What are Tramadol Side Effects?

Last Updated: November 1, 2023

Tramadol, a synthetic opioid medication, helps patients manage pain. However, it also carries risks for painful side effects as well as addiction and dependence.

Tramadol is a synthetic opioid medication used to treat mild to moderate pain. Brand names of this drug include Ultram, Ultram ER, Ryzolt, Rybix ODT and ConZip. It is important to be aware that there are side effects associated with this drug that range from mild to severe, including long-term effects.

In 2014, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) designated tramadol a Schedule IV controlled substance, meaning it has the potential for abuse and dependence. This can lead to addiction, and if someone is abusing this drug, stopping it or reducing the dose can lead to dangerous and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

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Immediate Effects of Tramadol

When someone uses tramadol, it crosses the blood–brain barrier and activates opioid receptors, changing how someone senses pain. Tramadol, like other opioids, doesn’t alleviate the pain, but it prevents a person from feeling it the way they did before taking the medication.

Tramadol slows the central nervous system, and many of the immediate effects of tramadol use reflect this depressant effect. Common tramadol effects that can occur immediately or after short-term use include:

  • Constipation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Feeling sad or empty
  • Feeling cold
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Itchy skin or rash
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
  • Weakness
  • Muscle aches
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Difficulty concentrating

Does Tramadol Get You High?

Like other opioids, tramadol binds to opioid receptors in the central nervous system, producing relaxation. However, unlike other opioids, tramadol also prevents the reuptake of two chemicals in the brain, norepinephrine and serotonin. This may contribute to feelings of happiness and positivity.

Some people can experience euphoria when they use tramadol, especially in large doses. The “high” associated with tramadol may be described as a state of intense excitement and happiness. During a study done in 2020, participants described feelings of deep happiness, excitement and alertness when taking tramadol. Others felt a sense of hopefulness and belonging.

Long-Term Side Effects of Tramadol Use

Two serious, long-term side effects of tramadol use are addiction and dependence. Tramadol addiction is a disorder that occurs when someone continues to use a substance despite negative consequences. The more someone uses tramadol or the higher the dose they use, the more likely an addiction is to form.

Dependence occurs as the brain adjusts to the presence of tramadol. Neurotransmitter functionality alters in response to tramadol’s effects. When this happens, if someone stops using tramadol, they are likely to experience uncomfortable and potentially fatal withdrawal symptoms.

Other possible long-term side effects of tramadol include:

  • Respiratory depression
  • Sleep disorders
  • Organ damage
    • Heart
    • Kidney
    • Liver
  • Neurological disorders
    • Alzheimer’s disease
    • Parkinson’s disease
    • Seizures
    • Serotonin syndrome

Tramadol can also cause an overdose. Contact 911 immediately for emergency services if you suspect a tramadol overdose. If you have access to naloxone, administer that immediately. Narcan is the nasal spray form of naloxone, and Zimhi is a prefilled syringe that can be injected.

Tramadol Side Effects in Men

There is the potential for opioids to cause sexual dysfunction in men when someone uses tramadol or other opioids for long periods of time.

Ongoing tramadol use can cause adrenal insufficiency, meaning it impedes a person’s ability to make enough of certain hormones. Testosterone can especially be affected.

Long-term tramadol side effects in men can include loss of libido and sexual enjoyment, as well as the inability to achieve an erection.

Tramadol Side Effects in Women

Tramadol side effects in women include problems with sexual health as well. Women who use tramadol, particularly when used long term, may experience a lack of sexual desire or decreased libido.

Long-term opioid use can also affect fertility. Using opioids, like tramadol, has been found to lower the chances of for a female to conceive, and there is a greater chance of miscarriage if a woman is already pregnant.

Mixing Tramadol and Alcohol

Mixing alcohol with tramadol is a dangerous combination. Like tramadol, alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. Consuming alcohol while taking tramadol causes extreme sedation and slowed breathing. This can lead to coma and death.

Tramadol Withdrawal Symptoms

If you are using tramadol, stopping the medication abruptly or even reducing the dose can generate painful and dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Tramadol needs to be tapered gradually. The best way to do this is under the direct supervision of medical professionals. Withdrawal symptoms that may occur from tramadol include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Tremors
  • Restlessness
  • Sweating
  • Pain
  • Inability to sleep
  • Drug craving
  • Anxiety
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Confusion

Are You or a Loved One Addicted to Tramadol?

Dealing with an addiction is difficult, but it is important you know there are places that can help and medical professionals who understand the nature of Tramadol addiction.

If you or a loved one live with tramadol addiction, contact The Recovery Village to speak to a representative who can help get you started on the path to recovery. Don’t put your future on hold; you deserve a healthier tomorrow. Contact us today.

Sources

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Kitamura, Atsushi, et al. “Transport Characteristics of Tramadol in[…]rain Barrier.” Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, October 2014. Accessed October 14, 2022.

Drugs.com. “Tramadol Side Effects”>.” February 1, 2022. Accessed October 14, 2022.

Peprah, Prince, et al. “‘With Tramadol, I Ride Like a Jaguar’: […]Kumasi, Ghana.” Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, July 23, 2020. Accessed October 14, 2022.

Raj, Khadga; Chawla, Pooja; & Singh, Shamsher. “Neurobehavioral Consequences Associated […]al Mechanisms.” CNS & Neurological Disorders – Drug Targets, 2019. Accessed October 14, 2022.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Naloxone Drug Facts”>.” January 11, 2022. Accessed October 14, 2022.

Railton, David. “Sexual Dysfunction and Long-Term Opioid […]rm Opioid Use.” MedicalNewsToday, January 22, 2019. Accessed October 14, 2022.

National Institutes of Health. “NIH Study Suggests Opioid Use Linked to […]f Conception.” August 18, 2020. Accessed October 14, 2022.

Drugs.com. “How Long Does Tramadol Withdrawal Last?”[…]hdrawal Last?” November 3, 2020. Accessed October 14, 2022.

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