How is tramadol abused?

Tramadol abuse occurs anytime you take tramadol other than prescribed. Taking more tramadol than prescriibed, more often than prescribed, or in ways OTHER THAN prescribed is equal to tramadol abuse. More here with a section for your questions at the end.

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In general, tramadol is taken orally. If you take tramadol more often, in higher doses, or in ways other than prescribed…you are abusing tramadol. More here on how tramadol is abused, as well as a section at the end for your questions about tramadol use or getting tramadol addiction help. We try to answer all legitimate questions with a personal and prompt reply.

Can tramadol be abused?

Yes. Tramadol can be abused.

While many doctors consider tramadol to be a relatively safe opioid and prescribe it because of its low potential for abuse, abuse still occurs. Any alteration to the prescription directions (such as taking more tramadol, more often than prescribed) can lead to problems. In fact, when you abuse tramadol (ex. when you snort tramadol), you are at risk of adverse side effects of the medication and possibly addiction.  Misuse of opioids like tramadol is a one of the tramadol addiction signs.

How tramadol is abused

You abuse tramadol when you change the way you are supposed to take tramadol. In general, tramadol is taken orally. Ways of taking tramadol  that define tramadol abuse include:

  • chewing tramadol
  • injecting tramadol
  • smoking tramadol
  • snorting tramadol
  • taking tramadol in higher doses than prescribed
  • taking tramadol more often than prescribed
  • using tramadol with alcohol or other drugs

Tramadol is also commonly abused with other substances and is frequently mixed with alcohol. However, opioids like tramadol actually increase the effects of alcohol.

When you abuse tramadol, you are actually releasing the drug faster into the body with a stronger concentration. While this may allow you to experience a euphoric high or feel the effects of tramadol with greater intensity, you also increase the rate your body develops dependency. Your body can come to need tramadol in order to function. Over time, the body and mind crave the presence of the medication. Further, strong physical and psychological dependence on tramadol can make withdrawal painful.

Tramadol abuse side effects

When you abuse tramadol, you increase the potential for adverse side effects. Not only documented side effects … but other side effects that mimic withdrawal can also be present. The more you abuse tramadol, the more you open your body up to the risk of severe side effects. There is no regulating the amount of tramadol in the body when you abuse it and you can experience unforeseen complications. You could end up in the hospital or worse, you can overdose and die. Side effects of tramadol abuse could include:

  • agitation
  • confusion
  • difficulty breathing
  • delirium
  • diarrhea
  • hallucination
  • heart attack
  • loss of coordination
  • nervousness
  • seizures
  • slowed or stopped heart beat
  • tremors
  • trouble sleeping
  • vomiting

These are only some side effects you can experience. If you are mixing drugs, you can also increase the intensity of nervous system depressant effects or create a cocktail of counteractive effects in the brain.

Signs of tramadol abuse

It can be hard to notice the signs of tramadol abuse. Many times people have a prescription for tramadol and may be telling you that they are using it properly. Look out for a constant change in normal behavior. Maybe you notice that a tramadol prescription has run out faster than normal or somehow a person has created a store of the medication that you can’t account for. If you notice that a loved one is sleeping a lot or having of a slacked jawed demeanor about them all the time they could be abusing tramadol. Also the biggest tell is if they are snorting the medication or trying to alter the way in which they are taking the medication.

Tramadol abuse questions

Still have questions about tramadol abuse? Please leave your questions in the comments section below. We’ll do our best to respond to you quickly.

Reference Sources: Liver Tox: Tramadol
Medline Plus: Prescription Drug abuse
NCBI: Serotonin syndrome associated with sertraline, trazodone and tramadol abuse
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.


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  1. Hi I have been taking tramadol for 16 years now I take one in the morning when I get it to go to work and 12 o’clock noon while at work I want to stop but scared of the withdrawals

  2. Can I take half a pill, 50 mg, I just take half at a time. I brake them in half and don’t use more then one a day and not all the time. Thank you

  3. I was prescribed tramadol probably 5 years ago. It did not help my chronic pain or give me any kind of feeling. People abuse anything, huh? It wasn’t even considered an opiate when I was prescribed it. Did they change the formula? I don’t even like opiates but I know what they feel like.

  4. I’m in my 20th year on Ultram. It is prescribed for me as an off-label anti-depressant. I use it as directed and have no problems. Early on, a doctor took me off of it for 7 months. It was a nightmare getting through each day. My husband walked out on me. He hated me for being an “addict”. Luckily, Ultram was restored to me, and I now live a normal, peaceful life. Blood work every 6 months and constant monitoring by a doctor keep things in order.

  5. I just noticed this article was written in 2013. As a former opiate abuser I was given tramadol as a safe alternative to opiates. This was being given to me by MD’s who knew my history and given to me under this belief that it was quite a safe alternative up until April of 2015. Why did they not make this a controlled substance until then? At least in NC. It certainly appears everyone but me and the MD’s prescribing it must have known long before then. I’m just livid.

  6. My first attempt at posting a comment resulted in rejection because it appeared to be spam. I think because I mentioned too many names of drugs. So I will try this again, but it’s going to be much less informative. There is one form of tramadol abuse that I am aware of that isn’t mentioned anywhere. If you mix it together with a certain medication commonly used to treat ADD, the Combo of the 2 is one of the few things that actually eliminates acute morphine withdrawal. It’s effective e even if the person has a really bad problem. It just keeps them from getting sick, which is a big deal to someone who has that issue.

  7. Hi Janita. Tramadol is not usually prescribed for long-term use due to the undesirable effects that are experienced when this drug is used over a long period of time, including tolerance and physical dependence. Many Tramadol addicts begin taking it as prescribed and then take a larger dose on their own when the medication stops working.

    So, if someone truly needs tramadol and uses it as prescribed there is no problem. But, it can easily become a problem, since Tramadol works on the same receptors as opiate pain medications do.

  8. If one truely needs tramadol because of chronic pain and is using it as directed without abuse, what is the problem? Why should they not use it, or maybe reduce the amount if it is within physician guidelines and as directed.

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