Tramadol Withdrawal and Detox

Modified: 22nd Jul 2019

Last updated on July 22nd, 2019 at 02:51 pm

Two decades ago, pharmaceutical companies assured the medical community that painkillers weren’t addictive. After this assurance, doctors and medical professionals began prescribing opioids in greater numbers. 

As a result, people began misusing their prescriptions. Today, its misuse is widespread, with 21-29% misusing their prescriptions.

Between 8-12% develop an opioid dependence. The CDC estimates that more than three in five overdoses are now opioid-related. 

The Department of Health and Humans services declared the U.S.’ opioid epidemic a public health emergency in 2017.

Most people think of heroin, fentanyl, or hydrocodone as the most common opioids. They aren’t the only opioids causing harm. In fact, tramadol, once touted as a “safe narcotic,” is very dangerous and an addiction to it is hard to detect.

If you or someone you love may have a tramadol addiction, you need to get help. But first, you should know the withdrawal and detox process associated with the drug. 

In this guide, we explain what you can expect in the tramadol withdrawal and detox process.

What Causes Tramadol Withdrawal?

Tramadol is given to patients experiencing moderate pain. It’s also prescribed following surgery. Forty-one million prescriptions were written in 2017.

Tramadol an opioid analgesic. This means it’s considered a “weak opioid.” It’s an extended-release painkiller.

Sometimes, it’s prescribed for mild chronic pain. Due to the myth, it’s “safer” because it’s not as strong as fentanyl or other opioids, its misuse is overwhelming and often goes without notice.

Several painkillers include tramadol in their chemical make up. Some of the most common brand names are:

  • ConZip
  • FusePaq Synapryn
  • Rybix ODT
  • Ryzolt
  • Ultram
  • Ultram ER

Because tramadol is an extended-release medication, a user doesn’t feel its effects immediately. As time progresses, a patient may take more and more as their tolerance builds up. 

Tramadol gives users feelings of:

  • Euphoria
  • Higher energy
  • Increased sense of well-being
  • Lack of inhibition
  • Mellowness

Tramadol works to reduce pain by blocking the body’s opiate receptors in the central nervous system. It is a CNS depressant. Tramadol inhibits the reabsorption of two neurotransmitters: serotonin and norepinephrine. 

There’s some debate over tramadol’s classification. While it’s considered an opioid and a Schedule IV drug, some medical professionals disagree with this assessment.

This makes detecting an addiction even harder. Doctors slowed down on the number of opioid prescriptions they wrote. Instead of writing scripts for Vicodin, Percoset, etc., they started writing them for tramadol.

But tramadol is an opioid and as such, the body becomes chemically dependent on it to function. When someone stops taking tramadol, their body goes into withdrawal. 

This happens because the brain adjusts to the drug being in the body. It goes into overdrive, trying to make up for the sudden loss of the chemical. 

Tramadol Withdrawal Symptoms

Tramadol produces two kinds of withdrawal: traditional opioid withdrawal and atypical opioid withdrawal. 

In general, opioid withdrawal symptoms start anywhere from a couple of hours up to 24 hours after your last ingestion. The most common and frequent withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Abdominal cramps and aches
  • Constricted pupils
  • Diarrhea
  • Extreme cravings
  • Insomnia
  • Irregular or fluctuating blood pressure
  • Muscle spasms
  • Nausea
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating (hot and cold)
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting

The DEA found that 90% of tramadol addicts experience traditional withdrawal symptoms like the ones above. 

However, 10% will experience atypical opioid withdrawal symptoms. These are very specific to tramadol and include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • Extreme paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Hives
  • Panic attacks
  • Seizures
  • Severe confusion
  • Swelling of the face and throat
  • Tingling or numbness in their hands and feet

These symptoms will range from mild to severe. Different factors affect the severity of the symptoms. This includes your general health, the length of time you took tramadol, and the level of your addiction. 

Duration of Tramadol Withdrawal

The symptoms of tramadol withdrawal are very unpleasant and uncomfortable. They begin hours after your last dose.

They can also start within hours of your last lowered dose. This means even if you drastically reduced your dosage, you may still go through withdrawal.   

Tramadol Withdrawal Timeline

Most addicts who took tramadol orally experience physical withdrawal symptoms that last three to five days. Some people who snort or inject the drug may feel the same symptoms for up to a week. 

Within the first three days, you’ll experience: 

  • Anxiety
  • Drug cravings
  • Extreme nervousness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Sweating (both hot and cold)
  • Tingling or numbness in their hands and feet

During the end of this stage — from the fourth day until about a week, you’ll start to feel some of the symptoms subside. But, others may persist or develop. These include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Drug cravings
  • Insomnia  

After one week, Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome sets in. This is the when the physical withdrawal ends but mental withdrawal is at the forefront. This can last up to two weeks or longer. 

During PAWS, you’ll experience:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irrational thoughts
  • Tiredness

When you enter the PAWS stage, these symptoms can change frequently and without warning.

For some people, the post-acute withdrawal stage can last for two years. Seeking treatment is vital to your recovery. It can also help you avoid having a relapse. 

Detoxing from Tramadol on Your Own 

Addiction can bring feelings of embarrassment. Some addicts hit “rock bottom” and decide to detox. Others know they have to stop before getting to this stage.

But due to feeling ashamed, they don’t get help from a professional. They try to detox on their own. 

Because tramadol affects a person both in a physical and psychological way, it’s not advised to detox without the help of a medical professional.  

The severity of the withdrawal symptoms is often too difficult to manage alone. This leads many addicts back to taking tramadol to reduce these symptoms. 

Medical Detox for Tramadol  

Getting assistance through a professional facility has many benefits. The first is that you’re under the supervision of medical personnel while you go through detox.  

How Medical Detox Works and What to Expect 

Medical detox uses pharmacological and psychological methods for treating withdrawal symptoms. Both medical and mental health personnel are on hand to closely supervise someone going through detox. This happens in a safe and comfortable environment.

Medical detox is highly recommended for anyone going through opioid withdrawal. Because of tramadol and its effects on the chemical composition of the brain, it’s even more important to seek medical detox. 

You’ll have the best chance for recovery in a treatment center under the care of medical and mental health personnel. It also gives you the best chances of avoiding relapse and staying sober. 

Medical professionals will check your vital signs often. They’ll monitor your blood pressure, body temperature, heart rate, and respiratory functions.  

The mental care providers will keep tabs on your mental stability during detox. They’ll evaluate you for signs of depression, anxiety, and harmful thoughts.  

Medications Available for Tramadol Detox

If you’re not handling detox well, your medical care team may give you medication to ease your withdrawal process. The most common medications for tramadol detox and their uses are:

  • Clonidine – Helps with anxiety and sweating
  • Ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) – Reduces muscle aches
  • Loperamide – Eases diarrhea
  • Metoclopramide – Relieves nausea and vomiting
  • Valium – Helps with anxiety and insomnia

Only a health care professional will prescribe these medications. It’s important that you take them while you’re heavily monitored in a controlled environment. 

Get Started on Your Path to Recovery Today 

If you’re taking tramadol and heard it isn’t addictive, you now know it is. You also need to step back and ask yourself if you or someone you love has a tramadol addiction.   

At Addiction Treatment Services, we are here to help in any way possible.  

We can help find a safe and detox facility that fits your needs. We’ll work with your insurance provider to lessen or eliminate the financial burden on you. 

Visit our insurance information page to see our process. Reach out to us today and find out how we can help get you the treatment you need.

Article Reviewed by Dr. Keerthy Sunder, MD, DFAPA

Dr. Keerthy Sunder, MD, DFAPADr. Keerthy Sunder, MD is an accomplished and internationally recognized expert in the field of addiction. He has earned diplomates from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, the American Board of Addiction Medicine, and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.