- Classification: Narcotic
- CSA Schedule: Schedule III
- Trade or Other Names: Ultram, Zytram
- Medical Uses: Analgesic
- Physical Dependence: High for nonmedical use, low for medical patients in pain
- Psychological Dependence: High
- Tolerance: Yes
- Duration (hours): 3–6
- Usual Method: Oral, smoked, injected
- Possible Effects: Euphoria, drowsiness, respiratory depression, constricted pupils, nausea
- Effects of Overdose: Slow and shallow breathing, clammy skin, convulsions, coma, possible death
- Withdrawal Syndrome: Watery eyes, runny nose, yawning, loss of appetite, irritability, tremors, panic, cramps, nausea, chills and sweating
Tramadol is an opiate-type of medication that acts directly on the central nervous system (CNS). This medication is used in the management of moderate to mild degrees of chronic pain. Usually, it can be administered orally, intravenously, intramuscularly (injecting it into a muscle) and rectally. Its effects peaks at around 20 minutes after the intravenous approach and 60 minutes after the oral administration. Its effects last for about 3 to 6 hours.
This medication is a unique form of an opiode drug when compared to the other opiates. First, Tramadol is a fully synthetic drug. This means that this drug is man-made and it can’t be found in nature. Chemically and structurally, Tramadol resembles a simpler version of codeine. Another thing that makes Tramadol different from the other opiates is its uncommon “dual-action benefit”. When describing this dual-action benefit, first we refer to the way this drug works as an opiate and can easily manage the perception of pain. Second, it alters the neurotransmitter balance in the brain by increasing the levels of norepinephrine and serotonin. Norepinephrine is known for its ability to improve concentration, and the other one, serotonin, manages the sleep and mood functions.
Tramadol can have serious side effects like a depressed respiratory function, low blood pressure and a high potential for addiction and abuse. Other common side effects include drowsiness, vomiting and constipation. It is very important to distinguish that these side effects of Tramadol are most prevalent when the medication is misused.
Origin of Tramadol use
At the end of the 18th century, a German pharmacist poured some liquid ammonia over opium and obtained an alkaloid, a white powder that he found to be much stronger than opium. Friedrich W. Serturner named the substance “Morphium” after Morpheus, the Greek god of sleep and dreams.
By 1817, different articles from scientific journals popularized the new drug. This resulted in a world-wide spread of use by doctors. All the medical field viewed morphine as an opiate without adverse side effects. By the 1850s, morphine tablets and a variety of morphine products were readily available without a prescription. In 1856, the hypodermic method of injecting morphine directly into the bloodstream was introduced to U.S. medicine. The popularity of morphine rose during the Civil War when the intravenous use of the drug to treat battlefield casualties was rather indiscriminate. Following the war, morphine use among ex-soldiers was so common as to give rise to the term of “army disease”. Even then, medical journals were replete with glowing descriptions of the effectiveness of the drug during wartime and its distinct advantages for peacetime medical practice. As a result, hypodermic kits became widely available, and the use of unsterile needles led to abscesses or various forms of diseases.
In the 1870s, morphine became exceedingly cheap (even cheaper than alcohol), and pharmacies and general stores carried concoctions that appealed to a broad segment of the population. Anyone who visited nearly any physician for any complaint, from a toothache to constipation, would be prescribed morphine, with the substance being widely abused by doctors themselves. Morphine abuse in the latter part of the 19th century was apparently widespread in rural America. Starting in the 1870s, doctors injected women with morphine to numb the pain of “female troubles”. By the 1890s, when the first drug epidemic peaked, female with medical prescriptions reportedly made up almost half of all users in the United States. In the 20th century, the drug scene shifted to the underworld elements of urban America, the disreputable “sporting class”: prostitutes, pimps, thieves, gamblers, gangsters, entertainers etc.
In 1874, a British chemist experimenting with morphine synthesized diacetylmorphine and so the strongest of opiates came into being: “Commercial promotion of the new drug had to wait until 1898 when the highly respected German pharmaceutical company Bayer, in perfectly good faith but perhaps without sufficient prior care, launched upon an unsuspecting world public this new substance, for which they coined the trade name “heroin” and which they marketed as a “sedative for coughs” “ (Bresler 1980: 11). Jack Nelson and his colleagues (1982) stated that heroin was actually isolated in 1898 in Germany by Heinrich Dreser, who was searching for a non-habit-forming pain reliever to take the place of morphine. Dreser named it after the German word “heroisch”, meaning “large and powerful”. Opiates, including morphine and heroin, were readily available in the United States until 1914.
Tramadol is a relatively new drug on the American pharmaceutical market. It was developed by a German pharmaceutical company named Grunenthal GmbH in 1977. Their first Tramadol product was marketed as “Tramal”, a lab semi-synthesized opiate. After 20 years from its discovery (1997), its use became available in countries like United States, United Kingdom and Australia. Currently, this drug is marketed under a variety of brand names like Ultram, Zytram and Ultracet.
How Tramadol is consumed
Tramadol is an opiate-type of medication that acts directly on the central nervous system (CNS). This medication is used in the management of moderate to mild degrees of chronic pain. Usually, it can be administered orally, intravenously, intramuscularly (injecting it into a muscle) and rectally.
It is very important to mention that Tramadol should be administered exactly as prescribed by the medical doctor. Everybody that uses this drug should follow all the instructions on the prescription label. If misused, Tramadol can have serious, life-threatening side-effects. One of the most dangerous side effects of Tramadol is the depression of the respiratory function. This means that this drug can easily slow down or even stop the breathing of the person that uses it. This is the reason why it is not recommended to be taken in larger amounts, or for longer periods of time than prescribed.
This painkiller often comes as a 50mg tablet, and it is administered orally. It is not recommended to crush or break a tramadol tablet to inhale the powder or mix it into a liquid in order to inject it into a vein. This practice of misuse has often resulted in a variety of side effects.
It is also not recommended to stop using tramadol suddenly. Stopping this drug should be done under a proper medical guidance. If a person suddenly stops the tramadol administration, unpleasant withdrawal symptoms (like depression, insomnia, confusion, anxiety) may appear.
In conclusion, Tramadol is a drug that can be easily abused, and everyone that uses this medication should be aware of its side effects. Specialized medical guidance may be needed if any medical issues (psychological or physical) occur during the administration.
Effects of Tramadol use
Short Term Use Effects:
- Diminished sexual impulses
- Breathing problems
- Impaired judgement
- Relief of pain
- Constricted pupils
- Warm flushing of the skin
Long Term Use Effects:
- Infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS, hepatitis
- Bacterial infections
- Venous sclerosis
- Cardiovascular disease
- Cold sweats
- Loss of appetite
- Dentition problems
- Respiratory (breathing) illnesses
- Muscular weakness that may evolve to partial paralysis
- Reduced sexual potency and long-term impotence in men
- Menstrual disturbance in women
- Inability to achieve orgasm
- Impaired immune system
- Loss of memory
- Lowered intellectual performance