Tramadol, which goes by the brand name Ultram, is an opioid painkiller that can provide relief to moderately severe pain within an hour. It is frequently prescribed to treat pain, and is comparatively safe, being as effective as morphine in spite of possessing a tenth of the potency.
However, when taken recreationally, outside the safety of medical supervision, it can become extremely dangerous.
Side effects of Tramadol
According to an FDA approved double blind study that administered the drug to 550 patients, ill effects such as dizziness, constipation, and anxiety increased over time. For example, in 7 days only 26 percent of patients experienced dizziness, and 7 percent experienced any rise in nervousness or anxiety.
However, within 90 days, these numbers rose up to 33 percent and 11 percent. One of the reasons behind rising levels of abuse was from the drug's strong physical dependence can become somewhat stronger then with other opioid painkillers, with very strong withdraw symptoms lasting as long as seven days.
A 2003 study out the Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago revealed that 40 percent of the drug's adverse effects came from withdraw, and these included side effects not normally associated with painkillers, including hallucinations and panic attacks. Thus, many people who originally used tramadol for a limited time to deal with moderate pain feel a strong urge to keep taking the drug again, this time apart from medical supervision.
Recreational use of Tramadol
The comparative safety of tramadol lead to a somewhat lax attitude among healthcare providers, but rates of abuse have increased over time. A 1999 study out of the Washington University School of Medicine revealed that every month, about 2 or 3 patients out of every 10,000 were abusing tramadol.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more then 3 million people have admitted to using tramadol for non-medical purposes. As the drug can sometimes be used to produce a heroin-like high, it is sometimes sold on a the street as "chill pills" or "ultras."
With 26 million prescriptions given in 2008, it is more highly available then OxyCotin, one of the most commonly abused perception drugs, and is sometimes peddled as a softer version. There are websites that illegally sell tramadol without any physician approval, often for prices far cheaper then any other illegal substance, showing a need for a higher degree of monitoring the use of this potentially dangerous substance.
Some teenagers in particular have taken advantage of tramadol's wider availability, even though the drug is not medically recommended for anyone under 18. In 2008, four junior high school students were taken to the hospital after overdosing on tramadol and becoming extremely nauseous.
Dangers Behind Addiction
As of August 18, 2014, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has placed tramadol in the category of a Schedule IV controlled substance, which restricts its use to medical treatment and prescription, acknowledging dangers of abuse it had not before. According to pharmacist Nadia Awad, inappropriate use of tramadol caused over 16,000 visits to the emergency room in 2010 alone.
The comparative safety of tramadol goes away at higher dosages, causing convulsions, in which muscles contract and relax repeatedly and involuntarily, making the body shake uncontrollably. Tramadol use can build up a high level of physical tolerance, as more of the drug is needed to produce its original effect, giving people unsurprised by a healthcare provider incentive to increase their dosage up to lethal levels.
This can lead to addictive behavior that can negatively impact day-to-day life, causing users to miss work or family responsibilities.