Ultram Addiction

  • Generic Name or Active Ingridient: Tramadol

Ultram contains the opioid pain reliever, tramadol. Doctors prescribe Ultram to relieve moderate to severe pain. Physicians recommend the extended-release formula of Ultram for patients who need round-the-clock relief from chronic pain. Recreational users target Ultram because of the euphoria it causes. Chronic use, high doses and improper use of Ultram increases the risk for dependence, addiction and death due to toxic overdose.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, says about one in 20 Americans over the age of 12 years used a prescription opioid in 2010 non-medically; this means the individual used the medicine to get high or to treat a condition for which it was not prescribed. Using opioids non-medically also increases the risk for physical dependence, addiction and overdose.

Ultram addiction and prescription drug abuse is on the rise across the United States. There are now more people addicted to prescription drugs like Ultram than to heroin. The National Institute on Drug Abuse, or NIDA, estimates there were 1.9 million adults in the United States addicted to prescription opioid pain relievers in 2010; in comparison, an estimated 329,000 Americans are addicted to heroin. Second only to marijuana, prescription painkillers are the most abused drugs among young Americans.

High addiction rates may be the result of widespread availability. Americans use more opioid painkillers such as Ultram than any other nation. While Americans account for about 5 percent of global population, they consume 80 percent of the world's opioid supply, according to the Institute of Addiction Medicine.

Treatment rates for substance abuse problems like Ultram addiction are on the rise too. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports the U.S. admission rate for opioids other than heroin increased 414 percent in a ten-year period. In 1997, about seven people in 100,000 sought help for a substance abuse problem. By 2007, this number rose to 36 admissions per 100,000 people.

The Definition of Addiction

Addiction is a neurological disease that affects the brain's reward, memory and motivation circuitry in a way that results in certain specific behavioral and physical changes. Ultram addiction causes an individual to crave this drug and engage in drug-seeking behaviors.

Ultram addiction is a primary condition, meaning it arises on its own and not as the result of another illness.

Ultram addiction is a chronic disease. An individual may struggle with this condition for months or years, and suffer countless cycles of remission and relapse. Ultram addiction requires long-term treatment and professional rehabilitation.

Without proper treatment, Ultram addiction is progressive. Left untreated or undertreated, opioid addiction may result in disability or premature death.

Addiction versus Dependence

While addiction and dependence are both substance abuse problems, these are two separate and independent conditions. Anyone who uses Ultram can become addicted to this drug, physically dependent upon it, or both.


Your body adapts to the presence of some foreign substances, such as Ultram, by adjusting its own chemistry. If you use this drug for a long time, these chemical changes become more permanent. Your body learns to depend on a certain level of Ultram to feel "normal." If your Ultram levels suddenly drop, your body struggles to maintain chemical balance. Doctors refer to this process as detoxification. You feel this battle for stability through unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

Taking large doses of Ultram or using this opioid for a long time may increase your tolerance to opioid medicines. Increase tolerance means your body has learned to tolerate the effects of Ultram. Increased tolerance also means you have to take stronger doses of Ultram to achieve the same pain-relieving or euphoric effect.
A doctor will diagnose you as suffering from Ultram addiction if you feel withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking this drug. Taking an inadequate dose or using a drug like naloxone also result in withdrawal symptoms in an opioid-dependent person.

Opioid withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Yawning
  • Anxiety
  • Increased Heart Rate and Blood Pressure
  • Restlessness
  • Nervousness
  • Muscle Aches
  • Tremor
  • Irritability
  • Chills Alternating with Hot Flashes
  • Salivation
  • Anorexia
  • Severe Sneezing
  • Watery Eyes
  • Runny Nose
  • Dilated Pupils
  • Sweating
  • Goose Bumps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal Cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Weakness
  • Depression


While specialists characterize opioid dependence as a physical consequence of chronic drug abuse, addiction is defined as a set of behavioral, cognitive and emotional changes brought about extended drug use.

When diagnosing an individual as having an addiction, doctors look for specific behaviors characteristic of addiction, such as:

  • Inability to consistently abstain
  • Impaired Behavioral Control
  • Craving
  • Inability to recognize significant problems with one's behaviors or personal relationships
  • Dysfunctional emotional response

You can be addicted to something but not physically dependent upon it, and vice versa. For example, you may depend on medication to keep your blood pressure in check. If you forget to take your antihypertensive, your blood pressure will rise but you will not crave the drug or engage in drug-seeking behavior.

In contrast, an individual can be addicted to cocaine without being dependent on it. This person will feel cravings and seek out more cocaine when his supplies run low, but he will not experience flu-like withdrawal symptoms.

Drug seeking activity

Ultram addiction causes the individual to engage in drug-seeking behavior, such as presenting phony prescriptions at pharmacies or altering prescriptions to get a stronger dose or more Ultram in each container. Another drug-seeking behavior is to telephone or show up just as the doctor's office is closing, pressuring staff to write a prescription quickly so they can go home.

An addict may pretend to misplace prescriptions to gain multiple copies or tamper with written prescriptions to get more pills in a bottle. Some people engage in "doctor shopping" to gain written prescriptions from several physicians. Others acquire drugs free from friends, relatives or buy it on the black market.

The DEA calls this "diversion" because of the way prescription drugs are diverted from legal, therapeutic use to illegal abuse.

Addiction: What Family Members Should Know

It is important that family members know addiction is a disease, not an indication of poor child rearing or a lack of moral character. Family members frequently play a critical role in recovery; it is common for a family member to locate the treatment facility the addicted individual eventually chooses.

Family members should know that everyone related to the addicted individual shares an increased risk for developing an addiction at some point in their lives. While there is no one single "addiction gene," researchers think biology can make a person more vulnerable to addiction. This susceptibility may be the result of the interactions of several genes.

It is important to recognize that, while some people are genetically pre-disposed to develop an addiction, family history does not doom you to become an addict. Environmental factors, like work stress, financial trouble or relationship problems, also influence the development of Ultram addiction.

Many addicted individuals are hypersensitive to stress, and this hypersensitivity seems to run in families. Hypersensitive individuals with poor coping mechanisms tend to do poorly in times of stress, self-medicating with drugs or alcohol. Children learn how to deal with stress by watching their parents and these children may use substance abuse as a coping mechanism when they get older.

Collateral Damage

Ultram addiction causes collateral damage that affects and endangers the entire family. Ultram addiction diverts household money that could have been used for rent, groceries or childcare. Addiction also erodes work performance, increasing the risk for loss of income or termination.

As Ultram addiction progresses, you spend more time looking for and doing drugs and less time with your family.

Ultram addiction creates an emotional chasm between family members. Addiction causes neurological dysfunction that disrupts the emotional bond between a parent and a child. In the worst-case scenarios, Ultram addiction results in homelessness, separation, divorce or removal of children from the home.

Ultram addiction introduces dangerous characters into your home. In the earliest stages of addiction, you probably kept your family at a safe distance from drug dealers but, as addiction deteriorates your ability to make sound decisions, you invite criminals into your home to buy drugs or to get high.

Using Ultram without a prescription is illegal, so keeping illicit Ultram in your home increases the chances that police will raid your house. Collateral damage may include arrest, court appearances and jail time.

Keeping Ultram in the home is unsafe. A child may accidently discover and consume a toxic dose of this powerful opioid medicine.

Addiction: What Parents Should Know

Parents should know prescription drug abuse among teenagers and young adults is on the rise. Prescription pain relievers are widely available and commonly prescribed, so many young people mistakenly believe opioids are less harmful than illicit drugs.

It is common for children to gain and lose interest in many things as they age, so it may be difficult to recognize changes that indicate a child is battling an Ultram addiction. It is important that a parent learn the warning signs of addiction, including:

  • An unusual loss of interest in things that once were important
  • Drop in academic, work or athletic performance
  • Loss of motivation or energy
  • A child who finds ways to sneak off
  • Money issues that seem advanced for the child's age
  • Items missing from the home

Caring for a Family Member with an Addiction

Caring for a family member with an Ultram addiction can be difficult but rewarding for everyone who participates in recovery efforts. As with any chronic disease, a strong family unit plays a critical role in treatment and rehabilitation. The treatment and recovery experience works best when the individual feels physically, emotionally and spiritually safe in his home environment. Family members should recognize Ultram addiction as a neurological disease and avoid blaming the individual for his illness.

The family should work as a network that supports the addicted individual in his attempts to quit Ultram. Every member of the family should encourage the individual to seek and complete treatment.

The family may choose to hold meetings, where individuals are encouraged to share their feelings about the addiction or to plan treatment strategies. The addicted individual does not have to participate in these meetings; in fact, she may be upset when she first learns the family is discussing her illness. These negative feelings will fade with time and treatment.

Each person in the family can participate in treatment in age-appropriate ways, taking over daily chores so the addicted individual can attend meetings, for example. A grandparent may cook meals, a young child can do light housework and an older child with a drivers license can run errands. Ultram addiction and other substance abuse problems have a negative effect but participating in recovery efforts can have positive benefits for everyone involved.

It is never too late to encourage your loved one to seek treatment - it is possible to arrest the progression of addiction at any time. Do not let your family member hit rock bottom before encouraging treatment. Rock bottom may include overdose, arrest, jail time, divorce, foster care or other collateral damage.

Recovery begins only when the addicted person recognizes the problems his illness causes. Some family members are tempted to shield the addicted individual from the consequences of his substance abuse, but this enables the addictive behavior to continue. Family counseling can help you learn how to support your loved one without enabling her addiction.

Signs of Addiction

Friends, family and co-workers may recognize the signs of Ultram addiction. The signs of addiction may be subtle or obvious, and signs may arise slowly or quickly.

Signs of Ultram addiction include:

  • Abnormal, Illegal or Anti-Social Actions
  • Arguments or Violent Outbursts
  • Child Neglect
  • Excessive Opioid Prescriptions for Self and/or Family
  • Frequent Emotional Crisis
  • Legal Trouble
  • Neglect of Social Commitments
  • Prioritizing Activities Involving Hydrocodone or Tussionex
  • Separation or Divorce
  • Unexplained Absences from Home
  • Unpredictable Behavior such as Inappropriate Spending
  • Withdrawal from Relationships, Family or Friends

Behavioral, Cognitive and Emotional Changes

The neurological changes brought about by Ultram addiction changes the way a person behaves, thinks and feels. Rehabilitation and long-term abstinence can restore some of this neurological function.


A person struggling with Ultram addiction may use this drug excessively, at higher doses or more frequently than he intends, even while he voices a desire to quit or attempts to quit several times. He continues to use Ultram, despite being aware of the physical, psychological and social harm it causes. It may seem to others that he lacks the will or ability to quit using Ultram.

She may lose excessive time looking for, abusing or recovering from drug abuse, despite the significant negative impact on relationships, school or work. Her behavioral repertoire narrows so that soon she participates in drug abuse and not much else.


Someone with an Ultram addiction becomes preoccupied with opioids, thinking of nothing else. Her perception of the relative benefits and risk of using Ultram may be altered so that she cannot see the harm in her drug abuse. She may hold the inaccurate view that other people or events cause he problems in life, instead of recognizing her trouble as a predictable consequence of Ultram addiction


Physicians prescribe Ultram to relieve pain but some people use this drug to self-medicate emotional pain. Ultram addiction actually reverses this effect, increasing anxiety, feelings of sadness and emotional pain. Ultram addiction also increases your sensitivity to stress.

Ultram addiction may make it difficult to indentify your feelings, express them to others or distinguish your emotions from other bodily sensations.

Symptoms of Addiction

The neurological changes brought about by Ultram addiction causes certain characteristic physical and psychological symptoms.

Physical Symptoms

Physical symptoms of Ultram addiction include:

  • Unexplained Weight Gain or Weight Loss
  • A Change in Sleep Patterns
  • Deteriorating Physical Appearance - Looks Sickly
  • Nagging Cough
  • Diminished Hygiene Care
  • Body or Clothing May Have an Unusual Odor
  • Bloodshot Eyes with Large or Small Pupils
  • Tremors
  • Slurred Speech

Psychological Symptoms

Psychological symptoms of addiction to opioids include:

  • Inability to Abstain Consistently
  • Impairment in Behavioral Control
  • Cravings for Drugs or Intense Reward Experiences
  • Diminished Capacity to Recognize Significant Personal or Relationship Problems
  • Dysfunctional Emotional Response

Gender Differences

The 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health notes the rate of substance abuse among males was twice as high as drug use among females. In 2010, only 5.9 percent of female respondents admitted to using illicit drugs, as compared to 11.6 percent of male survey participants.

While fewer women use illicit drugs like cocaine or heroin, females are more likely to use prescription drugs, such as Ultram, to get high or to treat a condition for which it was not prescribed. Females are also more apt to combine prescription drugs like Ultram with alcohol, marijuana or other opioids.

Men and women engage in substance abuse differently. Men party in social settings, while women are usually solitary drug abusers. Women with drug problems claim fewer friends than their male counterparts. This discrepancy could be due to the social stigma against drug use among women, compared to the relatively lax attitude about male drug abuse.

Men and women begin abusing drugs like Ultram in different ways. Males start using drugs such as Ultram to get high, whereas women start using drugs recreationally after receiving a psychoactive drug to treat an illness.

Gender Differences in Rehabilitation

Women are less likely to enter and complete rehabilitation. There is a variety of social, psychological and financial reasons for this.

Women with addictions are frequently in relationships with a partner who also has a substance abuse problem. These women may feel they are abandoning their loved ones if they quit taking Ultram. Additionally, it is difficult to change the behaviors associated with addiction while surrounded by friends or family who are getting high.

Women with substance abuse problems such as Ultram addiction have co-existing psychological issues such as a poor body image or eating disorders. Women with addiction to opioids say they have low expectations for their lives. Females with addictions have less education, fewer marketable skills and less job experience than do addicted males.

Women face additional barriers to recovery, such as affording appropriate treatment in a specialty facility or finding someone to watch a child while mom is in rehabilitation.

Treatment Options

When left untreated or treated inadequately, Ultram addiction can cause disability or premature death.
There are two phases of treatment for Ultram addiction: detoxification and rehabilitation. Detoxification is the medical process of lowering opioid levels in your body. When undergoing standard detoxification, you can expect several days of intense withdrawal symptoms as you adjust to the lack of opioids.

Rehabilitation addresses the cognitive and behavioral aspects of your Ultram addiction. Rehabilitation commonly includes behavior modification and counseling to help you learn how to live without opioids.

Every year, about 27,000 people died in the United States from accidental drug overdose, about one person every 19 minutes. Since 2003, more people die from accidental overdose of prescription painkillers such as Ultram than from heroin and cocaine combined. For each unintentional overdose, hospitals admit nine more people for treatment of substance abuse problems.


Some people try self-detoxification, or "going cold turkey," to overcome Ultram addiction. Cold turkey refers to the way your skin looks during detoxification: pale, bumpy, cold and clammy, similar to a plucked turkey.

When you attempt self-detoxification, you can expect five or more days of flu-like withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms may cause complications. One complication is aspiration, which is vomiting then inhaling stomach contents into the lungs. Aspiration may cause fluid in the lungs or lung infections. Another complication is dehydration resulting from severe vomiting or diarrhea.

The primary complication associated with detoxification is relapse. You can ease withdrawal symptoms by waiting it out, by taking a drug that mimics the action of Ultram or by taking another dose of Ultram. Many people relapse just to stop the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

The Thomas Recipe

Some people create homemade treatment plans that use medication to reduce withdrawal symptoms. Once such remedy is The Thomas Plan, which includes Xanax or some other medication to calm anxiety and encourage sleep, Imodium to curb diarrhea, plus vitamins and supplements to soothe body pain and muscle aches.

While The Thomas Recipe reduces withdrawal symptoms somewhat, it does not protect you from dangerous complications or relapse.

Relapse increases your risk for toxic overdose. Any amount of detoxification reduces your tolerance to Ultram - it is possible to overdose on a smaller amount than you used to take before attempting detoxification.


Ultram overdose is a life-threatening medical emergency. If you think you or someone you know has taken a toxic dose of Ultram or any other substance, seek emergency assistance immediately by going to the emergency room or calling an ambulance, whichever gets the patient to the hospital the fastest. For immediate help, contact your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.
Symptoms of Ultram overdose include:

  • Breathing that Stops
  • Cold, Clammy Skin
  • Confusion
  • Extreme Drowsiness
  • Fainting
  • Pinpoint Pupils
  • Shallow Breathing
  • Weak Pulse

Emergency department doctors administer naloxone and other medications to reduce Ultram to non-toxic levels. The toxic effects of opioid overdose often outlast the benefits of naloxone, so doctors monitor your opioid levels and administer more naloxone if your opioid levels start to go up again. It is important to remain in the hospital long enough to stabilize your opioid levels.

Nurses will monitor your vital signs, watch for complications and establish an airway to help you breathe. They might pump your stomach or administer charcoal to absorb excess Ultram. Nurses and doctors will perform CPR or other life-saving procedures as necessary.

If you have not taken an overdose and are in otherwise good condition, you might benefit from DRT, or Drug Replacement Therapy. This treatment replaces Ultram with methadone, Suboxone or buprenorphine. DRT drugs mimic the effects of Ultram, so you will not experience withdrawal symptoms, but these drugs do not cause the euphoria associated with other drugs. DRT allows you to put off the detoxification process temporarily while you participate in behavioral modification. After you develop the tools to live without Ultram, you will wean yourself from the replacement drug or go through the detoxification process.

If you are like most people, you will have trouble quitting the replacement drug. Harvard Medical School estimates one-quarter of methadone DRT patients eventually quit using drugs altogether, while another 25 percent continues to take the replacement drug for life. About half of all DRT participants go on and off methadone for the rest of their lives.

DRT is just one type of Medication-Assisted Treatment, or MAT, approved for use in treating Ultram addiction. Medications reduce the overpowering symptoms of withdrawal, helping you tolerate the process long enough to successfully detoxify your system.

Rehabilitation professionals say that MAT is an important and effective treatment approach because it:

  • Improves Survival Rates
  • Increase Retention in Treatment
  • Decreases Illicit Opioid Use
  • Decreases The Risk for Hepatitis and HIV
  • Decreases Criminal Activities
  • Increases Employment
  • Improves Birth Outcomes for Pregnant Women Battling Addiction

Standard detoxification requires a hospital stay that lasts several days. During standard detoxification, doctors administer naloxone plus other drugs to ease your withdrawal symptoms. While standard inpatient MAT relieves the strength and duration of your withdrawal, you must still withstand psychological symptoms that increase your risk for relapse

Rapid detox is the most humane and efficient type of opioid detoxification available today. During rapid detox, board certified anesthesiologists administer the usual detoxification drugs and anti-withdrawal medications alongside sedatives and anesthesia, so you doze in a restful "twilight sleep." When you awaken, you will not recall the difficult detoxification process. Instead of a few days, you are ready for rehabilitation in a few hours.

Detoxification is only the first stage of treatment for Ultram addiction. Detoxification alone does little to change long-term drug use or addictive behavior. Rehabilitation and behavior modification is also essential in the treatment of Ultram addiction.


Ultram addiction is a complex but treatable disease that affects neurological function and behavior. Prompt and effective behavior modification reduces the risk for relapse.

Everyone experiences Ultram addiction differently, so no one therapy works for everyone. There is a variety of treatment options, from outpatient counseling centers to long-term, residential programs. Individual, family and group counseling and other behavioral therapies are part of most types of treatment. Medications are a critical part of treatment for many patients, especially when combined with counseling and other behavioral therapies.

No matter what form of treatment you choose, it must be convenient and readily available so that you can easily participate long enough for treatment to be effective. You must remain in treatment long enough to restore neurological function affected by Ultram addiction. A qualified counselor will continually assess and modify your treatment plan to be sure it continues to fit your changing needs. Your counselor will also monitor for drug use, as relapses are common.

Your counselor may assess you for HIV/ AIDS, hepatitis B and C, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases associated with chronic substance abuse. Your treatment plan may include targeted risk-reduction counseling to help you identify and change behaviors that increase your risk of contracting or spreading infectious diseases.

Effective treatment must attend to your multiple needs. Ultram addiction is a complex disease requiring an equally complex treatment plan. Ultram addiction frequently accompanies other mental disorders, such as depression.

Treatment does not need to be voluntary to be effective. According to NIDA, individuals under legal coercion tend to remain in treatment longer than and do better than those not under pressure.