Tramadol: Addiction, Effects, & Treatment

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By: Renaissance Recovery

Clinically Reviewed by: Diana Vo, LMFT

Last Updated: 7/1/2021

An image of a stethoscope at a doctor appointment for tramadol addiction

Authored By: Joe Gilmore

Table of Contents

Tramadol is a synthetic opioid used to treat moderate or severe pain.

Just like all opioids, tramadol has the potential for abuse and addiction. Classified under Schedule IV of the Controlled Substances Act, this drug is considered to have a moderate potential for abuse, with the possibility of physical dependence developing after sustained use.

If you are prescribed tramadol for pain relief, always take this medication exactly as directed.

What is Tramadol?

Tramadol is an opioid-like pain medication classified as a synthetic opioid, first appearing in the United States in the 1990s, like many drugs in this class.

Initially introduced as a safer alternative to OxyContin and Vicodin, tramadol relieves pain through its mechanism of action in the CNS (central nervous system).

What is tramadol used for, then?

Tramadol in extended-release formulation is often prescribed for around-the-clock pain management. This variant of this synthetic opioid is not intended for use as an on-demand painkiller.

This drug can be used to treat moderate and severe pain in adults, either in isolation or as part of a combination treatment.

Tramadol Addiction

Tramadol comes with several boxed warnings, the most serious warnings issued by the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration).

Among these boxed warnings is a warning for misuse and addiction. In addition to this warning, the FDA also points out that tramadol use can result in potentially fatal overdose.

To avoid these problems and to avoid becoming addicted to this specific opioid, only take this medication as prescribed by your physician.

If you have any concerns about tolerance or addiction to tramadol building, speak with your doctor about those concerns.

How Addictive is Tramadol?

Although tramadol is one of the least addictive opioids, anyone with a history of substance abuse is more prone to developing an opioid addiction.

While tramadol is frequently prescribed because it is less addictive than other drugs in this class, that doesn’t mean that this drug is risk-free.

Opioid abuse does not always lead to addiction, but the presence of both a psychological and physical dependence on this opioid constitutes tramadol addiction.

An image of Tramadol pills

Tramadol Side Effects

The most common side effects of this opioid are as follows:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Itching
  • Sweating
  • Dry mouth
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Lack of energy
  • Constipation

Most mild side effects will dissipate after a few days to a few weeks. If symptoms persist for several weeks, consult your physician.

You should immediately contact your doctor if you experience any of the following serious side effects:

  • High blood pressure
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Raised body temperature
  • Agitation
  • Stronger reflexes
  • Impaired coordination
  • Hallucinations
  • Serious breathing problems
  • Slowed breathing rate
  • Shallow breathing
  • Fainting
  • Physical withdrawal when stopping the drug
  • Addiction or dependence

Tramadol Interactions

The oral tablet can interact with a wide range of medications, impairing the drug’s effects.

Inform your healthcare provider about all medications you are taking, as well as any vitamins, herbs, or supplements.

Using this opioid with the following drugs can increase the number of side effects you experience:

  • Antidepressants
  • Antibiotics
  • Heart rhythm drugs
  • Antifungal drugs
  • Protease inhibitors

You should also tell your doctor if you are using any of the following medications:

  • Asthma
  • Allergies
  • Irritable bowel
  • Overactive bladder
  • Motion sickness
  • Blood pressure
  • Opioids
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Sleep aids
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Stimulants


How Long Does Tramadol Last?

You will notice the effects of immediate-release tramadol for between 4 and 6 hours.

The effects of extended-release tramadol last for 12 to 24 hours.

Tramadol Addiction Treatment

If you have been abusing synthetic opioids, you should engage with treatment beyond detox and withdrawal, whether in an inpatient or outpatient setting.

The primary treatments for this opioid addiction are counseling and psychotherapy, but medication-assisted treatment can be beneficial in some cases.

NIDA reports that the following therapies are most effective for the treatment of tramadol addiction:

  • CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy): Learn to identify and avoid the people, places, and things that trigger you to use this drug.
  • Contingency management: This form of behavioral intervention incentivizes healthy behaviors in line with sober living.
  • Motivational interviewing: You will learn how to become more engaged with treatment and recovery.
  • Family therapy: You’ll start to repair relationships damaged by substance abuse and isolate any influences that cause you to continue using this drug.
  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT): Both methadone and buprenorphine can be useful for controlling cravings for opioids.
  • Treatment of co-occurring disorders: To minimize the chance of relapse, all co-occurring mental health disorders should be simultaneously treated.
An image of the Renaissance Recovery logo | Tramadol

Opioid Addiction Treatment at Renaissance Recovery

If you choose to engage with tramadol treatment here at Renaissance Recovery, you can benefit from an individualized array of evidence-based treatments alongside holistic rehab.

You can take advantage of medication-assisted treatments here at Renaissance, delivered in combination with counseling and psychotherapies. This will help to reduce the intensity of cravings for opioids as you learn healthier coping mechanisms for life’s everyday stressors.

We offer a variety of outpatient programs, including:

  • Standard outpatient program (OP)
  • Intensive outpatient program (IOP)
  • Partial hospitalization program (PHP)
  • Remote outpatient program (virtual IOP)

To stop using opioids today, reach out to Renaissance at 866.330.9449.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country

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