Although there has been a tremendous amount of information released and education provided to the public, many people still want to know if Tramadol is a narcotic. Because this is an ongoing discussion, we felt it would be beneficial to offer facts. After all, with Tramadol being a preferred pain relief medication, people have the right to know as much about this drug possible, whether good or bad.
Narcotic or Non-Narcotic
One reason there continues to be questions and even confusion specific to the question about Tramadol being a narcotic has to do with the effects this drug produces. When treating someone with moderate to moderately severe pain, regardless if caused by an injury, illness, or even the result of a post-surgical procedure, Tramadol is much like morphine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone. Some people explain the sensation as being almost euphoric while at the same time reducing or eliminating pain.
As most people know, true opiates such as morphine and hydrocodone are highly addictive drugs because they contain narcotic components. In comparison, Tramadol is a non-narcotic medication even though the effects it produces are similar to narcotics. This is the primary reason many people still question the classification for Tramadol as being a narcotic drug or not.
Effects of Tramadol
While Tramadol is not a narcotic type drug, it still produces effects that people like. In fact, many people unfortunately now abuse this medication because of its effects. For instance, if an individual does not need Tramadol for pain relief, the drug would produce a feeling of being high whereas when prescribed for someone who is in pain, the medication goes directly to the pain, thereby producing little to no high effect. If Tramadol were crushed and snorted or shot in much the same way as heroin, a person would experience an incredible high.
Even though Tramadol is not a narcotic, it can still be addictive although in a unique way to other drugs. Typically what happens is an individual's tolerance builds over time, which means to get the same degree of pain relief, a greater dose is required. Unless prescribed by a reputable doctor, the dose could continually increase to the point of the person now being dependent on Tramadol.
Because there is risk of someone becoming dependent on Tramadol, most doctors are keen to dosage and do not prescribe this medication long-term. Keep in mind that Tramadol is a better treatment option when compared to narcotic type drugs such as morphine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone but it too can be abused. Typically, a doctor will start a person on a very low dose and again, for a short period of time. If needed, the dose and duration can be increased but this is carefully monitored.
The interesting thing about Tramadol is that while not a narcotic, if someone becomes dependent on this drug and then stops, withdrawal symptoms would occur. Although everyone has a different experience, for the most part the following symptoms would be associated with a withdrawal after stopping the use of Tramadol.
Decreased appetite, diarrhea, and/or nausea
Excessive sweating, chills, and/or shivering
Irritability, anxiety, and noted mood swings
Nightmares and/or insomnia
Tingling or shock-like sensations
Unusual thoughts and/or hallucinations
Depending on the individual but also the dose and length of time the medication was taken, withdrawal symptoms may last a few days to weeks. Regardless, these can be difficult to deal with, which is why it is so important to be under the care of a physician when stopping a medication such as this. One other thing we need to point out is that at no time should a person simply stop taking Tramadol. To decrease withdrawal symptoms, doctors prefer to have a person taper off and then eventually stop altogether.
One of the unique components of Tramadol compared to true opiates is that it stimulates serotonin release and inhibits the reuptake of norepinephrine. This is exactly why so many people struggle with mood swings, irritability, anxiety, and depression. Most doctors do not consider Tramadol as being strong because compared to other genuine opiates it is a weak antagonist whereas morphine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone are strong antagonists.
Initially, Tramadol was believed to have opioid-like activity but without causing the same problem of addiction. Therefore, doctors deemed this to be a drug with low potential for abuse but as mentioned above, there are people who sadly have begun to abuse Tramadol in an effort to achieve a temporary high. In truth, Tramadol is a more complex drug than first thought and while it is not a narcotic and withdrawal symptoms can be controlled, anyone prescribed this medication needs to have the utmost respect for it.