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What is Ultram? Side Effects, Addiction, and More

by | Last updated Dec 8, 2020 at 10:30AM | Published on Dec 8, 2020 | Drug Addiction, Opioid Addiction

what is ultram

Ultram is a popular painkiller, well-known as tramadol. According to statistics, tramadol prescriptions increased by 88 percent from 2008 to 2013. Ultram is mainly used to treat acute pain, often following a procedure like surgery or other interventions. However, this drug is very similar to opioid analgesics by changing the way our brains and bodies respond to pain. Some even say that we have a silent Tramadol epidemic happening in the country. Here’s all you need to know about this popular medication. 

What is Ultram?

Part of the class of drugs known as opioid analgesics, Ultram is a prescription drug used to treat moderate to severe pain symptoms. The generic name for this drug is tramadol hydrochloride. However, because of its composition, Ultram is highly addictive, even at recommended doses.

Ultram Abuse by the Numbers

Although it is an opioid agonist, it has not been classified as a scheduled substance. According to the US Food and Drug Administration’s postmarketing surveillance, the rate of addiction was 1 in 100,000 during the last 18 months period of supervision. Tramadol dependence is very rare but can happen in a patient without a substance abuse history.

Even still, Tramadol abuse statistics show a different story affecting thousands of people:

  • A study from 2005 found that 84 percent of patients who abused tramadol in very high doses had seizures 24 hours.
  • From 2012-2013, over 60 percent of people who used painkillers like tramadol got the drug from friends or relatives.
  • In 2013, 1.5 million people abused painkillers, such as tramadol, for the first time.

Signs of Addiction

Since Ultram is one of the least potent opioids, people often have a more challenging time recognizing the signs of abuse and addiction. It’s essential to be on high alert for the following symptoms:

  • Pinpoint (tiny) pupils
  • Changes in appetite
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Headaches
  • Impaired coordination

One of the biggest problems with drugs like Ultram is the dosage. Because most people take much larger doses to experience the same euphoric feeling, many experience unwanted side effects that cause an increased risk of seizures. In fact, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the number of emergency department visits involving tramadol abuse or misuse increased by approximately 250 percent from 2005 to 2011.

Side Effects of Ultram Abuse

In addition to the downsides of abuse, Ultram abuse comes with plenty of side effects that can range from uncomfortable to dangerous. Most people report side effects of tramadol that include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Agitation and hallucinations
  • Fever
  • Dizziness
  • Appetite loss
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Muscle aches
  • Depression
  • Sweating

These symptoms are even more common among those mixing tramadol with other substances. Also known as polydrug use or cross addictions, many people will combine different substances to enhance their effects. Commonly combined substances with Ultram include:

  • Alcohol
  • Other painkillers
  • Benzodiazepines 
  • Sleeping pills
  • Cold medicine

Since all of these substances are also central nervous system (CNS) depressants, they slow down lung and heart function. These substances can also cause something known as shallow breathing. Because of this, people can stop breathing altogether and may experience overdose and death.

Overdose

The combination of tramadol with other substances places people at higher risk of suffering seizures. Tramadol abuse is linked to seizures, even in people with no previous history. Furthermore, around 71% of people in emergency rooms from tramadol-related complications say they used the drug with other sedatives and painkillers.

Signs of Tramadol overdose might include:

  • Sleepiness
  • Unconsciousness
  • Coma
  • Seizures
  • Respiratory depression
  • Abnormally low blood pressure
  • Slow heart rate
  • Sweating or clammy skin
  • Weak muscles
  • Pinpoint pupils

This is why it’s paramount to seek medical attention immediately after experiencing any of these symptoms. Ultram overdose has the potential to be fatal if not addressed immediately. In this case, at-home overdose remedies will not work. If you’re ever with someone exhibiting signs of Tramadol overdose, call 911 directly and seek emergency medical attention.

Treatment for Ultram Addiction

Because withdrawal from tramadol can be so challenging, treatment often starts with detox. In most cases, specialists recommend medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to help manage withdrawal symptoms. But, under the right supervision, medical professionals can introduce medications to help ease some of the discomforts. For example:

  • Metoclopramide can help manage nausea and vomiting
  • Clonidine could help with anxiety
  • Loperamide controls diarrhea
  • Ibuprofen and acetaminophen are excellent pain relievers
  • Buprenorphine lessens the effects of withdrawal

Once the initial detox process ends, most addicts are encouraged to attend inpatient or outpatient drug rehab programs. Speaking with an addiction treatment specialist as soon as possible is the best way to start seeking help for addiction. At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, our drug addiction recovery programs include:

  • Medical Detox: In this clinically supervised detox process at treatment centers, we ensure the patient’s safety and make the withdrawal phase as comfortable as possible by minimizing withdrawal symptoms and using medication-assisted treatment services to guarantee a complete detoxification process. 
  • Dual Diagnosis Treatment: Since many long-term addicts often struggle with mental health disorders, a dual diagnosis program can get them the help needed to simultaneously treat both conditions. 
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Most of the time, these sorts of addictions develop due to compulsive behaviors that must be treated at the source, with CBT being one of the most popular evidence-based treatments to treat addiction. 
  • Intensive Outpatient Treatment Programs: When patients are looking to seek addiction treatment while maintaining daily obligations like work, school, or caregiving, IOPs are a more flexible option that still gives people access to the help they need. 
  • Long-term Recovery Programs: With long-term recovery assistance, patients can have the ongoing support they need to maintain long-lasting sobriety. Recovery programs are crucial to relapse prevention. 

Finding Help Near Me

If you or someone you love uses drugs for recreational reasons, becoming sober can be difficult. Generally, addiction is a long-term disease that needs assistance, encouragement, and the right structure to find recovery.

Talking to addiction specialists can help you pinpoint the issues that prompted your abuse in the first place. On many occasions, underlying mental health conditions, genetics, and environmental factors can play a role. However, addressing these issues through dual-diagnosis programs can help create a healthy environment. Addicts need to find long-term recovery.

For anyone looking to stop using tramadol and stop their physical dependence, the team at Lighthouse Recovery Institute can help. Our rehab center offers detox programs, medication-assisted treatments, family therapies, and traditional treatment programs to help people fight their addictions and live a clean and sober life.

Lighthouse Editorial Team

Lighthouse Editorial Team

Our editorial team includes content experts that contribute to Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s blog. Editors and medical experts review our blogs for accuracy and relevance. We consistently monitor the latest research from SAMHSA and NIDA to provide you with the most comprehensive addiction-related content.
Medical Disclaimer:

Lighthouse Recovery Institute aims to improve the quality of life for anyone struggling with substance use or mental health disorder. We provide fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their outcomes. The material we publish is researched, cited, edited, and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide in our posts is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be used in place of the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider.

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