Some people abuse pain medications such as tramadol by snorting the crushed tablets. This may be done by those seeking a rapid initial burst of euphoria by bypassing the steady release of medication that would otherwise follow its intended oral administration.
What Is Tramadol?
Sold under a variety of commercial names – including ConZip, Ultram and Ultram ER – this analgesic medication is prescribed to manage moderate to moderately severe pain. Tramadol is a synthetic opioid agonist that interacts with certain opioid receptors within the brain – modifying sensations of physical pain and discomfort. It is often prescribed for people with nerve damage, arthritis or other painful chronic conditions.
Tramadol is sold in immediate-release and extended-release tablets, and it is meant to be taken orally. The extended-release version is intended to control symptoms for a longer period of time and is prescribed to adults who need around-the-clock pain control.
When tramadol is abused for recreational purposes, it can create a near-immediate sense of pleasure and happiness that’s often been compared to a morphine high. But this man-made opiate agonist can be addictive, and snorting the drug increases the risk of dependence.
What Happens When You Snort Tramadol?
When tramadol is taken orally as prescribed by a doctor, the drug is a generally safe alternative to other pain medications. Tramadol has more powerful painkiller properties than non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, and it was designed with the intention of providing a less addictive alternative to the stronger opiate analgesics.
Crushing the medication, however, is unsafe. People who misuse tramadol may crush multiple tablets in order to snort the drug and get a euphoric high. While some side effects of snorting tramadol may be shorter-term and less harmful than others, other side effects – such as seizures and overdose – can be much more risky and even lethal.
How Tramadol Enters Your System
When tramadol is ingested orally, it is first processed through the liver before its effects are felt throughout your body. When tramadol is snorted, however, the drug dodges this intended “first-pass” process of liver metabolism. Instead, the mucus membrane of your nasal passage absorbs the drug and delivers it across the blood-brain barrier directly to your brain.
How Tramadol Works in the Brain
Tramadol is a synthetic opioid – meaning that its chemical makeup has been man-made, rather than having been developed directly from opium poppy plant derivatives. Nonetheless, it works in the brain very similarly to natural opiates, as it attaches to opioid receptors and alters signaling throughout the body’s pain pathways. As a result, you perceive less pain in your body when there is tramadol in your system.
Tramadol is a somewhat unusual opioid analgesic in that it also increases the availability of norepinephine and serotonin in your brain. The drug’s actions on these neurotransmitters may serve to bolster its pain relieving capabilities, but is thought to also provide a mild antidepressant effect – elevating good feelings throughout the body.
How Quickly You Feel Tramadol’s Effects
Orally administered tramadol pills (immediate release) are processed through the liver, and drug levels peak in the body in about 2 hours. Since snorting tramadol skips this liver metabolism process – delivering the drug directly to the neural circulation – the effects of tramadol are experienced even faster than 2 hours.
What Are the Side Effects of Snorting Tramadol?
When tramadol powder is snorted, the medication can cause severe irritation of the mucous lining of the nose. Some users report a painful burning sensation. In addition to causing discomfort and pain, snorting tramadol increases the risk of taking too much of this medication.
Snorting tramadol can have serious consequences, such as:
- Shaking and tremors.
- Nausea and vomiting.
When you snort tramadol while you’re drinking or taking other drugs that suppress breathing and heart rate (such as opiate pain relievers methadone or heroin), the risk of central nervous system depression increases — as does the risk of accidental death.
Tramadol and Serotonin Syndrome
A 2010 study of tramadol overdose published in Clinical Toxicology indicates that 1.2 percent of all poisoning episodes in 2006 to 2007 were related to tramadol.1 Taking too much of this drug can result in what’s known as serotonin syndrome – a severe drug reaction that can occur when you take medications that alter the brain’s production of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Dangerous side effects of serotonin syndrome may include:
- Accelerated heart rate.
- Elevated blood pressure.
- Elevated body temperature.
- Delusions and hallucinations.
- Loss of motor coordination.
Getting Treatment for Tramadol Addiction
If you feel that your tramadol abuse has taken over your life, you may have a physical or psychological dependence on this drug. Getting help for tramadol addiction may require intensive, professional substance abuse treatment – potentially one that specifically promotes recovery from tramadol addiction or other form of prescription drug abuse. Treatment strategies for tramadol abuse include:
- Enrollment in a residential treatment program.
- Individual therapy or counseling utilizing behavioral modification techniques.
- Group and family counseling.
- Participation in a 12-step addiction program.
- Stress management techniques to prevent relapse.
Types of Treatment Programs
Treatment program types can vary quite a bit, depending on what you’re looking for in a program. Most treatment programs will involve a period of detox – where the body gets rid of any residual substance of abuse – followed by some combination of individual, group therapy and ongoing maintenance recovery.
- Luxury rehab centers provide residential rehabilitation treatment alongside a wide variety of plush, resort-like amenities to make your experience more comfortable.
- Executive rehabs also provide residential rehabilitation with many of the same luxurious amenities as luxury rehab. Executive rehab, however, also focuses on providing busy professionals with the resources and structure to maintain active involvement in the workplace throughout the recovery process.
- Standard or traditional rehab facilities also provide the same top-notch rehabilitation treatment as do luxury or executive programs – only without the extra amenities or high price tag.
Find a Tramadol Addiction Rehab Program
Are you interested in learning more about how you can recover from tramadol addiction? If you’d like some help sorting through what next steps towards tramadol rehabilitation are available to you, call us at 1-888-744-0789 and get the information you need.
There are many rehab treatment options for you to be able to find one that accommodates your unique needs and budget. We would be happy to answer any further questions you may have and help you find your own pathway towards a new, addiction-free life.
- Tashakori, A., Afshari, R. (2010). Tramadol overdose as a cause of serotonin syndrome: a care series. Clinc Toxicol, 48(4), 337-41.