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Is Tramadol Addictive?

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

Medically reviewed by

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

June 3, 2019

Tramadol is a mild opioid pain medication used to treat moderate pain. While this drug is less potent than other opioids, it can still be addictive. Tramadol addiction will often require a formal treatment program to overcome.

Tramadol is a prescription opioid used to relieve mild to moderate pain. This drug is available in regular and extended-release pill forms. The extended-release version of Tramadol is only prescribed to treat round-the-clock pain that cannot be managed with other painkillers.

As a synthetic opioid, Tramadol has many of the same effects as other drugs in this category like morphine and codeine. However, this medication has lower opioid content than other pain medications. For this reason, many people consider Tramadol to be less addictive than other opioid drugs.

Despite lower opioid content, Tramadol can still be abused. Tramadol abuse can result in dependence and addiction similar to other opioid medications. Understanding the addiction potential of this drug can help those who are prescribed it understand the risks and prevent negative side effects and addiction.

What Makes Tramadol Addictive?

When Tramadol first became available, it was believed to be safer and less addictive than other opioids due to its low level of opioid content. However, Tramadol is still an opioid, and as such still carries the risk of addiction.

Tramadol works on the opioid receptors in the brain to alter the way the brain and body perceive pain. By doing so, many people experience immense pain relief when they take this drug.

However, like other opioids, Tramadol also acts on the reward system in the brain. This drug increases the level of feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine in the brain, reinforcing its positive effects. The more of the drug a person takes, the more positive effects he or she will likely experience.

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People who use Tramadol long-term can become addicted to the drug due to its opioid component. The body can become physically dependent on Tramadol to relieve pain and produce dopamine and other neurotransmitters. When someone is dependent on Tramadol and stops taking the medication, he or she will likely experience withdrawal symptoms.

Abusing Tramadol can increase the likelihood of addiction. This is especially true for individuals with a history of drug abuse.

Getting Help For Tramadol Addiction

There are a number of treatment options available for those looking to overcome an addiction to Tramadol. Many people find success through formal treatment programs catered to opioid addiction.

A medically monitored detox program will likely be needed to successfully quit Tramadol. Withdrawal symptoms can be very uncomfortable, making it difficult for individuals to stop using the drug on their own.

Once someone has withdrawn from the drug, residential or inpatient treatment will likely be recommended. These programs offer a variety of therapies, including cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, and family and group therapy.

To learn more about the addictive nature of Tramadol, contact a treatment specialist today.

Live Science - Tramadol: Dosage & Side Effects

MedlinePlus - Tramadol

World Health Organization - Tramadol

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