

First, like heroin, codeine, and all other opiate analgesics, tramadol binds to opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord. These receptors are responsible for both the pain-relieving effects that patients need and, at higher doses, the euphoric effects that abusers seek.

Because tramadol is much less potent than other commonly abused narcotics when it is injected, it was thought to be a safe alternative to other painkillers like morphine. However, when taken by mouth, tramadol is converted into another compound called O-desmethyltramadol, which is a much more potent activator of opioid receptors than tramadol itself. As a result, users may get high on tramadol, even if that was not their intention when they first started taking the drug.

The second important mechanism of tramadol is that it raises the brain levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine, similar to antidepressant drugs like venlafaxine (Effexor). Ultram’s effects on serotonin and norepinephrine signaling in the brain is thought to be partially responsible for the drug’s ability to reduce depressive and obsessive-compulsive symptoms in patients taking it. These effects on mood may cause some patients, like the women quoted above, to take tramadol in larger doses and more often than prescribed, putting them on a path to dependence.

Short-term effects of tramadol include:

  • Lack of pain. Tramadol is a painkiller; it blocks the transmission of pain signals to the brain so that you don't feel pain while you are taking it. This can be dangerous if you injure yourself because you won't feel the pain while on tramadol.
  • Elated mood. Tramadol works in a similar way to many antidepressant medications in that it increases the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in your brain. This leads to feelings of euphoria and well-being. Some users become addicted to tramadol because of these feelings.
  • Anxiety reduction. Tramadol helps users feel relaxed and calm because of the way it changes brain chemistry.

Tramadol Effects question 3

Tramadol Effects question 4

Side Effects of Tramadol

These symptoms and signs can cause people to become addicted to tramadol, especially if they have depression or anxiety issues.

Side effects of tramadol include:

  • Dizziness.
  • Difficulty falling asleep.
  • Headache.
  • Constipation.
  • Diarrhea.

  • Loss of appetite.
  • Sweating.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Uncontrollable shaking.
  • Nausea.

People who have a seizure disorder should not take tramadol, because this medication can cause seizures. This property also makes tramadol especially dangerous for abusers because the probability of convulsions or seizures increases at high doses.

Other serious side effects that require medical attention including:

  • Fever.
  • Hives, blisters, or rash.
  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing.
  • Hallucinations.

  • Agitation.
  • Lack of coordination.
  • Rapid heartbeat.

Tramadol Effects question 5

Long-Term Effects of Tramadol

Tramadol is not usually prescribed for long-term use due to the undesirable effects that are experienced when this drug is used over a long period of time. These effects may vary, but they often include:


  • Tolerance: As tramadol works by changing a person's brain chemistry, there is a risk of developing tolerance to this drug. As the body adapts to tramadol's presence, users need larger doses of the drug to feel its painkilling and euphoric effects.
  • Physical dependence: Along with tolerance, many users experience physical dependence if they use tramadol for a long period of time. Their bodies require tramadol in order to function properly. If they stop taking tramadol, they may become physically ill due to withdrawal syndrome.
  • Cognitive decline: Other opioid drugs are associated with cognitive impairment and slowed reaction times. Complex tasks may become more difficult with long-term use of tramadol, and users may present a danger to themselves or others when driving.

These side effects result in addiction. Many tramadol addicts don't look for the drug on the street; they begin taking it as prescribed and then take a larger dose on their own when the medication stops working. People who are addicted to tramadol may attempt to obtain the drug illegally after their prescription runs out through methods such as “doctor shopping” or prescription forgery.

Tramadol Overdose

Those who abuse tramadol for recreational purposes or who have developed tolerance after taking it for some time may take greater doses than recommended and are at increased risk for overdose.

Symptoms of tramadol overdose include:

  • Decreased pupil size.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Slowed or irregular heartbeat.
  • Cold, clammy skin.
  • Seizure.

Tramadol Dependence

Tramadol dependence is the first stage of addiction. It occurs when you experience tolerance and physical addiction as described above. People who are dependent on tramadol are not necessarily psychologically addicted.

Psychological addiction occurs when you begin taking more of the medication than is prescribed, and you start using tramadol to get high or to avoid dealing with problems in your life.

Tramadol Withdrawal Treatment

The symptoms of withdrawal can be very unpleasant and even dangerous. If you decide you want help to discontinue your use of tramadol, you should start by going to a detox center. The process of detoxification allows patients to withdraw from a drug under medical supervision. Doctors may give you other medications or treatments to help you with the physical discomfort you may experience while you withdraw from tramadol.

Effects of withdrawal from tramadol overlap with both opiate and anti-depressant withdrawal syndromes and include:


  • Gastrointestinal pain.
  • Depression.
  • Agitation.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Numbness in the extremities.
  • Ringing in the ears.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Paranoia.
  • Confusion.

Many people experience flu-like symptoms such as vomiting and nausea while withdrawing from tramadol. You may also experience tingling in your hands and feet.

After withdrawal is complete, you may want to attend an inpatient program at a rehab center. These types of programs require you to live at the center with other patients, who are also learning to live without the drugs they are addicted to. During rehab, you usually get individual and group therapy to help you learn new coping skills and ways of dealing with your emotions. Your friends and family may also receive therapy to help them process their feelings about how you behaved while in the throes of addiction. In addition, you probably will have the opportunity to attend support groups, like a 12-step program.

Most rehab programs last 30 to 90 days, although they may last longer. After rehab, you usually attend an outpatient program for about a year. Outpatient programs allow you to return to your normal daily activities while attending therapy sessions at a treatment center.

Tramadol Effects question 6

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