What is tramadol? Tramadol, like other opiates, stimulates brain opioid receptors but it also increases brain serotonin levels. It is a medicine used to treat moderate to severe pain. It is only available with a prescription from your doctor. Other opiates include codeine, methadone and heroin.
Although tramadol is not as strong as heroin, it shares many of the same effects and both are addictive.
- Produce feelings of warmth and well-being, relaxation and sleepiness.
- Cause fatigue, drowsiness, loss of appetite, nausea and retching, diarrhoea, and dizziness or fainting.
- Worsen side-effects and risks when used with certain antidepressants that tend to increase serotonin levels.
See also opiate/opioid painkillers
What does tramadol look like?
Tramadol is usually available as white pills, tablets or coloured capsules, although liquid forms are produced.
How is tramadol taken?
Tramadol is normally swallowed, but some people crush up the tablets and snort them. ‘Street’ tramadol costs between £1 - £2.50 per pill/tablet/capsule.
What are the effects of tramadol?
Tramadol is an opiate. Although it is weaker than heroin and methadone, it still causes all the typical opiate effects, alongside some effects due to increases in serotonin activity. The effects include:
- Feelings of warmth and well-being, relaxation and sleepiness.
- Typical opiate effects of fatigue, drowsiness, nausea and retching, constipation and sometimes confusion.
- Less often, diarrhoea, dizziness or fainting, excessive sweating, itching, raised blood pressure, tightness in the airways, muscle weakness, sensory disturbances, hallucinations, fits and blood disorders.
What are the risks?
Although tramadol is not as potent as the strongest opiates like heroin, it still acts as an opiate, and also has additional risks due to its actions on serotonin levels:
- If you have epilepsy or are taking certain antidepressants you should definitely only take tramadol with clear medical advice because of the known risks.
- Tramadol can depress breathing and may be risky in asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
- Tramadol use has been linked with ‘serotonin syndrome’. This is a potentially life threatening condition where the serotonin receptors are over stimulated, which can lead to high fever, rapid pulse, shivering, sweating, trembling, muscle twitches and agitation and confusion.
- Pregnant women should not use tramadol as it can be toxic to the developing foetus.
Tramadol and alcohol
Mixing tramadol with alcohol can have serious consequences – an overdose is more likely and this can lead to a coma or respiratory failure and death.
Only tramadol tablets that were dispensed from a pharmacy directly to you are reliably pure and have the strength indicated. It is important to think quite hard about any ‘medications’ you take from an uncertain source.
Can you get addicted to Tramadol?
Tramadol is addictive.
Over time, using tramadol produces 'cravings' and a psychological desire to keep on using.
Tolerance can also build, so that users have to take more just to get the same effects or to avoid an unpleasant withdrawal.
Withdrawal symptoms include nervous tremors, anxiety, yawning, sweating, runny nose, sleep disturbance, nausea, diarrhoea, goosebumps, restlessness, abdominal cramps and muscle spasms.
Tramadol and the law
Tramadol is a class C drug and is only available with a prescription from a doctor or other healthcare professional that is qualified to prescribe. As a class C drug, it is illegal for anyone else to supply tramadol, to have it or to give it away, even to friends.
What if you're caught?
If the Police arrest you in possession of tramadol unlawfully, they'll always take some action. This could be a formal caution or arrest and possible conviction.
Having tramadol that is not prescribed for you for your own use (called illegal possession) could result in up to two years in prison and/or an unlimited fine. While selling or giving tramadol away for free, even to friends (called supplying) could result in up to fourteen years in prison and/or an nlimited fine.
A conviction for a drug-related offence could have a serious impact. It could make it harder, even impossible, to visit certain Countries- for example the United States - and limit the types of jobs you can apply for.
Did you know?
- Allowing other people to use tramadol, or any other drug, in your house or any other premises is illeagl. If the police arrest someone using tramadol in a club they can prosecute the landlord, club owner or person holding the party.
- Like drinking and driving, driving when high is illegal - and you can still be unfit to drive the day after using tramadol. You can get a heavy fine, be disqualified from driving or even go to prison.