Tramadol Abuse: Here’s What You Need to Know


What has become a street drug today started out as a legitimate prescription for pain relief, and some individuals continued to use the drug beyond its medical necessity. A prescription drug that is routinely used to manage moderate to severe pain is now suffering increasingly dangerous rates of misuse by the youth, much to the detriment of their health.


Why and How the Abuse?

A person will abuse tramadol to achieve the following effects: euphoria, mellowness, sense of well-being, lack of inhibition etc. Even with attempts to centralize the use of tramadol by the implementation of laws, it is still a widely-used recreational drug. Some men have confessed it makes quite a good ‘aphrodisiac’ for them.

Abusers take extra doses of the medication by either chewing, injecting,  smoking, snorting, swallowing extra pills, or taking in combination with alcohol and other drugs. It is known to increase the effects of alcohol.

Of the illicit use, it is interesting to be reported that many farmers in northern Cameroon say they give tramadol to their cattle to help them work harder.

Those seeking tramadol may invent (or fake) symptoms to get a prescription for the drug or “shop” different doctors until they find one who will prescribe them the drug.


Is Tramadol Addictive?

Physiologically, abuse of tramadol implies releasing the drug faster into the blood in a stronger concentration. Whiles this allows a quick surge of euphoria, it increases the body’s rate of dependency.

Like any other abuse, addiction to tramadol is a dire reality.

Abusers who continue to take tramadol long enough and at high doses will eventually develop a physical dependence on the drug and experience unpleasant, or even dangerous symptoms of withdrawal if they stop taking the medication.

A person may start using tramadol for pain relief of any sort or degree. They may then progress to overusing it, when tolerance has developed. Once a person reaches this stage, they need more of the drug to get the same pain relief. A doctor may increase a dosage a time or two and then may be worried about complications of any further increases and refuse. A person who has become addicted to tramadol may be so dependent on the drug to relieve pain that, he (or she) will start obtaining the drug from illicit sources, just to be able to function.

This path has led many people down the road to addiction. Even when use starts out with a necessary prescription for the drug, it can stretch beyond an individual’s ability to control it, thus continuing on to addiction, regardless.


What are the Side Effects?

The following unintended, undesirable effects may show up:

  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Sleepiness
  • Insomnia
  • Headache
  • Shaking
  • Heartburn
  • Panic attacks
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Itching
  • Sweating
  • Dry mouth

Some people can experience seizures, hives, hallucinations, swelling of the face and throat and difficulty swallowing or breathing.


Signs of tramadol overdose include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Weak pulse
  • Bluish tinge to fingernails or lips
  • Slow blood pressure
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Difficulties staying awake or loss of consciousness
  • Lack of muscle control


The Way Forward:

The Food and Drugs Authority needs to flag it as a controlled drug, consequently tightening access and use. In the long run, there will be restricted use and access as it will be held under strict governmental control.

There is also the need to carry out swoops in unlicensed shops and drug dealers.



Patrick Fynn

([email protected])



The writer is a medical practitioner, and founder of StandOut Care (a public health screening outfit).

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