Tramadol Addiction – Is It Possible?

Tramadol is a synthetic drug made in the late 1970s by a German pharmaceutical company in the name of Grünenthal GmbH. It is used for several diseases and disorders that are known to cause moderate to severe pain. Even chronic pain shrieks when tramadol is taken in its extended release form. Its analgesic effect can be attributed from two different mechanisms.

As a synthetic drug, it was made to have an affinity to opioid receptors, making it a lot like the narcotics. However, since it is man-made, several points were adjusted by its developers to make it an arguably better drug. For starters, its agonistic effect on the opioid receptors is very selective to mu opioid receptors and that its affinity to these receptors is 6000 times weaker than its narcotic relatives. This is significantly lower but still enough to cause analgesia.

The activation of mu opioid receptors by an agonist like tramadol causes several effects, among them are sedation, slight reduction in blood pressure, euphoria, decreased respiratory rate, constriction of pupils (miosis), decreased motility of the intestines (leading to constipation), nausea, itching, and of course analgesia. Some of these effects, including euphoria, sedation and decreased respiratory rate tend to lessen as tolerance develops with long-term use. This is one of the reasons why tramadol addiction is unlikely.

Aside from its effects on the mu opioid receptors, tramadol also has effects on the pain regulating chemicals of the body. This drug inhibits the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine to the cells, thereby increasing the amount of these neurotransmitters in the blood. By doing so, as their classification suggests, neurotransmission is increased and analgesic effect is significantly enhanced. Since the drug’s affinity to mu opioid receptors is very weak (if it was intentionally made that way to prevent tramadol addiction is still unclear), it makes up for it by inhibiting serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake. These neurotransmitters are very useful in alleviating neuropathic pain.

Even with its easy acquisition, there has been no concrete evidence of tramadol addiction, although dependence may occur. Since the euphoric effects tend to subside after repetitive use, the side effects that recreational drug users get tend to overwhelm the high. With tolerance, the respiratory depression, increased heart rate and other dangerous alterations in the vital signs and cognition may have already appeared even before a sufficient high can occur. This can result to overdosing and produce fatal effects.

Using tramadol according to your doctor’s prescription lessens the chances of side effects, overdosing, early tolerance, and dependence. Tramadol addiction is medically unclear and theoretically unlikely so there should be no worry about it. It is a very effective drug if used responsibly but can also be health threatening if used beyond or without prescription.