Tramadol is an opioid painkiller that’s sold under the brand names Ultram and ConZip. Like other opioids, it provides pain relief by activating opioid receptors throughout the body. It’s also a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), which means it has antidepressant effects.
Some people abuse this prescription drug (take it in a manner not prescribed by a doctor) to feel relaxed and euphoric, or “high.”
If you abuse tramadol, or if you take it as prescribed for a long time, you may become physically dependent on it. That means that when you stop taking it, you’ll experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
To reduce or avoid withdrawal symptoms, you’ll need to wean off the drug instead of quitting suddenly (also known as “cold turkey”).
What To Expect From Tramadol Withdrawal
Your experience of tramadol withdrawal will depend on personal factors such as:
- your age
- your general health
- how long you’ve been using tramadol
- dosage and frequency of use
- whether you use other drugs
In most cases, withdrawal symptoms start appearing within two days after your last dose of tramadol and, if left untreated, last up to two weeks.
The most common tramadol withdrawal symptoms include:
- intense cravings for tramadol
- panic attacks
- insomnia (trouble sleeping)
- enlarged pupils
- stomach cramping
- watery eyes
- runny nose
- aching muscles
- uncontrollable shaking of a part of your body
Tramadol Weaning Schedule
You can avoid or decrease the severity of tramadol withdrawal symptoms by weaning off the drug. Also known as tapering, weaning involves gradually reducing your dose of tramadol until you’re no longer taking it at all.
Tapering schedules vary widely depending on a person’s individual needs. For example, some people reduce their doses by ten percent daily, while others reduce their doses by five percent every two weeks.
In general, the longer you’ve been taking tramadol, the slower you should taper. Talk to your health care provider to determine your ideal tapering schedule.
Tips For Safely Tapering Off Tramadol
Some people taper off tramadol at home. This option may work if you’ve only been using tramadol for a short time and you regularly check in with your doctor.
However, it’s likely a better idea to attend a medical detox program.
Medical Detox Programs
At a detox program, you’ll receive 24/7 care and monitoring from medical professionals. They can help you stay as safe and comfortable as possible by prescribing medications that treat common withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, nausea, and insomnia.
They may also prescribe medications that ease opioid withdrawal symptoms, which include:
- methadone, an opioid agonist that not only lessens withdrawal symptoms but also reduces cravings for tramadol
- buprenorphine, a partial opioid agonist that, like methadone, decreases both withdrawal symptoms and cravings
- clonidine, a blood pressure medication that decreases withdrawal symptoms but not cravings
Along with keeping you comfortable, detox programs reduce your risk of relapse. Indeed, many people who taper without medical supervision go back on tramadol as soon as their withdrawal symptoms become intense.
Whether you taper at home or at a medical detox program, you can make the process easier by taking care of your health. You can do this by:
- exercising regularly
- eating a healthy diet that includes lots of vegetables and fruits
- creating arts and crafts
Once you finish tapering, your doctor may recommend that you transition to an addiction treatment program.
Addiction, also called substance use disorder, is a serious disease that makes you feel unable to stop using a drug despite negative consequences. Physical dependence is often a sign of addiction.
To learn more about safely weaning off tramadol, please contact an Ark Behavioral Health specialist. We offer a variety of substance abuse and addiction treatment options, including medical detox, mental health counseling, and support groups.
National Institute on Drug Abuse - How do medications to treat opioid use disorder work?
United States National Library of Medicine - Opiate and opioid withdrawal
United States National Library of Medicine - Tramadol
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