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Ultram / Tramadol

An analysis by the Journal Sentinel and MedPage Today revealed that tramadol use has increased dramatically since 2008, rising from 25 million prescriptions that year to nearly 40 million in 2012, according to data from IMS Health, a market research firm.

In 2011, the drug was linked to 20,000 emergency department visits around the country.

In 2011, 2.6 million people ages 12 and older used tramadol for nonmedical purposes, according to the DEA. The DEA said the drug is most commonly abused by addicts, chronic pain patients, and health professionals.

The most common adverse effects of tramadol use include nausea, dizziness, dry mouth, indigestion, abdominal pain, vertigo, vomiting, constipation, drowsiness and headache.

Long-term use of high doses of tramadol will cause physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms are typical of opiate withdrawal including:

  • numbness
  • tingling
  • paresthesia
  • tinnitus
  • hallucinations
  • paranoia
  • extreme anxiety
  • panic attacks
  • confusion

Tramadol withdrawal lasts longer than that of other opioids; seven days or more of acute withdrawal symptoms can occur as opposed to typically three or four days for others.

Because of the possibility of convulsions at high doses for some users, recreational use can be very dangerous.

Drug Interactions

Tramadol can impair thinking and the physical abilities required for driving or operating machinery. Tramadol should be avoided in patients intoxicated with alcohol, hypnotics, and narcotics. Large doses of tramadol administered with alcohol or anesthetic agents can impair breathing. Tramadol can increase the risk of seizure in epileptic patients, especially with simultaneous use of tricyclic antidepressants, such as Elavil. Tramadol should be avoided in patients with a history of opiate addiction or hypersensitivity to opiate medications.