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Tramadol Abuse Signs, Symptoms and Addiction Treatment

Tramadol, marketed under the brand name Ultram, is a centrally-acting synthetic opioid used to treat moderate to moderately severe pain. Tramadol comes in tablet form and is available by prescription only. While Ultram is not an opiate, it produces effects similar to other opiates. Although it is not classified as a controlled substance in most states, it does have the potential to be abused. Even when used at prescribed dosages, tramadol can be habit-forming if used for a prolonged period of time.

Other names for tramadol

Google Trends: Searches for “tramadol”

Google Trends: Searches for “Ultram”

Searches for tramadol, and especially for brand-name Ultram, are most common in deep south states such as Alabama, Mississippi, and Oklahoma.

Quotes on tramadol addiction

“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.” Within six months, she was on four a day. “They had come from a doctor, so I was sure they couldn’t harm me,” she says. (source)

Prescriptions of tramadol by year

United States

In the US, tramadol is very commonly prescribed: over 37 million prescriptions for tramadol were issued in 2012.

Average cost of tramadol

Tramadol, 60 tablets of 50mg: $23-55 (source)

Tramadol Abuse question 1
Signs and Symptoms
In order to determine if a person displays signs and symptoms of tramadol abuse, an understanding of the definition of abuse and addiction must be present. According to the American Psychiatric Association's DSM-IV-TR, symptoms of Ultram abuse include one or more of the following occurring during a given 12-month period:

  • Substance use resulting in a recurrent failure to fulfill work, school or home obligations
  • Substance use in physically hazardous situations such as driving or operating machinery
  • Substance use resulting in legal problems such as drug-related arrests
  • Continued use despite negative social or interpersonal consequences caused by tramadol use.

Dependence, which is different from abuse, is defined as a maladaptive pattern of substance use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, manifested by such signs as tolerance, withdrawal, a persistent desire to use tramadol, unsuccessful efforts to stop using the drug and large amounts of time spent acquiring the drug.

If you or someone you know is exhibiting signs and symptoms of tramadol abuse, call (800) 943-0566 to talk to one of our trained professionals today. We can help. Our number is toll free, call our drug abuse hotline and we are available 24 hours a day.

Videos on tramadol

Tramadol Abuse question 2
Effects of Tramadol Abuse
The effects of Tramadol use vary and may not be experienced by all individuals. Side effects include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Euphoria
  • Shallow breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness or sedation

Physical tolerance can occur as the body becomes accustomed to a particular drug; thus, more of the drug is needed to produce the original desired effect. Psychological dependence can occur as people believe that that they cannot function properly without the drug. Individuals with a tolerance to tramadol are at risk of overdose due to the consumption of increased amounts of the drug. People who have been taking tramadol should not stop using the drug immediately, as this can precipitate withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms include the following:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Upset stomach
  • Cold sweats
  • Cravings
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Tremors
  • Depression
  • Irritability, agitation or aggressiveness
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Seizures
  • Restless legs

Tramadol Abuse question 3

Tramadol Abuse Treatment
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA) National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2008, 5.9 percent of admissions to substance abuse treatment programs were because of opiate addictions (including tramadol).

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over 13,000 specialized drug treatment facilities across the United States deliver such services as counseling, behavioral and cognitive therapy and medication therapy. Ambien addiction treatment may be done in either an inpatient or outpatient facility. When choosing a treatment center, it is important to consider such factors as cost, location, amenities and services offered. Tramadol rehab centers usually deliver care using a multidisciplinary approach, providing a variety of treatment modalities customized to suit the individual needs of clients. Services and amenities provided vary from facility to facility, so care should be taken when choosing a treatment center.

If you or someone you care about displays symptoms of tramadol abuse, there is help available. Let us assist you in finding a tramadol rehab program that best fits your individual needs. Call (800) 943-0566 today to receive more information on treatment options that are right for you. Tramadol addiction is a serious condition that requires professional treatment.

How many people have used pain relievers like tramadol non-medically in their lifetime?

United States

Abuse of painkillers such as tramadol is commonplace in the US, with over 35 million people having reported in 2013 that they'd tried abusing painkillers.

How many people used pain relievers like tramadol non-medically in the last month?

United States

Recent abuse of painkillers such as tramadol is also frequent in the US, with over 4.5 million people in 2013 saying they had abused painkillers in the past month.

How many people used pain relievers like tramadol non-medically in the last year?

United States

In 2013, over 11 million people reported that they had abused painkillers, potentially including tramadol, in the past year.

Tramadol Abuse question 4
Tramadol Statistics
Facts and statistics about tramadol include:

  • According to the Food and Drug Administration, from 1995 to 2004, over 760 cases of tramadol abuse and 480 cases of tramadol withdrawal were reported.
  • Studies have shown that tramadol is most likely to be abused by people with chronic pain, narcotic abusers and healthcare professionals.
  • Initially, tramadol was marketed as a medication with weak narcotic effects and little potential for abuse. As a result, many healthcare providers came to view tramadol as a relatively safe medication for people who were at risk for drug abuse, such as people with previous problems with drug or alcohol abuse.
  • Tramadol is not considered a narcotic because it is not listed as such in the Controlled Substances Act, even though it is an opioid medication with the potential for abuse.
  • Tramadol dependence tends to occur most often in individuals who have taken the drug over long periods of time for legitimate medical reasons.

Legal penalties involving tramadol

  • Tramadol has recently been reclassified to Schedule IV. (source)
  • Unlawful possession of a prescription drug such as tramadol can result in misdemeanor or felony charges, with potential prison time and/or fines. In some states, this can include a sentence of 5 years. (source) (source 2) (source 3) (source 4)
  • The effects of tramadol can be a factor in impaired driving, leading to DUI charges. (source)

Legislation and policymaking involving tramadol

  • The DEA reclassification of tramadol as Schedule IV means that stricter rules are now applied when doctors prescribe it. (source)

Tramadol Abuse question 5

Teen Tramadol Abuse
A study by the United States Department of Health and Human Services shows that approximately 44 percent of the six million new prescription drug abusers were less than 18 years of age, demonstrating that the drug problem among adolescents is on the rise. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are, after marijuana and alcohol, the most commonly abused substances by Americans aged 14 and older. These tramadol abuse facts demonstrate the need for drug prevention efforts that are targeted at younger generations.

How many youth use pain relievers like tramadol non-medically?

United States, pain relievers

Painkiller abuse by youth is astonishingly frequent: over a quarter of a million children aged 12 or 13 reported abusing painkillers in 2013, as well as almost a million aged 16-17.

Tramadol Abuse question 6
Resources, Articles and More Information
For more information, visit the websites of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, the Food and Drug Administration and other reputable sources. To speak to someone about signs of tramadol abuse, tramadol facts and tramadol treatment options on how to help a Tramadol addict, call (800) 943-0566 today. Call our toll-free helpline today so we can help you begin the healing process.

Treatment facility admissions for tramadol

United States, admissions for treatment, age 12+


All opiates

While treatment admissions specifically for tramadol abuse represent a small proportion, admissions for opiate addiction overall are very common, with over 300,000 people being admitted for opiate use in 2012.

Need Help Understanding Your Addiction Treatment Options? Call 1-888-747-7155.