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Tramadol And Alcohol: Effects, Dangers, And Addiction Treatment Options

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

June 13, 2019

Mixing alcohol with opioids like tramadol can lead to intoxication, dependence, and withdrawal. These substances slow down the body’s functions and when combined, can lead to a fatal overdose. Tramadol and alcohol addiction may require the help of formal addiction treatment.

Tramadol and alcohol are potent substances that can be risky, even when taken alone. If a person combines these two drugs, they may experience dangerous effects including dependence, addiction, and overdose.

Alcohol is the number one most-used drug in the U.S., and opioids like tramadol are also quite common. Both substances suppress and slow down the nervous system. When used together, tramadol and alcohol interactions can be life-threatening.

Additionally, tramadol and alcohol both have a high potential for abuse. This means people can easily become addicted to these substances. If a person stops using tramadol or alcohol suddenly, they may experience acute withdrawal symptoms.

Effects Of Tramadol And Alcohol On The Body

Opioids and alcohol can have significant effects on the body and mixing these drugs can amplify the potent effects.

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, and can impact a person’s balance, reflexes, and ability to reason. Tramadol is a narcotic, which means it changes the way the body and mind respond to pain.

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When combined with alcohol or taken in large amounts, tramadol can also cause people to feel relaxed or euphoric. Tramadol and alcohol both slow a person’s heart rate and breathing pattern. These effects can lead to a fatal overdose.

Mixing alcohol and tramadol can lead to additional physical side effects, including:

  • dehydration
  • irregular heartbeat
  • headache
  • constipation
  • insomnia
  • muscle tightness
  • dry mouth
  • tooth decay
  • heartburn

Effects Of Tramadol And Alcohol On The Brain

Both tramadol and alcohol are considered mood-altering substances. This means that people may feel they are “high” or intoxicated when ingesting these drugs.

While both substances can lead to impairment, alcohol use is also linked to memory problems and blackouts. When alcohol is mixed with an opioid-like tramadol, these effects may be intensified.

Tramadol and alcohol can have additional effects on the brain, including:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • dependence
  • addiction
  • trouble forming thoughts
  • changes in mood
  • shortened attention span
  • dementia
  • coma
  • alcoholic psychosis and “wet brain”

Dangers Of Mixing Tramadol And Alcohol

When taken as prescribed, tramadol does not have a considerable risk of overdose. Similarly, when someone drinks a moderate amount of alcohol, it’s not likely they will experience alcohol-related health problems.

However, when these two substances are combined, a person’s risk for certain life-threatening conditions increases.

One of the main risks to consider is overdose. It is possible to overdose on both tramadol and alcohol. Many of the symptoms for alcohol overdose and opioid overdose are the same, including unconsciousness, clammy skin, and slowed or stopped breathing. It’s important to recognize the symptoms of tramadol and alcohol overdose, as overdosing can be fatal.

Alcohol abuse is also linked to several serious health concerns, including liver disease and stroke. When a person combines alcohol with opioids like tramadol, their risk of dependence and addiction goes up. Once a person is dependent on alcohol, they will likely begin to drink more. Over time, this can result in damage to the body and mind.

Mixing tramadol with alcohol can lead to additional long-term health risks, including:

  • high blood pressure
  • cirrhosis
  • liver disease
  • certain cancers
  • obesity
  • heart disease

It is possible to recover from many of these conditions, if a person stops taking these substances. If you or someone you love wants to quit tramadol and alcohol, speak with your doctor about how to safely get off these drugs.

Signs Of Tramadol And Alcohol Dependence

It can be devastating to realize that someone close to you is battling an addiction to alcohol and prescription drugs. Remember that you are not alone – more than 15 million Americans have an alcohol use disorder, and millions more struggle with opioids like tramadol.

If you are concerned that someone you love is suffering from addiction, you have probably noticed a change in their behavior. It can be helpful to familiarize yourself with the signs of tramadol and alcohol abuse. That way, you can feel empowered to talk to your friend or family member about getting the help they need.

Someone struggling with tramadol and alcohol addiction may exhibit signs that include:

  • memory blackouts (short-term memory loss)
  • agitation
  • irritability
  • changes in mood
  • becoming isolated from friends or family
  • defensiveness about tramadol or alcohol
  • hiding prescription bottles or drinks
  • financial problems
  • lying about how much drugs or alcohol they have consumed
  • doctor shopping (seeing several providers to get more tramadol prescriptions)
  • mental preoccupation with tramadol, alcohol, prescriptions, or doctors
  • inability to cut back or stop taking the substances

If a person is dependent on tramadol and alcohol, and stops taking these drugs abruptly, they will likely experience acute withdrawal. This can include symptoms like insomnia, chills, anxiety, nausea, and sweating.

Addiction Treatment Options For Tramadol And Alcohol Abuse

People who are dependent on opioids and alcohol may need help to get off the drugs permanently — especially if they are experiencing acute withdrawal. Medical detox programs can be a helpful solution for those who are struggling with withdrawal symptoms.

In a medical detox program, patients are provided with support and medical care to ensure a safe and more comfortable withdrawal. Once a person has successfully detoxed, they are ready to engage in the next level of addiction treatment.

For many, this means an inpatient treatment program. Inpatient rehab centers typically offer counseling, recovery therapies, and medication-assisted treatment. For those who suffer from co-occurring mental health disorders like anxiety, there are dual diagnosis treatment programs that address each condition holistically.

Opioid and alcohol addiction affects millions of families across the U.S. Fortunately, there are effective treatment programs that can be customized to the unique needs of your loved one.

For more information on the effects and dangers of tramadol and alcohol, or to explore treatment options near you, contact us today.

National Institutes of Health: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Alcohol's Effects on the Body, Understanding the Dangers of Alcohol Overdose

U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Alcohol, Tramadol

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