Tramadol Withdrawal: Symptoms, Timeline & Detox
Last Updated: August 28, 2023
Tramadol is a powerful medication often prescribed to manage severe pain. However, like many medications, it comes with risks, including the potential for withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking it suddenly.
What Is Tramadol?
Tramadol is a type of medication known as an opioid, which is used to treat moderate to severe pain. In short, it changes the way your brain and nervous system respond to pain. However, even when used as prescribed, there’s a risk of developing a dependence on tramadol. This isn’t a sign of personal weakness or a character flaw, but rather a potential side effect of long-term use of this type of medication.
Tramadol Withdrawal and Dependence
Dependence can develop even when tramadol is used as prescribed. When a person becomes dependent on tramadol, their body has adapted to the drug being in their system. They may then have withdrawal symptoms if they abruptly stop use. These can include:
- Abdominal pain
- Bone pain
- Runny eyes
- Runny nose
Atypical Tramadol Withdrawal Symptoms
In addition to the typical withdrawal symptoms, about one out of eight people may experience atypical withdrawal symptoms. These can include:
- Severe anxiety
- Panic attacks
- Ringing in the ears
These symptoms are less common but can be very distressing. If you or a loved one experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek medical help right away.
Tramadol Withdrawal Timeline
Withdrawal symptoms can begin within 12 hours of the last tramadol dose and typically peak within 48 hours, improving over the next 3 to 5 days. The timeline can vary depending on several factors, including how long a person has been taking tramadol and the dosage they were taking.
Detoxing from Tramadol
Detoxing from tramadol should always be done under the supervision of a healthcare professional. This is because withdrawal can be uncomfortable and, in some cases, dangerous. A healthcare professional can provide a safe and effective plan for gradually reducing the dose of tramadol, which can help to minimize withdrawal symptoms. In some cases, if medically appropriate, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) with detox medications may be prescribed.
Tramadol Detox Medications
- Methadone: This is a long-acting opioid medication often prescribed for opioid withdrawal symptom management. Methadone activates the same opioid receptors in the brain as tramadol, but it does so more slowly and for a longer duration. This aids in reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Methadone is typically administered under the supervision of a healthcare professional in a specialized clinic.
- Buprenorphine: This is a partial opioid agonist, so it activates the brain’s opioid receptors to a lesser degree than full agonists like methadone. Buprenorphine can help to reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings without producing the same level of euphoria or respiratory depression as other opioids. It is often combined with naloxone (as in the medication Suboxone) to prevent misuse.
- Lofexidine: This is a non-opioid medication that can be used to manage some of the physical symptoms of opioid withdrawal, such as restlessness, sweating and runny nose.
- Clonidine: This medication is primarily used to treat high blood pressure, but it can also help to reduce some of the physical symptoms of opioid withdrawal.
- Valium (Diazepam): This is a benzodiazepine medication that can be used to manage symptoms of anxiety and insomnia during tramadol withdrawal.
- Over-the-counter medications: These can include metoclopramide for nausea and vomiting, loperamide for diarrhea and ibuprofen or acetaminophen for muscle aches.
Get Help for Tramadol Withdrawal with Medical Detox
Tramadol withdrawal can be scary, but success is possible with support. At The Recovery Village Atlanta, we believe the best way to help you recover from tramadol is to support you every step of the way. We offer a holistic continuum of care, from detox to help wean you off tramadol to rehab to help keep you off the drug for good. Contact us today to see how we can help.
FAQs on Tramadol Withdrawal
What is tramadol withdrawal?
Tramadol withdrawal refers to the set of physical and psychological symptoms that occur when an individual abruptly stops or significantly reduces their use of tramadol, a prescription opioid pain medication. It is a natural response of the body as it adjusts to the absence or lower dosage of the drug.
What are the common symptoms of tramadol withdrawal?
Common symptoms of tramadol withdrawal may include restlessness, anxiety, agitation, muscle aches, sweating, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, insomnia, tremors and mood swings. Severe cases may experience more intense symptoms like hallucinations or panic attacks.
How long does tramadol withdrawal last?
The duration of tramadol withdrawal can vary from person to person. Generally, acute withdrawal symptoms may appear within a few hours after the last dose and peak within 2 days. Typically, the overall withdrawal process lasts around a week, with lingering effects such as mood disturbances and cravings potentially persisting for longer periods.
Can tramadol withdrawal be dangerous?
While tramadol withdrawal is not typically life-threatening, it can be challenging and uncomfortable, especially for individuals who have been using the drug for a long time or at high doses. In rare cases, withdrawal symptoms can be severe and require medical intervention. It is recommended to seek medical guidance and support when discontinuing tramadol to ensure safety and minimize risks.
How can tramadol withdrawal be managed?
Tramadol withdrawal is best managed under the guidance of a healthcare professional. They may create a tapering schedule to gradually reduce the dosage and minimize withdrawal symptoms. Other management strategies may include symptomatic relief through over-the-counter pain relievers, non-opioid medications, supportive therapies (e.g., counseling, behavioral therapy) and self-care practices such as exercise, relaxation techniques and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
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American Society of Addiction Medicine. “National Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Opioid Use Disorder.” December 18, 2019. Accessed July 22, 2023.
Rajabizadeh, Ghodratolah; Kheradmand, Ali; Nasirian, Mansoureh. “Psychosis following Tramadol Withdrawal.” Addiction and Health, Summer 2009. Accessed July 22, 2023.