Tramadol Addiction and Abuse

Tramadol is an opioid painkiller used for treating mild forms of pain. While Tramadol exhibits less habitual use properties when compared to other prescriptions, an addiction to the pain medication can still arise.

In this feature, we explore the risks associated with abusing Tramadol and how addiction forms while finding ways to get access to treatment.

What is Drug Addiction?

By definition, drug addiction is a persistent disorder factored by a compulsive need for a specific substance. In addition, addiction is also influenced by continuous usage regardless of the negative implications. Long-term alterations in the brain lead to harmful habitual drug use and behaviours.

Addiction has also been thought of as a technical mental disorder and illness. It is the most severe form of a wide variety of substance use disorders. Drug addiction can develop into a medical illness due to the effects some substances have on the brain.

Drug Addiction VS Abuse

Drug abuse is different from drug addiction; however, both issues require great concern. Ongoing use of a substance or using a substance in a way that is different than intended or recommended is the biggest sign of substance abuse. This is valid for medications, as well as food or energy drinks.

However, using substances, such as alcohol or prescription drugs, causes chemical imbalances in the brain that can trigger severe symptoms.

The triggers can cause changes that influence a continued use of the addictive substance, regardless of the known risks and already observed damage factors. Current regulations in the UK criminalise the use of certain substances. They are listed in the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

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How Tramadol Addiction Develops

Tramadol is more often prescribed because its addictive characteristics are much safer in comparison to other opioid painkillers. Addiction may settle in if the drug is favoured for any recreative effects or used in any way other than prescribed.

Persons with intense physical discomfort may also take increased doses of Tramadol. Increasing the dosage of your medication without your doctor’s approval is a type of medication abuse. Abusing a substance not only allows for addiction to develop but also presents a risk of withdrawal symptoms. They may be as severe as such as seizures, tremors and fever. Tramadol should only be used as instructed by a health practitioner.

Please do not exceed the recommended dosage, and do not take it more often than required or for a more extended period than recommended.

Repeated Exposure to Tramadol

Repeated exposure to Tramadol carries a risk of multiple physical changes such as developing oxidative stress and altered antioxidants of the liver and kidney. Excessive and overuse of Tramadol can form an addiction.

Those who first start abusing Tramadol could experience hallucinations while using or withdrawing from the medication.

Trauma and Pre-existing Mental Health Conditions related to Tramadol addiction

People who develop an addiction to Tramadol can suffer from a dual diagnosis. They may have a mental disorder or be dependent on other substances such as opioids (fentanyl, heroin, oxycodone and others) or alcohol.

According to some research released online during the past years, there is an increasing number of cases of Tramadol abuse in persons who suffer from mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety. Abusing Tramadol may give rise to a psychiatric crisis instead of an addiction. This is especially so in people suffering from mental health problems that involve psychoses.

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    Signs and Symptoms of Tramadol Addiction

    Addiction symptoms associated with Tramadol include:

    • Using Tramadol in a way which had not been prescribed
    • Increasing the recommended dosage
    • Being untruthful about “lost medication” to get more
    • Requesting refills before they are due
    • Consulting more than one medical practitioner or pharmacies to get more
    • Stealing the drug or requesting pills from others who use Tramadol.

    Persons who are addicted to Tramadol tend to experience withdrawal symptoms if the drug is not available. These may include pain, sweating, anxiety, tremors, diarrhoea, insomnia and hallucinations.

    Diagnosing Tramadol Addiction

    A physical and psychological review with a medical doctor will point towards the correct diagnosis. Dependency and addiction are different conditions that require a variety of treatment methods.

    The following behaviours commonly go hand-in-hand with Tramadol addiction:

    • Severe neglect towards responsibilities at home, work, or school.
    • Inconsistent mood swings.
    • Continuous drowsiness.
    • Using Tramadol without a prescription.
    • The need to take larger amounts in order to experience the healing effects.
    • Showing withdrawal symptoms after use has stopped.
    • Increasing expenditure on Tramadol.
    • Ongoing of use Tramadol despite harmful or negative consequences.

    The Dangers of Tramadol Addiction

    Tramadol presents many dangers, especially as a person’s tolerance increases and they move on to increased doses over time.

    It is vital to know that because Tramadol is a Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressant, it affects the lung and heart functions by slowing them down. Overdosing on this medication can cause severe loss of frequencies within the respiratory and blood circulation systems.

    On the other hand, excessive use of Tramadol over a long period causes a lot more damage, including:

    • seizures
    • respiratory problems
    • hallucinations
    • liver and kidney damage
    • behavioural and psychological effects

    Tramadol Use in Pregnancy

    Currently, the NHS lists Tramadol as “not thought to be completely safe to take during pregnancy”. The services also note that there is a known link between Tramadol use and side effects on unborn babies. Additionally, using Tramadol during late pregnancy may lead to withdrawal symptoms in the baby once it has been born.

    However, for some mothers-to-be, Tramadol may be the only hope for a pain-free pregnancy. Their doctor will decide this after a thorough examination, a deep discussion and consulting the mother. An eventual prescription should be followed strictly so that there is no harm to the baby.

    The Impact of Tramadol Addiction on Family

    As soon as an addiction develops, altering behaviour commonly occurs. If one or more family members are abusing Tramadol, they are likely to exhibit changes in their habits, everyday behaviours, routines and professional attitude. Tolerance, care, and support among family members are vital, as Tramadol use can affect a person’s ability to rationalise and impair good judgment and logical thinking.

    Tramadol Addiction in Marriage

    Being in a marriage where addiction is prevalent can be damaging. As the addiction persists, your addicted spouse may do things that they may never have considered doing before, such as lying to loved ones or stealing from them to cater to their addiction. An addicted spouse may even be desperate enough to resort to criminal activity if it means getting the drug they want.

    Statistics show that 7.3 per cent of the marriages that end in divorce do so as a result of substance abuse.

    Is Tramadol Drug Addiction a Disease?

    man talking to a therapist

    In order to define whether addiction to Tramadol is a disease, one has to first take into consideration what is addiction.

    There are various opinions related to addiction among individuals, organisations and medical professionals.

    Various health organisations define addiction as a long-term and relapsing condition which is impacted by the individual compulsively needing to acquire a substance.

    The opinion that Tramadol addiction may be considered a disease is factored by the following:

    • Addiction alters how the brain reacts to situations involving rewards, stress, and self-control.
    • These shifts are often prolonged and can remain after the person has stopped using the substance.

    Getting Help for Tramadol Addiction

    The quest to find the ideal treatment may seem overwhelming at first, but having so many options is in fact beneficial because it allows for tailored care and treatment.

    Treatment facilities

    Consult a doctor or other health professionals for a recommendation. Those looking for treatment can also find reliable addiction treatment facilities online. These places can assist in overcoming Tramadol addiction via multiple therapies while catering tailored services to people with specific conditions, genders, ages and past trauma.


    This is the first step of the physical and mental healing process. The Tramadol dosage is lowered as safely as possible until there are no traces left in the system. Medication may be prescribed and administered to help cope with withdrawal symptoms. These medications come in the form of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, and anti-anxiety medications.


    The treatment program, including rehab and therapy, starts shortly after detoxification so that no time is lost in treating the mind once the body has been cleansed. The aim is to assist a person addicted to Tramadol in finding a healthy life without the use of substances. Treatment can also provide help for dual diagnoses such as addiction and anxiety or addiction and depression.


    Different types of therapy are available for Tramadol addiction. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can help identify and alter negative behaviours, such as those that lead to drug abuse. Therapy also provides methods for handling cravings, avoiding triggering situations, and reducing the chances of a relapse.

    Jason Sheirs
    Author / Jason Shiers / Dip. Psych MBACP
    Jason Shiers is a Certified Transformative Coach & Certified Psychotherapist who is a specialist in addiction, trauma and eating disorders. He has been working in the field of addiction for 25 years now.