Millions of people in the United States rely on prescription painkillers to manage pain. People may take prescription drugs to reduce pain and discomfort after surgery or to treat other medical conditions.

While many people believe all prescription drugs are safe, many have the potential for abuse and physical dependence. Tramadol is a prescription pain reliever that may be addictive.

Tramadol is an opioid agonist drug. It works similarly to opioids. But is Tramadol an opioid?

This article will explore Tramadol abuse and addiction. You will learn:

  • What Tramadol is
  • The effects and risks of Tramadol
  • How to recognize Tramadol abuse
  • What to expect in Tramadol addiction treatment
  • Where to find treatment and recovery support

Contact First Step Behavioral Health specialists to learn about our holistic substance abuse treatment programs. Our mental health and medical practitioners offer effective, supportive treatments for addiction and recovery. Take the first step of your recovery journey by contacting us today.

What is Tramadol?

Tramadol is a controlled prescription medication. Doctors prescribe Tramadol to help patients manage moderate to severe pain.[1]

Tramadol works similarly to opioids. It binds to receptors in the brain related to pain control. It decreases the sensation of pain by blocking pain signals between the body and brain.

Is Tramadol a Narcotic?

Tramadol is a narcotic. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has classified Tramadol as a controlled substance since 2014.[2] This opioid drug is available under several brand names, including:

  • Ultram
  • Ultram ER
  • Cozip

There are also several generic versions of Tramadol.

Understanding the Effects and Risks of Tramadol

Tramadol also mimics the effects of endorphins, which are brain chemicals related to pleasure and reward. People experience less pain when taking Tramadol. They may also experience other side effects, including:[1]

  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Itching
  • Lethargy
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sweating

People are most likely to experience unwanted side effects of Tramadol during the first few days of using it. People who experience more severe side effects must discuss them with a doctor.

Some people have immediate, severe side effects requiring emergency intervention. In 2011, an estimated 54,397 emergency department visits involved tramadol, half of which were associated with adverse reactions.[3] These include:

  • Abnormally sensitive reflexes
  • Agitation
  • Coma
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Excessive body temperature
  • Fast heart rate
  • Hallucinations
  • Loss of coordination
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Slow or shallow breathing

These severe side effects may become life-threatening. If you or someone near you exhibits these side effects, call 911 right away.

Taking Tramadol can put people at risk of long-term complications. One of the most significant risks is that children will take it by accident. It is critical to store Tramadol out of reach of children.

Other risks of Tramadol use include:

  • Misuse and addiction
  • Life-threatening overdose
  • Depressed (slow, shallow) breathing or other breathing problems
  • Dangerous interactions with other drugs, especially medications that depress central nervous system (CNS) activity

People must take Tramadol exactly as prescribed. It is important to watch for signs of misuse and addiction. Seek treatment if you or a loved one misuses this opioid pain reliever.

Recognizing Tramadol Abuse

Tramadol misuse can cause dangerous short and long-term complications in your mental and physical health. Recognizing Tramadol abuse is the first step toward getting the help you need to recover.

People may abuse prescription Tramadol or take it recreationally (without a prescription). Here are some of the signs of Tramadol abuse to watch for:

  • Requiring larger doses of Tramadol to get the desired effects
  • Neglecting hobbies, relationships, and responsibilities because of Tramadol use
  • Mixing Tramadol with other drugs or alcohol
  • Having more than one prescription for Tramadol from multiple doctors
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking Tramadol
  • Having cravings for Tramadol
  • Spending a lot of time, energy, and money to get more Tramadol
  • Lying, stealing, or doing risky things to get Tramadol

Long periods of Tramadol abuse can change how the brain and body work. These changes can make it very difficult for people to stop using Tramadol when they choose.

Most people with Tramadol dependence require treatment and significant support to safely stop using the drug and prevent relapse.

If you or someone you love exhibits signs of Tramadol abuse or dependence, seek treatment right away. The sooner you get help, the sooner you can begin to work toward a healthier future.

Tramadol Addiction Treatment: An Overview

Before you begin a Tramadol addiction rehab program, you will undergo an assessment. This assessment will determine which level of care you require. A medical or addiction professional will perform the evaluation, which will consist of:

  • Questions about your past and current substance use
  • A mental health and medical history, including history of substance abuse treatment
  • Information about your family’s history of substance abuse
  • Lab testing
  • A physical exam

Your doctor may decide you require inpatient treatment, or they may recommend outpatient programs. During treatment, you will follow a tailored treatment plan that includes:

  • A medically-supported detox program (medications, emotional support, supervision, and other therapies to support detoxification)
  • Mental health treatment
  • Medications to manage cravings and other withdrawal symptoms
  • Behavioral therapies
  • Individual, family, and group counseling
  • Relapse prevention education
  • Coping skills practice
  • Aftercare planning

Tramadol addiction can be complex and challenging to overcome. However, the right treatment and support can help you put Tramadol abuse in the past and work toward the future you choose.

Find Treatment Now

If you or someone you love struggles with substance abuse, you are not alone. Contact the intake team at First Step Behavioral Health to explore our detox and treatment programs or schedule an intake assessment.


  1. Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Tramadol prescribing information
  2. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA): Tramadol
  3. National Institute of Health (NIH): Emergency Department Visits for Adverse Reactions Involving the Pain Medication Tramadol

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