Last updated: 07/13/2021
Author: Dr Anjali Talcherkar
Reading Time: 8 minutes
Tramadol is a synthetic opioid comparable to codeine. Classified as a Schedule IV drug by the Drug Enforcement Agency,1 tramadol is on the lower end of misused opioids.1 However, when used or misused long-term, tramadol can become addictive.
Tramadol addiction treatment is much like other opioid treatments, including detox, inpatient or outpatient care, and other therapies. When looking for treatment, it is best to research options that suit your values, needs, and budget.
Table of Contents
Signs You May Need Treatment for Tramadol Addiction
Opioids like tramadol produce changes in the brain that may cause a person to transition from occasional use to increased tolerance and dependence, and in the extreme, to full-blown addiction.2 Before deciding if treatment is necessary, certain factors must be present including:2
- Psychological craving: Characterized by a strong desire for the drug.
- Tolerance: Characterized by the need to take more of the drug to achieve the same opioid effect.
- Dependence: Characterized by susceptibility to withdrawal.
- Withdrawal: Characterized by negative physiological effects in the absence of taking the drug.
- Addiction: Characterized by prolonged, habitual use of opioids leading to changes in the brain and adverse life consequences.2
Additionally, if you experience social and behavioral problems (i.e., loss of job, financial hardship and stress, inability to complete daily survival tasks, lack of interest in social activities) or mental and emotional problems (i.e., erratic, anxious, or moody behavior, depression, and suicidal thoughts, preoccupation with taking the drug,) you may be a strong candidate for treatment.
While tramadol can be a useful medication for pain when used correctly, it can be deadly when misused. Tramadol overdose can be serious or life-threatening. People who have struggled with substance addiction in the past may be more susceptible to dependence on opioids, putting them at higher risk of an overdose.
Signs of a tramadol overdose may include:
- Contracted pupils
- Extreme drowsiness
- Slowed breathing
- Slowed heartbeat
- Weak muscles
- Loss of consciousness
Seek tramadol overdose treatment or call 911 immediately if you notice any of these symptoms.
Types of Treatment for Tramadol Addiction
If you or someone you know is suffering from tramadol addiction or flu-like symptoms, depression, cravings, and anxiety that persist from tramadol use, your best option is to seek professional treatment such as a detox center or short-term/long-term inpatient or outpatient treatment, depending on the tolerance level.3 Various types of treatment may include:
- Inpatient rehab
- Outpatient treatment
- Partial hospitalization program
- Sober living home
- Medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
Tramadol withdrawal treatment may include detoxification or “medically-managed withdrawal.” This is often considered the first stage of treatment and may or may not include medications (i.e., benzodiazepines, phenobarbital) administered by a physician in an inpatient setting.
Depending on how long you have been taking tramadol, detox may be an uncomfortable experience but is a necessary first step to stabilization. Detox can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. For example, the tramadol may be out of your system, but the cravings may still exist post-detox. Therefore, this stage is often followed by an inpatient or outpatient program.
If your addiction is severe or has persisted despite repeated attempts to quit using tramadol on your own, you may want to consider an inpatient treatment program, which will give you a safe space to withdraw and stabilize.
Inpatient treatment varies in length from 30 days to 12 months, depending on your specific treatment needs. Inpatient treatment often includes 12-step recovery, peer groups, individual therapy, family groups, CBT-based modalities, and a structured routine.4,5
If you feel strong enough to refrain from tramadol while living at home, outpatient treatment may be a suitable option. Outpatient programs are generally attended a few days a week or a few hours a day.
Regardless of the structure, most outpatient treatment programs offer various programs like group therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), individual counseling, and other tools that help you stay accountable to your recovery goals.4,5
Partial Hospitalization Program
Most state-funded insurance covers partial hospitalization programs (PHPs). PHPs are a form of outpatient care and serve as an alternative to inpatient care. This treatment provides a structured program attended during the day and does not require an overnight stay.
Sober Living Homes
These homes serve as a residential bridge between an inpatient treatment center and the return to normal life. These are a great option for people who need some structure after rehab while allowing them to work, volunteer, or return to normal daily activities.
Sober living homes also keep you in a recovery community setting, so you still have support. Women’s, men’s, and co-ed sober living homes are available.
Your medical professional may decide to prescribe medications to help you with the recovery process during detox and treatment. Medications are generally used for various reasons, including managing withdrawal symptoms, reducing cravings, or treating co-occurring disorders.
Medications used in tramadol addiction treatment are more effective when taken as part of a comprehensive treatment program that involves other types of therapies.5
Various types of therapies may be utilized while in a drug rehab facility. Usually, your drug rehab advisor will do an intake assessment to determine your treatment plan and what therapies suit your needs. Often, your plan will include a combination of counseling, support groups, etc. A few therapies may include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): Used to change thought patterns and develop better decision-making skills to help you maintain recovery.
- Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT): A comprehensive, evidence-based treatment for borderline personality disorder (BPD).6 A DBT assessment questionnaire is given to determine if DBT therapy is appropriate.
- Motivational interviewing: A counseling method that helps people resolve ambivalent feelings to find the internal motivation they need to change their behavior. It aims to elicit “change talk” and move someone into action.
- Psychodynamic therapy: A form of psychoanalytic psychotherapy, also known as depth psychology, the primary focus is to reveal the unconscious content of a client’s psyche. This type of therapy is generally long-term and seeks to uncover deep, subconscious material enabling someone to move past roadblocks in their psyche.
- Family therapy: A format of therapy that includes friends/family members of the person in treatment. This therapy is highly effective in recruiting support from loved ones in assisting the addicted individual recover.
- Holistic therapy: Non-traditional types of interventions like yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, Qui Gong, Reiki, Equestrian therapy, Katom, etc., provide a well-rounded approach to treatment. These are especially effective for those who have tried traditional treatment approaches with little to no success.
Formal inpatient/outpatient care is usually followed by an after-care treatment plan, which is meant to help you sustain your recovery for the long haul. Additionally, new, progressive alternative substitutes to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) are showing promise in the treatment of opioid addiction.
Alternative Treatment: Kratom for Opioid Addiction
Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) is a tropical tree found in Africa and Southeast Asia originally used for medicinal purposes.7,8 Recently, kratom has been used as an herbal alternative to MAT for opioid addiction. The two main active ingredients in kratom, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, interact with opioid receptors in the brain, causing similar effects as opioids, such as reduced pain, pleasure, and calmness.7,8
Kratom has multiple uses and was originally used by indigenous cultures in ancient healing practices. Most recently, kratom is gaining attention for its use in heroin and opioid addiction. The active ingredients in kratom bind to opioid receptors, producing mood-altering effects similar to pain relievers.7,8
Kratom is seen as an inexpensive psychotropic drug with dual properties. It has been used as a stimulant drug to enhance physical ability, or as an analgesic to take any pain away.8 Kratom is relatively new to the United States, Europe, and South America, but its prevalence is on the rise.
Kratom is generally used to:
- Increase work performance
- Lower cravings for opiates
- Assist in uncomfortable opioid withdrawal
Researchers believe kratom holds great promise for treating opioid addiction and easing withdrawal symptoms; however, the drug is not yet fully understood as a clinical intervention for opioid addiction.9,10 More substantial research is warranted, including testing kratom in clinical trials and controlled studies.9
Determining What Treatment Options Are Right for You
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), addiction can affect many aspects of a person’s life, so the best programs incorporate a variety of rehabilitative services into their comprehensive treatment regimens.11
Clinical advances in addiction treatment have given rise to mix-modalities in traditional tramadol treatment settings. Because recovery occurs in different ways for different people, treatment may include:
- Inpatient or outpatient treatment
- 12-step groups
- Faith-based programs
- Job skills training
- Other psychosocial interventions.
Clinicians take into consideration the environment, social relationships, and spiritual beliefs when working with clients.
The total societal and health costs to U.S. society dealing with alcohol and illegal drug use have been estimated at $167 billion, resulting in injuries, violent crimes, traffic accidents, and economic loss.12
Prevention and evidence-based modalities are vital in developing effective treatment strategies that help the individual and society. When researching tramadol treatment options, it is important to look for programs that cater to your specific needs. These may include rehabilitative programs that address multiple areas of your life, such as programs that will allow you to fulfill probation requirements if your situation involves legal matters.
You should also take into consideration the:
- Rehabilitation facility itself
- Individual practitioners
- Program specialists
- Demographic of the clients in the program
- Program itself
- Location of the facility
Do some research on each program and speak with their admissions department to get a sense of what feels right for you. After all, treatment is an investment in your future.
If you or a loved one is ready to get help, you can start by asking a few questions such as:
- How long have you or your loved one been addicted?
- Do you have medical or mental health concerns?
- Does your insurance cover addiction treatment?
- Do you need detox?
- Are you interested in a program that serves a specific population (teens, elderly, faith-based, LGBT, etc.)?
- Do you have other needs in treatment—job skills training, family or couples therapy, ability to complete schoolwork in treatment, etc.?
- Do you want to stay close to home for treatment or travel to escape your current environment?
Once you have decided on the right tramadol treatment program, it’s wise to prepare for rehab and tie up loose ends if going into detox or treatment. This will help you once your treatment is over and allow you to transition back to normal life relatively easily.
If you or a loved one is looking for help for tramadol addiction, please don’t hesitate to call our support line at 800-926-9037 (Who Answers?). Our trained specialists are here 24/7 to help you find the right treatment options.
- Drug Enforcement Administration. (2020).
- Kosten, T. & George, T. (2002). The neurobiology of opioid dependence: Implications for treatment. Scientific Practices and Perspective, 1(1): 13-20.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2012). Principles of drug addiction treatment: A research-based guide (3rd Edition).
- gov. (n.d.) Mental health care (partial hospitalization).
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). Treatment approaches for drug addiction.
- Chapman A. L. (2006). Dialectical behavior therapy: current indications and unique elements. Psychiatry (Edgmont (Pa. : Township)), 3(9), 62–68.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). What is kratom?
- Singh, D., Muller, C., Vicknasigam, B. (2014). Kratom (Mitrangyna speciosa) dependence, withdrawal symptoms and craving in regular users. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 132-137.
- Boyer, E., Babu, K., Adkins, J., McCurdy, C., and Halpern, J. (2008). Self-treatment of opioid withdrawal using kratom (Mitragynia speciosa korth). Addiction, 103(6): 1048-1050.
- Clopton, J. (2017). Turning to kratom for opioid withdrawal.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (2014). Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction.
- Country of Los Angeles Department of Public Health. (2011). Substance Abuse Prevention and Control Strategic Plan.