Is Tramadol addictive?

YES. Tramadol is addictive, even when Tramadol is prescribed by a doctor. We review what Tramadol is made of, and how you get addicted to Tramadol here.

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minute read

YES. Tramadol is addictive.

What exactly makes Tramadol addictive? How can you tell if you’re addicted to tramadol? We’ll review these questions here. Plus, we invite your questions about the addictive potential of Tramadol at the end.

What is Tramadol used for?

Tramadol hydrochloride is indicated for the management of moderate to severe pain. Tramadol comes in tablet form and is an opioid agonist medication. When taken as prescribed by a doctor, Tramadol offers pain relief as needed. However, when people snort Tramadol or take Tramadol to try to achieve a euphoric high, or used long-term to control pain, Tramadol can become addictive.

What is Tramadol made of?

Tramadol is an opium-derived synthetic substance. It’s not a true opiate, which occur in nature. Instead, Tramadol is created in a lab setting and is called an “opioid” because it has the same mechanism of action as opiates on the brain and central nervous system.  How long Tramadol in system for metabolism is a half life of about 6 hours and Tramadol clears the body in roughly 1-2 days after use.

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How addictive is Tramadol?

Tramadol is fairly addictive when compared with other prescription medications, but becomes more addictive when you take Tramadol to get high. In fact, Tramadol has a similar abuse liability to other opiate and opioid pain medications – which is ironic, because it is sometimes used to treat the withdrawal symptoms of other, harsher opiate pain medications. Tramadol is not, however, a controlled substance. This is because it’s not perceived as being “as addictive” as many similar medications. It simply doesn’t work as well to create a high as other opioid medications. But how does Tramadol addiction occur?

Tramadol affects the central nervous system and can create feelings of euphoria, or “getting high.” But Tramadol isn’t just addictive because of its chemical properties. There are social factors at work as in the environment of a potential Tramadol addict, as well. Although Tramadol doesn’t seem to cause addiction as easily as other analgesic opiates, Tramadol can be more addictive for people who have a history of drug and alcohol abuse.

Tramadol dependence vs. addiction

There is a difference between Tramadol dependence and Tramadol addiction. It’s a subtle distinction, but an important one. You can become physically dependent on Tramadol when using it for medical purposes, whether or not you abuse it. A physical dependence on Tramadol is a tolerance to the medication, requiring increased doses to achieve the same level of pain relief over time. Physical dependence also means that Tramadol withdrawal symptoms manifest when attempting to lower the dosage or quit taking Tramadol.

Likewise, drug addiction can involve tolerance and withdrawal effects. The difference is that a Tramadol addict will experience strong cravings for the drug, and compulsively use the drug despite negative consequences. In addition to the physical symptoms of dependence, a Tramadol addict experiences mental/psychological characteristics of drug need.

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How do you get addicted to Tramadol?

If you take Tramadol for pain with a doctor’s prescription how do you know you’re not becoming addicted? If you’re taking Tramadol as directed by your doctor, drug addiction to Tramadol is unlikely. In general, you can get addicted to Tramadol if you take it in a manner other than normally prescribed. While normal medical use can cause addiction to Tramadol, it’s less likely.

But if you’ve started trying to achieve a high off your medication by taking larger doses than directed, you’re much more likely to become addicted to Tramadol. And you’re at a higher risk of Tramadol addiction if you’ve been addicted to other drugs or alcohol in the past. If you choose to abuse Tramadol, it’s possible you’ll become addicted. Some ways that people misuse and abuse Tramadol are:

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  • crushing Tramadol into a powder and snorting Tramadol
  • crushing Tramadol to dissolve in water and inject intravenously
  • taking Tramadol in higher doses than prescribed
  • taking Tramadol more frequently than prescribed

Signs of Tramadol addiction

Signs of Tramadol addiction include physical dependence on Tramadol, coupled with a psychological craving for the drug. Furthermore, you may be addicted to Tramadol if you need Tramadol to deal with stress or cope with the world around you. Other signs of Tramadol addiction include:

  1. Continued Tramadol abuse despite negative consequences
  2. Craving Tramadol and using it compulsively
  3. Seeking Tramadol in order to stimulate the “reward center” of the brain

Tramadol addiction potential questions

Do you still have questions about Tramadol addiction potential? Please leave them here. We are happy to help answer your questions about Tramadol or other opiate and opioid medications personally and promptly. If we do not know the answer to your particular question, we will refer you to someone who does.

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Reference sources: DailyMed: Tramadol hydrochloride and acetaminophen
PubMed: A comparison of the abuse liability of tramadol, NSAIDs, and hydrocodone in patients with chronic pain
PubMed: Drug dependence and abuse potential of tramadol
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. I am 4 months off of oxy. The Tramadol I quit a week ago. It has been a hard road to walk down. I have been told it takes 6 months to get oxy out of your system. The pharmacy told me of a rub on ointment for pain, he thought might help chronic pain . Today was the first day of the ointment. Does seem to help with the pain, but does not last along as the pills. So we will see. Anything is better than addiction. I use to have a high respect for doctors not so any more.

  2. My urologist prescribed tramadol for a chronic bladder inflammation. She told me it was not addictive. I have been taking only one a day, as I have other natural remedies. I’ve been taking it for about 2 months. I’m scared that I’ll get addicted.

    1. Hi Mona. Tramadol can build up a tolerance to opioids that may lead to addiction. Take a look into Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5) here: https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/practice/dsm
      This manual lists 11 criteria for diagnosing addictive behavior, and it will help you identify whether you have a substance abuse problem.

  3. Is there any pain killers for fibromyalgia and artristis that you donot get hooked on. I am trying to get off oxy and I asked the clinic for a non opoid for pain and they gave me tramadol. At one time the doctor had me on 120 mg of o day. I am down to 15 mg a day, but still need a pain killer. Any ideas?????

  4. Manford we have the same problem, I have being taking tramadol 4 5year,& now I can’t stop,any day I don’t take it I feel I’ll & wick,wen I take it I feel normal & okay. Hw can I stop taking tramadol I need help pls..

  5. I have been prescribed 200 mg of SR Tramadol twice per day, and taking it, for the past 14 years.
    I started taking it after having a bilateral Total knee replacement, but have developed other painful physical problems since.
    No one told me, and I had absolutely no idea that taking it long term could / would lead to a physical dependence on the drug. I have tried to gradually reduce the dose a couple of times, and (rarely) I sometimes forget to take it at night.. If I forget to take it, some hours later I start to feel really ‘weird’ – difficult to describe, but it is a very unpleasant feeling only put right by taking the dose I forgot some hours previously.
    I don’t like the idea of being dependent on anything, and would like to be free from it.
    I would welcome any suggestions on how to reduce my dependence on this drug.
    Thank you.

  6. I take 1/2 to 1 tramodal a day for degenerative disc disorder . Can I get addicted, I am 70 years old . I read so much about everyone’s opinion and it worries me

  7. I’m trying to reduce intake: down from 3Xday (50 MG. Each) to 1X day. Experiencing some pain. Can I continue to discontinue? I have IDIOpathic Neuropathy & also take Lyrica 150 MG. 3Xday?

  8. I”‘ve been prescribed for the last 2 & a half yrs
    Have many medical conditions includinga a total hip replacement. My Dr. decided not to prescribe pain meds for all his patients. Now they want to. put me on Syboxone.. which is a better choice? Had tramadol. For awhile b4 w/ little relief. Was takeing 50 mg. Prior to that have bee. On Vicodin ,davon compound 65. (Together)….percocet….over 30 yrs. What dosages does tramado ccome in.

  9. Tramadol does not seem to be working for my pain, but I just began using it today ,. How much time should I give it? I don’t want to become addicted to it so I want to stop if it’s not working

  10. if you have been taking tramadol for two years at one tab a day just for body aches, is this a sign of addiction? Also if you have mood swings, relationship paranoia, irritable, tied are these symptoms

  11. I have been taking about 15 Tramadol faithfully Every Day for 15-20 years that is prescribed by my doctor and now he wants to cut me off cold turkey. Can he do this? I am scared.

    1. Hi Amy. No, that is not safe or recommended and the withdrawal you’d experience can be dangerous. After so many years you should be carefully tapered and be monitored by medical professionals during the detox and withdrawal process.

  12. Hi Johanna. It’s smart that you are researching before starting the medication. Tramadol is definitely one of those medications you should be careful with.

  13. I’m worried about starting to take Tramadol. I was prescribed it after asking for something in between over-the-counter and Norco. Is this true? It seems like after reading this tramadol could me more addictive or make me dependent on it than Norco?

  14. I agree with you completely, Judie. Many people get physically depenent on Tramadol without even being aware of it. Most Tramadol users, just like your daughter, use it as recommended by their doctor. I say the answer is research before starting a medication. Since doctors won’t give pepole all the needed information, we have to find out ourselves.

  15. My daughter was recently prescribed Tramadol. She has Crohn’s Disease and rheumatoid arthritis. The tablets carried a direction to take 1-6 tablets a day, ‘if required’. So, not many weeks after she started, she stopped taking them because her pain level was manageable without them. She began to feel very ill within a few days of stopping. She had flu-like symptoms, was agitated and couldn’t sleep and was over-emotional. The realisation that this could be connected to stopping the Tramadol lead her to phone her GP today. She is heart-broken to find that she is suffering from withdrawal. I don’t understand why she was directed to take this controlled drug ‘if required’. Surely this cannot be right, given that ceasing to take them can have such awful consequences?

  16. Hello Manford. Developing physical dependence on an opioid drug like tramadol is very difficult to overcome. We agree! This is why we believe that doctors need to have frank discussions with patients about the risks of tramadol. Tapering down is really the only option for tramadol dependent people. Have you ever tried a medically supervised taper?

  17. I have been taking tramadol for nine years. When a certain amount is not in my body I began to sneeze. In two days I feel awful and can not go to work. Last time I ran out two night in a row my body got cold from head to toe and I felt like I was dying and could not move. When I take it I feel normal and natural. I believe that they put something in tramadol like they do in a cigarette to make you physically dependent and then try to put the quilt trip on you. I don’t take it to get “high” I take it to feel natural. To stop taking it I would have to have THC to replace it. It is so wrong to blame the person taking a drug that was scientifically made to make you keep taking it.

  18. ok, so this is my 2cents, tramadol is not addictive, i took it for 2 years for a spinal injury i suffered when i was 19, the onlt addictive quality it may have is your pain comming back after you come off of it. idc who you are, if you think tramadol is addictive, then you’ve never taken morphine, oxycodone, vikodin, roxy, or any OPIET.

  19. Be afraid Tammy ,be very afraid.NO ONE should be taking this drug.It is incredibly addictive and hell to stop even after a short time.Taking it as prescribed won’t save you either.Doctors are sheep when it comes to drug reps who have sold them a bill of goods on this being non addictive.

  20. Hello Tammy. This is a great question. If you’re concerned about developing psychological dependence on tramadol, speak with your prescribing doctor. Especially if you or your family have a history of drug/alcohol abuse. Air out your concerns before physical dependence sets in…and I bet you’ll feel better for having done so.

  21. I was prescribed Tramadol for my shoulder pain I have only been taking it for less than a day. After reading this I am a bit concerned about what may happen when I stop using it or should I discontinue it right now?

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