Tramadol is scientifically known as tramadol hydrochloride, and it works as an acting analgesic (painkiller) affecting the central nervous system. Tramadol is also known by the brand names:
Alcohol also acts as a central nervous system depressant, so it can be dangerous to abuse either substance and especially dangerous to abuse them together. When a tramadol user combines alcohol with the drug, the dangers compound and result in intensified consequences for the user.
Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol and Tramadol Use
When a tramadol user combines alcohol with the drug, the dangers compound and result in intensified consequences for the user.
Signs of concurrent alcohol and tramadol use can seem mixed, because both drugs affect the central nervous system. As a painkiller, patients taking tramadol may seem subdued and euphoric with a reduction of anxiety. At high dosages, people using tramadol will have distorted perceptions of pain.
Symptoms that can present when mixing tramadol and alcohol include:
- Abdominal problems.
- Loss of coordination.
- Memory loss.
- Irregular breathing.
The Development of Dependence and Addiction
Individuals who constantly abuse Tramadol will experience long periods of feeling less pain, but as the body becomes more accustomed to tramadol, it will take higher amounts to get the initial effects. This is called developing a tolerance to the substance, and the same can occur with alcohol. As you develop tolerance and take increasing amounts, you risk intensified dangers and even overdose.
Beyond the physical and behavioral symptoms mentioned above, use of tramadol and alcohol are highly associated with addiction and dependence. This becomes even more problematic when combined with tolerance to the substances individually or together. As larger amounts of the substances are needed, the brain becomes more familiar with the effects and begins to require them to function normally. This phenomenon is called dependence. The development of tolerance and dependence fuels addiction.
Addiction refers to the compulsive desire to seek out and use the substances even when negative outcomes are probable. For example, someone addicted to alcohol will typically continue to drive under the influence even after their license was taken. Someone addicted to tramadol will tend to:
- Seek multiple prescriptions.
- Use in ways other than prescribed.
- Mix tramadol and alcohol.
- Ignore the pleas of others to limit or end use. ?
Combined Effects of Tramadol and Alcohol Abuse
Concurrent alcohol and tramadol problems are quite serious and can result in death. Individuals abusing high levels of alcohol or tramadol together should be immediately taken to a hospital.
Together, the drugs can cause:
- Severely low blood pressure.
- Breathing problems.
- Memory loss.
- Dangerous behavior that can put multiple individuals at risk.
Taking both alcohol and tramadol increases the potential for a drug overdose, as the combination modifies the individual effects of the substances.
Unfortunately, alcohol is commonly abused with tramadol, which enhances the sedative effects of each, leading to an increased risk for life-threatening depressant effects such as slowed or stopped breathing (3).
Treatment for Co-occuring Alcohol and Tramadol Addiction
There are several treatment facilities available for patients suffering from concurrent alcohol and tramadol abuse problems. Patients can select from both inpatient or outpatient treatment; however, at a minimum, a period of medically supervised detox in an inpatient environment is important due to associated withdrawal symptoms which can be intense and even dangerous (e.g., alcohol withdrawal can induce seizures). Medically-assisted detoxification allows for the careful and tapered removal of the drugs from the body under the care of medical professionals.
During the detox process, certain medications, such as diazepam (Valium) may be administered during the tapering process to manage withdrawal symptoms.
Following detox, some may choose to enter a rehab program. Rehab programs allow patients to learn the skills needed to live a life in recovery while avoiding triggers in their normal environment. There are several different stay durations available to patients, including 30 day, 60 day and 90 day stays (though longer programs are also available). While in treatment, patients will receive a range of possible treatment including:
- Behavioral therapy.
- Medication management.
- Physical health rehabilitation.
Outpatient treatment often follows a completed period of rehab and emphasizes relapse prevention and healthy coping skills.
Statistics on Alcohol and Tramadol Use
In recent years, tramadol has become a generic drug, which has made it cheaper to obtain and easier to access. However, a National Institutes of Health study found that the drug was not being abused at a higher rate after it became generic (5). Still, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports that nearly 43.8 million prescriptions for tramadol were written in 2013.
Alcohol continues to be a major substance abuse. Consider the following statistics:
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) reports that alcohol abuse is the most common form of substance abuse in the country, and there are currently 88,000 alcohol related deaths in United States each year, per the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
- In 2014, nearly two thirds of all Americans aged 12 or older admitted to having alcohol in the past year, with nearly 6.4% of American adults qualifying for an alcohol use disorder, according to the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality.
- Alcohol abuse problems cost the United States $249 billion in the United States in 2010, per the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.
Teen Drinking and Tramadol Abuse
The rate of teen drinking in the United States is extremely high, with nearly 20% of high school students drinking some alcohol in the past 30 days with almost 14% of those drinkers binge drinking (Center for Behavioral Statistics and Quality).
Statistics on tramadol abuse among teens isn’t as readily available, but the DEA reports that 3.2 million people over the age of 12 were found to have been using tramadol medications for non-medical reasons at some point in their lives.
Prescription drug abuse is a danger for teens because medications are often not difficult to access – tramadol may be readily available in the medicine cabinet, for example – and the perceived risk is often low because many teens feel that prescription medications aren’t as dangerous as illegal drugs.
To prevent abuse of these substances in your teen, make sure to talk to them early and often. Education is key to prevention.
Resources, Articles and More Information
If you or someone you know is suffering from tramadol or alcohol issues, call 1-888-744-0069 . There is hope, and you can get the help that you need in order to get back on the right track. We’ll help you to find the right fit for your personal needs. If you are ready to take the next step and get clean, then give us a call today and let us help you take your first steps on your new journey.
There are several agencies that provide information on alcohol and Tramadol abuse, including the:
You can also learn more by visiting the following articles:
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- Traynor, M. J., Brown, M. B., Pannala, A., Beck, P. & Martin, G. P. (2008). Influence of alcohol on the release of tramadol from 24-h controlled-release formulations during in vitro dissolution experiments. Drug Development and Industrial Pharmacy, 1 (5). DOI: 10.1080/03639040801929240
- D.M. Bush. The CBHSQ Report: Emergency Department Visits for Adverse Reactions Involving the Pain Medication Tramadol. (2015). Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. Rockville, MD.
- Inciardi, J. A., Cicero, T. J., Munoz, A., Adams, E. H., et al. (2006). The diversion of ultram, ultracet, and generic tramadol HCL. Journal of Addictive Diseases, 25(2). 53-58.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Available at: http://www.samhsa.gov/atod
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Fact Sheets- Alcohol Use and Your Health. (2015). Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm
- Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2015). Behavioral health trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. SMA 15-4927, NSDUH Series H-50). Available at: http://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-FRR1-2014/NSDUH-FRR1-2014.pdf
- Sacks, J. J., Gonzales, K. R., Bouchery, E. E., Tomedi, L. E., & Brewer, R. D. (2015). 2010 National and State Costs of Excessive Alcohol Consumption. American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 49(5). e73-e79.