Tramadol is a prescription pain relief medication which is used to ease chronic and acute pain. It is commonly considered a less addictive and therefore safer alternative to other pain medications and prescription opioids, however, the risks of using this substance are considerable.
Individuals who use the substance through legitimate prescription, as well as those who abuse the drug illicitly, are at risk of developing a dependency on the substance.
The added risks associated with recreational tramadol misuse are in part related to the method of use: insufflation, or snorting. This method of use increases the risk for the individual in a number of ways.
Although tramadol addiction is a challenging condition to recover from, it is possible to get better through quality addiction treatment. If you or someone you know is struggling with tramadol misuse, reach out for help today.
Throughout the United States, there is a devastating epidemic of opioid abuse, with recent figures showing there were 75,673 opioid overdose deaths in 2021. Regardless of renewed laws and advice from the Drug Enforcement Administration, this number is on the rise.
It is considered that the root of this national crisis began in the 1980s when a focus on medicating and treating pain was intensified. During this time the government supported and passed pain treatment acts which defended the right of doctors to treat pain with controlled substances which were known to carry some risks for the patient.
In the 1990s, pharmaceutical companies began formulating new opioid-based products, including fentanyl and oxycodone-based substances. It was here that prescriptions rocketed and opioids began being widely used to treat chronic pain. Through this increase of prescription opioids, it is thought the rise in substance abuse problems initiated.
Research by the National Survey of Drug Use and Health suggests that 1.6-1.8 million Americans struggle with tramadol abuse. Further research by the CDC found that tramadol abuse had risen by over 15% in the year from 2018 to 2019 alone.
In Florida, it is thought that approximately 8% of the population is using illicit substances - around 1.5 million individuals. Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put the statistics from Florida on a relative scale. Of the 93,000 people who died of a drug overdose in the United States in 2020, 7,579 of these were in Florida. This means Florida is behind only California in terms of overdose deaths and has seen a severe 37% increase from 2019.
As a prescription opioid medication, tramadol was originally designed to be a safer, less addictive drug compared to similar alternatives. Categorized as a Schedule IV controlled substance, this suggests it carries a low potential for abuse and dependency, but can still lead to harm and dependency. To be categorized as a Schedule IV controlled substance, it must comply with the following criteria:
In medical settings, this synthetic opioid can be found under these common brand names: Ultram, Ultram ER, Ultracet, and ConZip.
You can find tramadol as a capsule, tablet, or a liquid solution, and these can be one of two forms of tramadol:
Tramadol addiction can develop in individuals who are recreationally using the drug, or those who have been legitimately prescribed the substance. This is particularly true for those who are on a long-term prescription. Tramadol substance abuse is using the drug in any way that was not prescribed by your doctor. This includes taking the drug more frequently than prescribed, taking higher doses than prescribed, taking it without a prescription, and using it in different methods such as insufflating tramadol.
Some of the risks associated with tramadol include:
Individuals who have developed a dependency may begin to use other methods of use such as tramadol insufflation, or snorting. This increases the intensity of the drug and may be used to counteract drug tolerance.
Tramdol has previously been considered a safer option to other opioids, but as of 2014, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) changed the scheduling and now doctors may be more hesitant to prescribe it.
Individuals may choose to snort tramadol to increase the effects of the substance, and in some cases, produce feelings of euphoria and joy. In order to snort tramadol, users will crush the tablet and inhale the powdered pill through the nostrils.
In comparison to swallowing, snorting tramadol results in faster results. This is due to the structure of the nose: the mucous membrane has a strong blood supply and is easily permeable, enabling tramadol to quickly enter the bloodstream directly after snorting it. Additionally, this method avoids the digestive system and liver metabolism process. This results in the synthetic opioid reaching the brain much more quickly.
After snorting tramadol, some people may experience a second peak in symptoms. This is due to some of the substance traveling to the oral cavity and being absorbed into the blood stream this way. Typically the second peak is around 1.5 - 2 hours later.
A further danger of this method of use is that the feelings of euphoria diminish more quickly. This means that individuals who snort tramadol are more likely to get caught in binge drug taking.
One of the most considerable side effects of snorting tramadol is damage to the nose, sinus cavities, and throat. Additionally, a person is more likely to experience an accidental overdose if they snort tramadol rather than swallow it.
Usually people will crush tramadol tablets into a powder in order to snort it, but this means they can't know exactly how much they are taking. Furthermore, the drug enters the system much more quickly, and in a more intense manner.
Tramadol side effects such as seizures and overdose can be dangerous and even life threatening. Tramadol can result in respiratory depression, serotonin syndrome, and as aforementioned, overdose. We look at some further risks below.
Serotonin syndrome is a condition associated with snorting tramadol. This is a severe drug reaction in relation to substances which change levels of serotonin in the body. This can alter the brain's communication pathways and result in some severe side effects.
Substance abuse of any form is a severe and complex illness, but with compassionate and holistic care, addiction is treatable. Substance addiction can develop quickly and often it has spiralled out of control before the individual recognizes they have a problem.
What might have started as a legitimate prescription to manage pain, can rapidly progress to a severe substance use disorder and poly-substance abuse. An increased tolerance to tramadol often leads to individuals abusing other substances to achieve the euphoria they once experienced with tramadol.
Treating tramadol always begins with detox; this is where all traces of the drug are removed from a person's system. If somebody has been snorting tramadol for a considerable amount of time, the body becomes used to the presence of the drug, resulting in physical dependence. When somebody who is dependent on a substance stops using, they will experience withdrawal symptoms.
Due to the risks involved in withdrawing from tramadol, it is always advised to undergo detox with the support of medical supervision. This is known as a medical detox where doctors can support a person through this challenging process. Distressing and painful withdrawal symptoms can be incredibly upsetting and lead to relapse.
When the substance is completely removed from the individual's body, therapeutic work can begin to work through the psychological aspects of dependency.
Inpatient substance abuse treatment for using tramadol may use a combination of medication-assisted treatment and behavioral therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to ensure that both the physical and psychological aspects of addiction are treated.
At NP Addiction Clinics, we serve the Florida community with a compassionate, holistic approach to addiction treatment. We use cutting-edge research and a range of new therapeutic techniques to treat a range of alcohol and drug dependencies.
If you are ready to move forward from struggles with substances, we can guide you through the early days of recovery and set you up to make empowered life choices. If you have questions about our addiction treatment options, or you would like to schedule an assessment, call us today at (772) 281-5051.
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