Green and yellow Tramadol capsule.

Tramadol is a weak opioid that doctors may prescribe for moderate or moderately severe pain. It comes as a tablet that needs to be taken every 4-6 hours, or as an extended-release capsule that lasts for 24 hours. Brand names for tramadol include Conzip, Rybix, Ryzolt, and Ultram. Doctors typically recommend that tramadol be taken only for short-term pain-needs. For most people, it’s not helpful to use tramadol for longer than three months.

Some people will experience withdrawal symptoms once they stop taking tramadol. Doctors often gradually decrease a person’s dose over time in order to help prevent or reduce tramadol withdrawal. People who want to stop taking tramadol should talk to a doctor first in order to get recommendations on the best way to stop using this drug.

What is Tramadol Withdrawal?

When a person becomes dependent on a drug, their body becomes accustomed to its presence and they will have withdrawal symptoms when they stop using it.

While tramadol is not as strong as some other opioids, it can still cause dependence and addiction. People who use the drug frequently are more likely to become dependent and experience tramadol withdrawal once they try to stop using it. A person who experiences withdrawal symptoms when they miss a dose will need to go through a period of detox, where the drug is flushed out of their system. If someone quits tramadol cold turkey, they may have more severe symptoms. On the other hand, people who wean themselves off of tramadol may have fewer, milder side effects.

Tramadol Withdrawal Symptoms

Most opioid medications work through similar pathways: they bind to opioid receptors in the brain and change the way that people perceive and respond to pain. Some studies have shown that common tramadol withdrawal symptoms mimic withdrawal symptoms from other opioid drugs. People may have symptoms like:

  • Feeling restless, agitated or anxious
  • Runny nose or sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Sweating or chills
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle pain
  • Muscle twitching or movement that can’t be controlled
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet

Additionally, if a person first started taking tramadol for pain relief, their pain may return once they stop using the drug. They may be able to work with their doctors to find alternate non-addictive solutions for pain management.

Tramadol is different from most other opioids in that it also binds to additional brain receptors that control levels of the brain chemicals serotonin and noradrenaline. Because of this, tramadol may have effects similar to serotonin-specific reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), medications that are used to treat anxiety and depression. Tramadol withdrawal symptoms are sometimes similar to withdrawal side effects from these SSRIs, which may include:

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Drowsiness and insomnia
  • Dizziness and balance problems
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Mental health symptoms such as irritability, anxiety or depression

Symptoms may be slightly different from person to person, so someone going through tramadol withdrawal should regularly check in with their doctor about their progress.

Dangerous Tramadol Withdrawal Side Effects

Some people who withdraw from tramadol experience side effects that are more unusual. These may include mental health symptoms like panic attacks, severe anxiety, and hallucinations. People who are having very painful or uncomfortable symptoms should talk to a doctor for help with withdrawal. Those who are experiencing powerful cravings may also need medical help in order to avoid relapse.

One of the biggest dangers that someone may face during or after withdrawal is an overdose. Once someone goes through detox, their tolerance will rapidly decrease. This means that they will need much less of a drug in order to feel the same effects, so relapses are very risky. The majority of opioid overdose deaths happen to people who have recently gone through withdrawal.

While going through an addiction treatment program can help someone avoid returning to drug use, relapses do happen. If someone does go back to using tramadol after they have detoxed, they should take a much smaller dose than they had previously been taking, in order to decrease the chances that they’ll have a dangerous overdose.

How Long Does Tramadol Withdrawal Last?

Withdrawal starts as the drug leaves a person’s body. Regular tramadol tablets last between four and six hours, so a person may start having withdrawal symptoms several hours after they take their last tablet. Extended-release pills, which may include the letters “ER” in the name, last for 24 hours, so people taking these tablets may have withdrawal symptoms that appear later. Tramadol is a short-acting opioid, so withdrawal symptoms will usually begin within 24 hours.

How long does tramadol withdrawal last? Withdrawal from short-acting opioids usually continues for 4-10 days in people who suddenly stop using the drug.

Tramadol withdrawal may be longer or more severe for people who have abused drugs or alcohol in the past, or who have family members who have struggled with substance misuse. Additionally, people with mental health disorders such as depression are more likely to abuse tramadol and may have problems with dependence or addiction. A person’s age, physical health, mental health and genetics may also play a role in how drug use or withdrawal affects their body.

Tramadol Detox

Detox is the process of a drug leaving the body. Tramadol detox can sometimes be managed at home, but anyone who has severe symptoms or cravings may need to go through withdrawal at a medical facility where they can be monitored. This is also the case for people who have been combining tramadol with other drugs or alcohol. If someone wants to detox from multiple substances at once, they may need more medical supervision in order to make sure that nothing goes wrong.

During the detox process, people may be able to receive treatment for their tramadol withdrawal symptoms. Doctors may prescribe medications to help with pain or insomnia. People undergoing detox should also drink lots of fluids because going through opioid withdrawal often causes dehydration. Additionally, people detoxing from opioids may be able to go through medical detox, where specific medications are prescribed to help treat withdrawal and cravings. Tramadol withdrawal symptoms are sometimes treated with buprenorphine-naloxone.

Doctors often advise that people slowly wean off tramadol. Quitting tramadol cold turkey generally leads to more side effects. It also leads to more severe cravings, so people who are trying to stop using tramadol may have a higher chance of being successful if they gradually decrease their dose over time. Those who want to stop using tramadol should talk to a medical provider in order to get help with coming up with a dose reduction schedule.

Detox is only the first step in the recovery process. Many people return to drug use after going through opioid withdrawal. In order to create lasting change, a person needs to examine their behaviors, thought patterns, coping mechanisms and habits and work towards developing healthier life skills. This can be accomplished through rehab, therapy, 12-step programs, and peer support groups. If someone wants to stop using tramadol and they think that they may struggle with relapse, they should put a plan in place before they start detoxing. People can talk to their healthcare provider or an addiction treatment center to learn more about solutions that can help them stay sober.

If you are worried about tramadol withdrawal symptoms and would like to learn more about potential treatment options, call Orlando Recovery Center. We offer around-the-clock medical detox programs that can help people safely withdraw from opiates, as well as rehab and therapy programs to help people continue their recovery.

Sources:

Gowing, Linda; Ali, Robert; White, Jason M.; Mbewe, Dalitso. “Buprenorphine for managing opioid withdrawal.” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, February 2017. Accessed November 9, 2019.

Henssler, Jonathan; Heinz, Andreas; Brandt, Lasse; Bschor, Tom. “Antidepressant Withdrawal and Rebound Phenomena.” Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, May 2019. Accessed November 9, 2019.

MedlinePlus. “Opiate and opioid withdrawal.” May 5, 2018. Accessed November 9, 2019.

MedlinePlus. “Tramadol.” January 15, 2019. Accessed November 9, 2019.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What classes of prescription drugs are commonly misused?” Misuse of Prescription Drugs, December 2018. Accessed November 9, 2019.

World Health Organization. “Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence in Closed Settings.” 2009. Accessed November 9, 2019.

World Health Organization. “Tramadol: Update Review Report.” Expert Committee on Drug Dependence, June 2014. Accessed November 9, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer: Orlando Recovery Center 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.