Smoking Tramadol | Effects & Risks Of Tramadol Abuse
While the prescription drug tramadol has a lower abuse potential than other opioids, it can still be misused for its pleasurable effects. Smoking tramadol, however, is uncommon and impractical due to the medication’s physical properties.
Tramadol is a synthetic opioid medication prescribed for analgesia, or pain relief, in both immediate release and extended-release formulations. It is available in brand-name formulations including Ultram, Ultram ER, ConZip, and Ultracet (in combination with acetaminophen).
While tramadol medications, like other opioid painkillers, can be abused for their euphoric effects, tramadol is rarely abused by smoking due to the physical and chemical properties of tramadol medications.
Effects Of Smoking Tramadol
Tramadol medications are created with tamper resistant properties that make the drug more difficult to misuse, including misuse via smoking.
This includes formulating the medication as tramadol hydrochloride, a water-soluble salt form of the drug that will not readily vaporize when heated.
In other words, smoking tramadol on foil or in vape, pipe, or cigarette, will cause most of the drug to burn away, with little felt effect. And while tramadol could, theoretically, be modified by freebasing, this is uncommon and generally impractical.
Other Forms Of Tramadol Abuse
Tramadol can be abused in a variety of other ways, such as:
- regular oral use in higher doses than prescribed
- crushing and “parachuting” tramadol pills orally in tissue paper packets
- crushing and snorting tramadol
- crushing and injecting tramadol
- plugging/boofing tramadol (rectal administration)
Risks Of Tramadol Abuse
Abusing tramadol or other opioid drugs is a dangerous prospect, no matter the method of administration. The potential risks of various forms of tramadol prescription drug abuse may include:
- increased tramadol tolerance, which reduces the medication’s effectiveness over time
- development of tramadol dependence, which causes uncomfortable and sometimes atypical opioid withdrawal symptoms when you stop using
- tramadol addiction and personality/behavioral changes
- tramadol overdose, which can be severely harmful or fatal
- serious drug interactions between tramadol and other substances
- lung damage from smoke and filler compounds (smoking)
- sinus and pallet damage (snorting)
- scarring and skin or heart infections (injection)
- rectal tissue irritation and other complications (plugging)
Serious Side Effects
Any use of tramadol may lead to common side effects. However, serious effects of tramadol use are more likely to occur when the drug is abused in higher doses than recommended.
Potential tramadol side effects that may arise when the drug is abused include:
- mental confusion
- trouble concentrating
- depression and anxiety
- pinpoint pupils
- breathing problems
- changes in appetite
- slurred speech
- coordination problems
- muscle aches
- low blood pressure
- changes in heart rate
When too much tramadol enters a person’s body the drug can cause severe or even life-threatening overdose symptoms such as:
- nausea and vomiting
- weakness or lethargy
- shallow or stopped breathing (respiratory depression)
- constricted, pinpoint pupils
- unconsciousness or coma
- irregular heart rate
- muscle rigidity
- cold, clammy, or blue-tinted skin
There is an increased risk of tramadol overdose when the drug is misused along with other CNS depressants like alcohol, benzodiazepines, and other opioid pain relievers.
Tramadol Vs. Other Opioids
Tramadol acts along the same lines as other opiate/opioid analgesics like morphine, codeine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and fentanyl.
Once it enters the bloodstream the drug binds to opioid receptors in the central nervous system, mimicking the body’s natural endorphins and changing how a person responds to pain and stress.
But while this can help control moderate to severe pain, including chronic pain, in medical settings, both illicit and prescription opioids are also euphoric and addictive, especially when misused.
Tramadol, in comparison with typical opioids, is slightly different.
How Tramadol Is Different
Tramadol generates a weaker pain relief/euphoria at therapeutic doses while also blocking the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine in the central nervous system.
This is the same effect many antidepressant medications produce, explaining why tramadol is also considered to have mood-elevating properties and some unusual side effects.
Tramadol Addiction Treatment
Despite being less prone to drug addiction and substance abuse than other opioids, tramadol is still an addictive and potentially dangerous medication. However, tramadol abuse can be addressed through the services of a professional addiction treatment center.
Potential treatment options for tramadol addiction include:
- medical detox support for tramadol withdrawal symptoms
- cognitive behavioral therapy
- medication-assisted treatment options, especially naltrexone
- dual diagnosis care for other co-occurring mental health disorders
- individual, group, or family therapy
- peer support groups
- long-term aftercare support
For information on how we treat opioid addiction, please contact Ohio Recovery Center today.
- Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) — Tramadol (Trade Names: Ultram®, Ultracet®) https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/tramadol.pdf
- National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Tramadol https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a695011.html