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Ultram Abuse

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What Is Ultram?

Ultram, the trade name for tramadol, is a synthetic opiate pain reliever prescribed for moderate to severe pain. It can be habit-forming and can produce unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

Ultram’s potential for abuse has been increasingly recognized in recent years, with the Drug Enforcement Agency naming it a Schedule IV controlled substance in August 2014.

Ultram is generally regarded as having a relatively low potential for addiction; however, significant symptoms during withdrawal are noticed on a consistent basis, and abuse, dependency, and psychological cravings for the drug amongst those prescribed are noticed amongst a large number of patients. For example, a 3-year study in the Journal of Family Practice revealed that 28% of patients prescribed tramadol developed an addiction to the drug.

Abuse of Ultram is rising, with many users taking excessive doses in order to simulate the euphoric effects of other stronger opiates.

Signs and Symptoms

While many abuse Ultram to produce euphoric effects, there are a number of potentially negative symptoms and signs that may occur alongside any potential relaxation. These include:

  • Constipation.
  • Headache.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Heartburn
  • Dry mouth.
  • Difficulty or cessation of breathing.
  • Sedation.
  • Seizures.
  • Death.

Effects of Abuse

When someone takes Ultram on a recreational basis for a long period of time, they will typically begin to experience negative effects on their life in addition to their health.

Effects of an Ultram addiction can include:

  • Drug-seeking behavior, such as doctor shopping.
  • Suicidal thoughts.
  • Depression
  • Anxiety when the drug is not available.

Serotonin Syndrome

Additionally, Ultram can elicit a drug reaction known as Serotonin Syndrome.

The resultant increase in activity of the neurotransmitter serotonin can give rise to a number of unpleasant effects, such as:

  • High body temperature and sweating.
  • Cognitive changes such as confusion.
  • Agitation.
  • Increased blood pressure.

Withdrawal Symptoms

The effects of tramadol are largely noticed during withdrawal from the drug. The symptoms commonly contradict the general belief among many that is not as addictive as other opiates. Withdrawal symptoms for someone getting off of Ultram can include:

  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Pain.
  • Nausea.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Anxiety and panic attacks.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Tremors.
  • Upper respiratory distress.

The extreme discomfort of the withdrawal process is an indicator of Ultram’s potential for dependency and addiction. Withdrawal under the supervision of a doctor or other addiction treatment professional can ensure safety and increase comfort levels.

Ultram Abuse Treatment

Doctor checking on patientSeizure activity has been reported in active tramadol users – even those who’ve taken surprisingly small doses. In addition, and as previously mentioned, attempting to stop Ultram cold turkey can be extremely unpleasant. A supervised withdrawal period can safely and comfortably usher a tramadol user through detox, and help ensure completion of the process prior to recovery treatment.

It’s important to take measured steps to get help. These steps can include one or more of the following:

  • Inpatient residential monitoring, where you will get around-the-clock care and supervision.
  • Outpatient rehabilitation, in which care is not as immersive but you can continue to live at home and work.
  • Other recovery programs, such as 12-step programs or SMART recovery, in which a supportive atmosphere with specific steps toward recovery will help guide you through your journey.

If you’ve found yourself ensnared in the cycle of addiction, you can begin to untangle your life by calling us at for help working through your best treatment options.

Key Statistics

  • An estimated 16,251 emergency room visits involved recreational tramadol use in 2010, and that jumped to 20,000 in 2011, according to The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN).
  • Per the National Survey on Drug Use and Health and Health (NSDUH), 2 million people over 12 years old in the U.S. used tramadol recreationally at some point in their lives.
  • According to the CBHSQ Report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), of the tramadol-related emergency room visits in 2011:
    • 47% were for the effects of tramadol combined with other pharmaceuticals.
    • 14% were for the combination of alcohol and tramadol.
    • 12% involved the combination of tramadol and street drugs.

Teen Abuse

Parent talking to teen about drugsUltram has become popular among teens and pre-teens that can easily get the drug from classmates at school or from relatives or friends with prescriptions.

Often called “ultras” on the street, Ultram tablets are becoming abused on an alarmingly increasing scale. Many young people will take unidentified prescription drugs from friends without knowing what they are taking but assuming it is safe because it’s a pill vs. a street drug.

Educated young people are much less likely to take something they don’t recognize. Make sure to:

  • Talk to your teen about the dangers of drug abuse.
  • Emphasize that prescriptions can have effects just as dangerous as other drugs.
  • Educate yourself and your teen on the popular drugs of abuse.

In addition, it’s important to check for the signals of substance use and abuse in your child. If you see any of the signs below, get help immediately. One of our treatment specialists can help you talk through your options. Call to speak to someone today.

Additional Resources

Check out the following articles for more information on Ultram abuse and recovery:

You can also check out our Forum to join a supportive community of people discussing addiction and recovery.

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Patrick Condron, M.Sc., M.A.C., is an addiction specialist and drug and alcohol counselor. He is Executive Director of Lazarus House, Inc., a transitional residential program for men and women who continue to work on their recovery towards independent living.
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