And Anxiety

Table of Contents

What Is Tramadol?

Tramadol is a prescription medication for moderate to severe pain or those suffering from chronic pain, even some who are experiencing postoperative pain. It is part of a drug class, opioid analgesic. It is most useful for those living with around-the-clock pain, physical pain, and frequent pain signals that have not responded well to milder painkillers or have adverse effects to a different pain reliever.

Tramadol, a prescription medication known for its efficacy in managing moderate to severe pain, plays a pivotal role in pain management strategies, particularly for individuals grappling with chronic pain conditions or recovering from surgery. As an opioid analgesic, It is most useful for those living with around-the-clock pain, physical pain, and frequent pain signals that have not responded well to milder painkillers or have adverse effects to a different pain reliever.

In the context of addiction and mental health treatment, like that offered at Everlast Recovery in Riverside, CA, it’s important to consider the interplay between tramadol and anxiety. An anxiety disorder can co-occur with chronic pain, and managing this dual diagnosis effectively is crucial. Tramadol’s impact on serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake can offer some patients dual benefits – alleviating pain while also potentially providing relief from symptoms of anxiety.

It’s essential to approach this treatment under careful medical supervision, as tramadol’s interaction with anxiety medications and its potential for dependency require a tailored treatment plan. This approach ensures that patients at Everlast Recovery receive comprehensive care that addresses both their pain and mental health needs, fostering a holistic path to recovery.

Is Tramadol a Narcotic?

As of 2014, tramadol has been listed as a Schedule IV narcotic by the United States government and Drug Enforcement Administration.​​​1 This classification reflects a change in the perception and regulatory approach towards tramadol, acknowledging its potential for abuse and dependency while still recognizing its medical utility. Schedule IV drugs are defined as substances that have a lower potential for abuse relative to Schedule III drugs, but which still present a risk. This reclassification was driven by various factors, including the drug’s pharmacological profile and emerging data about its misuse.

Internationally, tramadol’s status varies, with countries like Great Britain also recognizing it as a narcotic. This global perspective on tramadol underscores the need for caution in its prescription and use. The reason for such stringent classification stems from tramadol’s common side effects and its significant potential for abuse. Side effects can range from nausea and dizziness to more severe symptoms like respiratory depression, especially when used improperly or in combination with other substances.

In addiction and mental health treatment centers, such as Everlast Recovery in Riverside, CA, understanding tramadol’s classification is crucial for both healthcare providers and patients. It informs treatment plans, especially in individuals with a history of substance abuse or those who are at risk of developing dependency. The Schedule IV status of tramadol also mandates strict regulatory compliance in its prescription and dispensation, ensuring that it is used safely and effectively while minimizing the risks of misuse and addiction. Thus, while tramadol remains a valuable tool in pain management, its classification as a Schedule IV narcotic serves as a reminder of the need for vigilance and responsibility in its use, particularly in settings focused on recovery from addiction and mental health disorders.

Can Tramadol Cause Anxiety?

To evaluate whether tramadol can contribute to the onset of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), a prevalent mental health condition, it’s essential to first understand the fundamental nature of anxiety and its current treatment modalities. An anxiety disorder, including GAD, is characterized by excessive, persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. These disorders often involve repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that reach a peak within minutes (panic disorder or panic attack).

Within the medical community, there’s a well-established correlation between levels of serotonin, a key neurotransmitter, and an individual’s mood state. Serotonin is often dubbed the ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter because of its significant role in promoting feelings of well-being and happiness. Higher levels of serotonin are generally associated with more positive mood states, whereas lower levels are linked to mood depression, potentially leading to conditions such as depression or an anxiety disorder.

Tramadol, being a complex analgesic, has effects on neurotransmitter systems in the brain, particularly serotonin and norepinephrine. It can increase serotonin levels, which, in theory, might suggest a potential benefit in terms of mood enhancement. However, this interaction is complex and not entirely straightforward. The impact of tramadol on serotonin levels can vary greatly among individuals, and in some cases, tramadol may paradoxically contribute to anxiety symptoms, either directly or as a result of its side effects or withdrawal syndrome.

This potential for varying impacts makes the assessment and monitoring of tramadol use especially important in patients with pre-existing anxiety disorders or those at risk for such conditions. In settings like Everlast Recovery, where the focus is on comprehensive treatment of both mental health and addiction issues, understanding the nuanced effects of medications like tramadol is critical. It enables healthcare providers to tailor treatment plans that address both pain management and mental health needs, ensuring that interventions do not inadvertently exacerbate anxiety symptoms.

Medications to Treat Anxiety

Since the level of serotonin is directly proportional to the level of happiness one might feel, it is understandable that if one decreased these levels anxiety would increase. The current classes of drugs used to treat anxiety do this in several ways.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are one of the most common forms of anxiety medication. They block the absorption of serotonin, which makes more of it available to regulate your mood. Additionally, there are short-term medications such as benzodiazepines that reduce the physical effects of anxiety or anxiety symptoms such as reducing muscle tension. 2

How Tramadol Compares to SSRIs

Tramadol works slightly differently. Because it is an opioid medication, it will bind to the various opioid receptors throughout the brain and nervous system. In turn, an opioid receptor produces what is called dopamine. Dopamine is different than serotonin in that it regulates pain and pleasure. Higher levels of dopamine mean higher levels of pleasurable feelings.

Because dopamine and serotonin are completely different processes in the body, it is not likely that an opioid such as tramadol would cause anxiety due to decreasing serotonin levels. However, a minority of patients have reported anxiety as a potential side effect with somewhere between 1 to 10% of patients reporting this occurring. While there is still much research to be done regarding tramadol, one theory is that some people lack the enzyme that makes this medication effective which causes anxiety by not treating the underlying pain.

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Can Tramadol Help Anxiety?

Many more people report the positive effects of tramadol in treating their anxiety than in causing it. However, it must be noted that what people might believe is treatment is simply covering up the immediate symptoms of the disorder. Tramadol works very similar to benzodiazepines in that the chemicals released from dopamine can make you feel relaxed and less pain. In turn, this could lower levels of anxiety temporarily.3

It’s also possible to feel that tramadol is treating anxiety effectively since it may also function similarly to Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors in a minority of patients. Again, this must be taken with extreme caution since a potentially life-threatening side effect of this medication is serotonin syndrome. Serotonin syndrome has many possible health risks but is caused by an uninhibited buildup of serotonin in the body.4

While this might seem beneficial in the short term, the long-term health implications are too large. For this reason, it is not typically advisable to take this medication to treat anxiety.

Why Might a Person Turn to Tramadol When Anxious?

Anxiety is a complicated issue that does not have a one-size-fits-all treatment. People respond to different medications in various ways and a disorder like anxiety can be incredibly challenging to address. Effective anxiety treatment may require a mix of medical and therapeutic approaches.

However, some people may mistakenly try drugs not originally designed to address the underlying issue. However, using pain medication to treat anxiety without the guidance of a medical professional will likely lead to more issues as it will not address the underlying causes.

Can You Become Addicted To Tramadol?

Tramadol, categorized as an opioid medication, inherently carries the risk of addiction or substance abuse, a concern echoed by numerous studies worldwide.5 Initially, the perception of tramadol was markedly different; it was viewed as a milder alternative to traditional narcotics. This view was informed by the intent to create a less potent opioid that could potentially replace stronger opioids, thereby reducing the risk of abuse, addiction, and withdrawal symptoms associated with more potent opioid medications.​​​6

However, this perspective on tramadol turned out to be overly optimistic. As medical professionals began to observe its effects in clinical settings, it became apparent that tramadol’s lower potency compared to other opioids often necessitated increasing dosages to achieve the desired level of pain relief. This escalation in dosage inadvertently led to patients developing a tolerance to the drug. Over time, as their tolerance grew, they required larger quantities of tramadol to achieve the same analgesic effect, tramadol abuse, inadvertently steering them towards a path of prescription drug addiction. This progression occurred despite the original intention for tramadol to be used as a stepping stone in weaning patients off stronger opioids.7

The realization of tramadol’s addictive potential has led to a shift in how it is prescribed and managed. The medical community now recognizes the importance of closely monitoring tramadol use, ensuring that it is prescribed only when necessary and in the lowest effective dose. This approach is crucial to mitigate the risk of developing dependency. Additionally, patient education about the risks associated with tramadol use, including the potential for addiction and the importance of adhering to prescribed dosages, has become an integral part of pain management strategies.

In this context, the journey of tramadol from a perceived safer alternative to a recognized risk factor for addiction underscores the complexities of opioid medication management. It highlights the ongoing need for vigilance, careful prescription practices, and comprehensive patient education to prevent the cycle of addiction, particularly in settings focused on treating chronic pain and managing opioid use disorders.

Treating Tramadol Addiction And Anxiety

Thankfully, for individuals struggling with tramadol addiction, there is hope in the form of various treatment options, ranging from traditional synthetic opioid therapies, family therapy, and drug rehab, to comprehensive addiction treatment programs. Among these, the combined use of buprenorphine and naloxone has emerged as a particularly effective method, especially for those grappling with opioid withdrawal symptoms. This combination, utilizing two modified forms of opioids, is expertly designed to gradually wean individuals off the drug, paving the way toward a life of sobriety and health.

However, it’s crucial to understand that the administration of these medications requires a controlled, medically supervised environment. Treatment typically commences with a carefully monitored detoxification process, followed by structured outpatient therapy.

If you or someone you know is facing the challenges of tramadol addiction, we encourage you to reach out for help. At Everlast Recovery, a mental health services administration, we offer a compassionate and professional approach to addiction treatment, providing the necessary medical supervision and support to navigate this journey. Don’t hesitate to take the first step towards a healthier, substance-free future – contact us today to learn more about our treatment programs and how we can assist you in achieving lasting recovery.