When it comes to treating pain, there are many different prescription medications a doctor could choose. Among these are opiates and narcotics, which depending on the medication can produce similar results. However, one drug in particular that has been proven effective and relatively safe for treating moderate to moderately severe pain, as well as other health issues, is Tramadol. Although this medication provides narcotic-like relief, it is an opiate. To explain what this means and answer the question, "Is Tramadol addictive", we felt it important to offer helpful insight.
Overview of Tramadol
For starters, we wanted to go over some of the key components of Tramadol. This drug is a "centrally acting analgesic", which is comprised of opioid agonist properties. While oral medication in the form of tablets, capsules, and pills is the most common delivery system, Tramadol can also be administered intramuscular, rectally, and intravenously. As mentioned, the effects are "narcotic-like" and in fact, Tramadol compares to morphine and hydrocodone. Tramadol has also been shown to be equivalent in potency to mesperidine and one-firth as potent as nalbuphine.
Now, when given in the form of an IV at a dose of 50 to 150 milligrams, Tramadol has the analgesic efficacy equivalent to Morphine when administered post-surgery. In comparison, the potency when administered via an epidural is just one-thirtieth. While there are times when a delivery system other than oral is used, studies show when administered orally Tramadol is the most effective.
The benefits of Tramadol over other types of medication is that it works both short- and long-term, it is well-tolerated by people of all ages, again, there are multiple delivery systems, and because it is not a narcotic, it does not need to be monitored or regulated by the United States Federal Government.
For most people, Tramadol remains highly effective for up to six months on average. At that point, efficacy levels begin to taper off, which is when the danger of addiction sets in. Even though this is a non-narcotic medication, the problem is that once effectiveness begins to decline an individual can get caught up in a cycle of taking more to get the same level of relief. At the point when Tramadol no longer works as it did initially, it would be essential for a doctor to consider other options for medication.
The misconception is that because Tramadol is a non-narcotic drug, it is non-addictive. Although the risk of addiction is much lower with Tramadol over other pain medications, the truth is that any type of drug can be misused and abused, which is why learning the facts is so critical. With this particular medication, the longer a person takes it the greater risk for dependency and addiction. Remember, Tramadol is a synthetic opiate (opioid), with effects that are very similar to morphine and hydrocodone. What happens is that opiate receptors in the brain are bound, which in turn helps block pain signals sent from the central and reflex sympathetic nervous systems.
As stated, one of the issues with Tramadol is that over time, effectiveness decreases. To compensate for this, the dosage is often increased, as opposed to changing the prescription to another drug for treatment. This means that Tramadol can eventually serve as a gateway for a person to take even harder opiates and in some cases, narcotics.
Interestingly, some people have used Tramadol as a recreational drug instead of medication to treat moderate to moderately severe pain. Recreational drug users have turned to crushing and snorting Tramadol but just as someone who uses this drug for pain but has experienced diminished relief, more and more of the drug is needed to get the same effect. For the most part, there is low risk for becoming addicted to Tramadol but if signs of addiction are not heeded or if the drug is outright abused, there is potential for danger.
Tips for Avoiding Risk of Addiction
For many people, the signs of dependency and addiction are slow occurring and thereby easy to miss. If someone on this medication begins to notice one or more of the following, it would be imperative to speak to the prescribing doctor right away.
Anxiety or fear of stopping the medication
Concern over withdrawal symptoms
Physical discomfort after not taking Tramadol
Noted mood swings
Taking a higher dose than prescribed or doctor-shopping to stay on Tramadol longer than necessary
Preoccupation in getting the drug
Ongoing use even though family members and friends have stated concern
It is important to understand that when Tramadol is misused or abused there are negative effects. For instance, a person would experience nausea and/or vomiting, dizziness, constipation, drowsiness, and sometimes shallow breathing. Remember, compared to other prescription medications used to treat pain among other things, Tramadol is one of the drugs with low risk for addiction but in saying this, it is still a drug that must be respected and taken according to a doctor's orders.