Tramadol Detox

Tramadol Detox
Tramadol is an opiate medication used to treat both short-term and chronic pain. While it is effective when taken as prescribed, it can produce dependence and dangerous effects when abused, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).1 In fact, a Swedish study that analyzed negative tramadol reactions found that serious reactions requiring hospitalization for detox were common.2 Clients who take tramadol for pain may find themselves dependent upon the drug, making supervised medical detox necessary.

What to Expect During Tramadol Withdrawal

Detoxing from tramadol can involve unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. A report in a 2003 publication of Drug and Alcohol Dependence described the side effects associated with tramadol withdrawal. According to the report, side effects include those typically associated with detox from opiates, as well as more serious side effects, including:3
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoid feelings
  • Anxiety
  • Panic
  • Confusion
  • Numbness
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, opiate withdrawal effects can also include:4
  • Mood changes
  • Anxiety
  • Tight muscles
  • Aches and pains
  • Racing heart
  • Sleep problems
  • Abdominal cramping
Given the range of side effects associated with tramadol discontinuation, a supervised drug detox program can be vital.

How Medications Help During Tramadol Detox

Entering a supervised drug detox program can assist with detox from tramadol, as detox programs can monitor symptoms and provide access to needed medications to treat side effects. A case reported and published in a 2000 edition of the European Journal of Pain detailed the withdrawal experiences of a woman who abruptly stopped taking tramadol. She had been taking the medication for over a year to treat fibromyalgia, and she began to experience withdrawal symptoms, including insomnia, headache, muscle pain, and abdominal cramping within a week of stopping tramadol. With medications, including benzodiazepines and sumatriptan, the woman’s withdrawal symptoms subsided. 5

Similarly, a 2012 report in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine described the experiences of seven men who completed detox from tramadol. Several of the men were successful with detoxing from tramadol and maintaining abstinence following drug detox with clonidine. Some of the men also received naltrexone after detoxing with clonidine. 6

The Necessity of Drug Detox for Tramadol

As shown in multiple case studies, medication is helpful for tramadol detox, making supervised drug detox programs an important part of recovery from tramadol dependence. Entering a detox program can enhance the chances of success by providing access to trained medical professionals who can monitor symptoms and provide appropriate medications to manage withdrawal and make the detox process more comfortable. In addition, because tramadol detox can involve atypical symptoms, such as hallucinations and panic, it is important to have the support of a medical team.

Detoxing alone can be a challenge, but a successful detox is possible with medical supports. In fact, a study in a 2016 edition of the journal Pain Medicine found that patients who had tapered opiate medications found support from trusted medical staff to be helpful, and they felt that their quality of life improved after detox.7 A drug detox program is therefore the first step in discontinuing tramadol and recovering from dependence upon this prescription drug.