Tramadol Abuse and Addiction in Ohio

Tramadol abuse and addiction are problems in Ohio and around the nation. For a long time, the medical community didn’t see tramadol as dangerous as pain relievers like hydrocodone, but that perception changed with the recognition of the risks of tramadol abuse.

Tramadol was first introduced to the marketplace in the United States in 1995. While tramadol is a controlled substance, it’s classified as a schedule IV substance, meaning less stringent regulations are applied to tramadol than to most other opioids. However, a drug’s classification can change if the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determine the change necessary.

What is Tramadol?

Tramadol is a synthetic opioid available under the brand names Ultram, ConZip, Rybix ODT and Ryzolt.

Tramadol is a pain reliever used to treat moderate to severe pain. Tramadol is available in immediate release versions for chronic and acute pain. It’s also available in an extended-release variation.

Some people are under the impression that tramadol is a non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), but it’s not. Tramadol is an opioid agonist.

Is Tramadol Addictive?

Yes, tramadol is addictive. As a schedule IV substance, tramadol carries the risk of psychological addiction and physical dependence. A significant increase in the number of visits to the emergency room because of tramadol abuse was recorded from 2005 to 2011.

Even when someone takes tramadol as prescribed, it can be habit-forming.

Physical dependence on tramadol can also develop. If someone’s dependent on tramadol and they stop using it suddenly, they may experience withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, nausea and headaches.

Why is Tramadol Addictive?

People may wonder why tramadol is addictive. Tramadol activates the same opioid receptor sites as opioids like oxycodone and hydrocodone. When someone takes tramadol and opioid receptors activate, it can change how pain signals transmit from the body to the brain. Tramadol, as with other opioid activators, also changes a person’s emotional response to pain.

Beyond changing a person’s response to pain, tramadol can affect mood. For example, taking tramadol can cause a sense of well-being and pleasurable relaxation. It can even create feelings of euphoria because opioids trigger the release of feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain. These positive feelings can cause a reward response in the brain to activate.

The reward response can then influence the person’s thought process. That person can begin compulsively using tramadol or other opioids, not because they want to, but because their brain is compelling them to do so. Exposure to substances like tramadol significantly impacts how the brain functions and the chemistry of the brain. Someone who’s addicted to tramadol may want to stop, but they feel like they cannot.

Physical dependence is separate from addiction, but the two often occur together. With regular exposure to tramadol, a person’s central nervous system’s functionality may change because of the effects of the substance. In that case, if someone suddenly tries to stop using tramadol, they may experience withdrawal symptoms which can happen even when they used tramadol for a short time and as prescribed. Physicians often advise patients to slowly taper down their dosage of tramadol and other opioid pain relievers because of the withdrawal potential.

How Long Does It Take to Get Addicted to Tramadol?

There isn’t one specific answer to the frequently asked question of, “How long it takes to get addicted to tramadol?” Some people may get addicted after using it only a few times, while others may use it without ever becoming addicted.

Factors that play a role in whether someone becomes addicted to tramadol include:

  • Having a personal or family history of substance abuse or addiction
  • How often someone takes it. A person who takes tramadol more frequently is likely to develop an addiction faster than someone taking it only occasionally.
  • Whether co-occurring disorders exist. With mental health disorders, such as anxiety or depression, they may increase the likelihood of an addiction forming.
  • If someone uses tramadol in ways other than what’s intended, such as by injecting or snorting it, they are more likely to become addicted rapidly
  • Someone taking tramadol without a prescription, or outside of how it’s prescribed, faces an increased risk of an addiction developing within a shorter time frame

If you or someone you love struggles with tramadol addiction, we encourage you to reach out to us at The Recovery Village Columbus. We can help you learn more about addiction treatment programs and explore the options best suited to your needs. Call today and being your journey toward a healthier future.


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Fauber, John. “Killing Pain: Tramadol the ‘Safe’ Drug of Abuse.” MedPage, December 22, 2013. Accessed March 13, 2019.

Vandergriendt, Carly. “How to Recognize and Treat Tramadol Addiction.” Healthline, June 27, 2018. Accessed March 13, 2019.

Iodine. “Tramadol: More Dangerous Than Many Thought.” October 26, 2016. Accessed March 13, 2019.

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Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village Columbus aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.