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Also referred to as Tramadol, Ultram is typically a prescription for the treatment of chronic, severe, and moderate pain. According to the NIH (National Institute of Health), this drug is an opioid agonist ranked among other controlled substances because it can be addictive.
The drug acts like other opiates by slowing the patient's heart rate and depressing respiration to calm the body's pain receptors. However, if you abuse it, you may also feel elements of relaxation and euphoria along with pain relief.
In case you experience these effects after using your Ultram prescription, you may want to ask your doctor to start you on a tapering program. On the other hand, if you find you are abusing the drug and unable to quit, the best solution is to seek addiction treatment.
As an abuser, you might have difficulty stopping your abuse because Ultram is physically addictive. While trying to withdraw from the drug, therefore, you are highly likely to experience nervousness, heart palpations, increased pain, or other withdrawal symptoms.
Although some doctors consider this drug as having a relatively low potential for abuse and addiction, the withdrawal symptoms for those who try to quit are quite noticeable. In these cases, psychological cravings for the medication, abuse, and dependency are also likely.
For instance, a Journal of Family Practice 3-year study found that 28% of patients who receive Ultram prescriptions tend to become addicted to it. Further, the abuse of the drug is on the rise, with most users taking Ultram in excess to stimulate the euphoria resulting from using other stronger opiates.
Read on to learn more about Ultram addiction:
Ultram is the brand name for Tramadol, an opioid painkiller/analgesic. Doctors prescribe it for the treatment of moderate to severe pain and many consider it safer than other narcotic painkillers like methadone and hydrocodone (Lortab, Vicodin).
Other medications that contain tramadol include Ultracet (a combination of acetaminophen/Tylenol and tramadol) and Ultram ER (an extended release formula for around the clock pain relief).
Initially, Ultram was considered safer than such opioid analgesics as hydrocodone and morphine. In 1995 the U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved it for everyday use going so far as recommending that the government does not classify it as a controlled substance.
Mounting evidence of frequent abuse, dependence, and addiction in the general populace, however, added to severe withdrawal symptoms caused the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) to publish revised rules. In 2014, this body made Ultram a federally-controlled Schedule IV drug.
Doctors have a wide variety of prescription medications to choose from for the treatment of pain. Among these drugs are narcotics and opiates with similar effects depending on the choice the doctors pick.
However, Ultram has long been considered relatively safe and efficient for the treatment of moderate, chronic, and severe pain. It is also used in dealing with other health issues.
Even though this drug generates narcotic-like pain relief, it is still an opiate. More specifically, this centrally acting analgesic has opioid agonist properties. The oral medications come in the form of pills, capsules, and tablets (the most common system of administration). However, it is also available for intravenous, rectal, and intramuscular administration.
As we mentioned, the effects of Ultram are similar to those generated by narcotics, which is why the drug is commonly compared to hydrocodone and morphine. It has also been proved that this medication is equivalent in potency to Meperidine. Further, it is about 1/5 as potent as nalbuphine.
When administered through IV at doses of between 50 and 150 mg, the drug generates an analgesic efficacy that is equal to that of a post-surgical administration of morphine. Via epidural, however, this potency is just 1/30th. Among all these systems of administration, oral delivery is the most effective.
Ultram is beneficial in the sense that it works both long and short-term. Similarly, most people (of every age) find it tolerable, and there are different systems of delivery. Further, Ultram is considered a non-narcotic, therefore the Federal Government does not need to regulate or monitor it.
When you take the pill form, your liver will metabolize the substance in various chemicals such as O-desmethyltramadol, which might prove more potent than Ultram. On the other hand, if you take high oral doses, you might experience euphoric effects quite similar to Oxycontin (oxycodone), another opiate medication with a high potential for abuse.
When used in the short term, Ultram produces various effects that you may enjoy and eventually get used to. With time, you could find yourself abusing the drug to simulate the effects listed below:
However, the drug also causes other undesirable effects. These include but are not limited to:
You may also experience the following adverse effects:
Other adverse effects that the drug causes include:
In some abusers, the drug might elicit Serotonin Syndrome, which is a drug reaction. This is because Ultram increases the activity of serotonin (a neurotransmitter), which can lead to such unpleasant effects as:
Apart from its usual effects, the active tramadol ingredient in Ultram could cause some side effects, some of which require immediate medical attention. Check in with your doctor immediately you experience any of the following effects after taking Ultram:
For a vast majority, Ultram is quite useful over the first 6 months of use. At this point, however, the drug's efficacy levels might start tapering off, and that is how the potential for addiction starts setting in.
There is a broad misconception that Ultram is non-addictive because it is considered a non-narcotic medication. However, even though the potential for addiction is smaller compared to other pain relievers, the truth is that anyone can misuse and abuse any drug. This is why it is so important that you learn the facts before you start taking your prescription.
The longer you use Ultram, to this end, the higher your risk of addiction and dependence. Since it is a synthetic opioid (opiate), it generates effects that are similar to hydrocodone and morphine.
By so doing, it binds to the brain's pain receptors. In turn, this will block the pain signals sent through the reflex sympathetic and central nervous systems. However, this effectiveness might soon wane.
To compensate, you could start increasing your dosage instead of getting your doctor to prescribe another drug. This means that Ultram is likely to serve as the gateway through which you start using narcotics and other hard opiates.
Where possible, ask your doctor to use caution while prescribing Ultram if you match any of the profiles listed below:
As a habitual user, you may become tolerant to the drug and feel the need to increase the frequency or amount of the doses you use to achieve the effects you desire. This, with time, may increase your risk of suffering an accidental overdose.
In some cases, you may miss the symptoms of addiction. However, abusing the drug is quite dangerous and can even prove to be life-threatening. Therefore, you should learn to recognize the basic signs of an Ultram overdose. These signs include but are not limited to:
Physical addiction to Ultram is accompanied by withdrawal symptoms when you abruptly stop using the drug. In some cases, you might not even realize that you are addicted until after your prescription runs out and you start experiencing these symptoms:
When doctors deal with these withdrawal symptoms, they may classify you as high risk due to your overall health, age, and underlying medical conditions. As a high-risk patient, the best solution is to undergo medical detoxification where the doctors will use supplemental drugs to minimize these adverse withdrawal symptoms.
Even if you use Ultram correctly according to your doctor's prescription, you can still suffer severe reactions, including dizziness and nausea. However, abusing the drug can make it even more dangerous and may increase your risk of overdose and other severe effects. Further, combining this drug with other substances (in what doctors call polydrug use) also increases the risk of suffering severe and (sometimes) fatal effects.
SAMHSA (the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) reports that between 2005 and 2011, the number of visits to emergency departments involving Ultram misuse or abuse increased by close to 250 percent. This figure shows just how dangerous the drug is.
When you take higher doses or combine it with another substance, Ultram is even more dangerous. As mentioned above, abusing this medication might also cause serotonin syndrome, which is sometimes life-threatening if you do not get it treated. This condition will occur when Ultram releases serotonin (a chemical used to relay brain signals) in excess and the chemical remains lodged inside the brain. Serotonin syndrome mostly affects patients who combine antidepressants with tramadol.
If you notice the following signs and symptoms of Ultram use, abuse, tolerance, dependence, and addiction, seek medical attention:
If you are addicted to Ultram, the best solution is to get medical attention. In the process, you will undergo detox to get rid of the drug from your system, before checking into rehab (inpatient or outpatient) for therapy. With time, you should kick the habit and return to normalcy.
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