Is Tramadol an Opiate?
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Tramadol is a prescription drug that is used to treat moderate pain, post-surgery pain, or chronic pain caused by conditions like fibromyalgia. If you’re wondering if tramadol is an opiate, keep reading to learn more about tramadol, its risk for addiction and dependence, and other commonly abused opioid drugs.
Opiates are naturally-occurring substances that are derived from compounds found in the opium poppy plant. The words opiate and opioid are often used interchangeably because they affect the body and brain in the same ways, but the term opioid refers to man-made drugs derived from morphine, as well as synthetic drugs.1
Technically speaking, tramadol is a synthetic opioid, not an opiate, which is a natural substance that comes from the opiate poppy. However, tramadol is slightly different than other opioid drugs, in that it also affects the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine in addition to the opioid receptors in the central nervous system.
As a result, tramadol was originally marketed as being safer than other opioid painkillers and in 2008, it was merely listed as a drug of concern by the DEA. By 2014, it was widely recognized that tramadol did have a higher risk of abuse, dependence, and addiction than originally thought, and it was rescheduled as a Schedule IV controlled substance.2
- According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, tramadol products were the third most commonly abused prescription painkillers in the U.S.3
- 11.1 million people in 2017 misused opioid pain relievers like tramadol in the past year.3
- Tramadol is most commonly abused by people who are addicted to other narcotics, patients with chronic pain, and health professionals.4
- There were a total of 12,108 tramadol exposures in 2016, of which there were three associated deaths.4
Polydrug abuse is common among tramadol abusers, which increases the risk of addiction and overdose. People who abuse tramadol usually take it with other substances to enhance the effects of the high. Common tramadol drug combinations include:
- Tramadol and alcohol
- Tramadol and benzodiazepines like Xanax, Librium, Valium, or Ambien
- Tramadol and sleeping pills like Lunesta or Sonata
- Tramadol and other opioid painkillers like hydrocodone, methadone, or morphine
- Tramadol and over-the-counter cold medicine
Opiate and opioid abuse can cause serious side effects or overdose. According to the National Institutes of Health, the side effects of opioid abuse include:
- Dry mouth
- Mental fog
- Slowed breathing
Signs of an opioid overdose include:
- Slowed breathing and heart rate
- Vomiting or gurgling noises
- Pale face that is clammy to the touch
- Limp body
- Loss of consciousness
- Inability to speak
- Blue or purple fingernails or lips5
There are many other prescription opioids that are frequently abused in the U.S. Prescription drugs greatly contribute to the current opioid crisis and rising overdose rates, especially fentanyl. Other commonly abused prescription opioids include:
Opioid addiction is a serious disorder that can wreak havoc on a person’s life if it is left untreated. If you or a loved one is struggling with tramadol addiction or the misuse of other opioid prescription drugs, it’s never too late to get help.
Nova Recovery Center provides comprehensive treatment for substance abuse problems with several different stages of care, including medical detox, residential rehab, IOP, and sober living. We are here to provide all the support you need as you transition from a life of addiction to sobriety. Call (512) 520-0255 today to speak with a member of our admissions team.
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