Tramadol and Alcohol: The Danger of Mixing These Drugs

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If you have recently received a tramadol prescription, your medical provider likely told you not to drink alcohol while you still need tramadol to manage pain. Like many other prescription drugs, tramadol is a powerful drug that, when taken correctly, can reduce pain and make a recovery from surgical procedures or managing chronic pain physically easier for patients. However, also like other prescription medications (and non-prescription drugs), consuming alcohol while using prescription drugs is not advised due to significant adverse interactions. If you are unsure of your ability to abstain from alcohol while taking tramadol, it may be time to seek professional alcohol addiction treatment at a treatment facility like The Hills in Los Angeles, California.

What is Tramadol?

Many people are familiar with prescription pain medications (or opioid pain relievers) like Vicodin or Oxy. Tramadol (also called Ultram, Conzip, and Ultracet) is an opioid pain medication also prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain conditions. It is also used for patients who experience chronic pain that is unrelieved by using weaker or over-the-counter pain medications.

Tramadol works within the body to block pain signals sent from the body to the brain. When taken as prescribed, tramadol has few side effects and a low potential for dependence when compared to other opioid medications. However, this is not to say dependence is not possible with prolonged use as would be indicated in chronic pain management cases. Although tramadol was (and often still is) marketed as a safer opiate drug form treatment of pain, it is still classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). A substance in this category is considered to have a moderate potential for abuse and may result in the development of physical dependence with ongoing use.

How is Tramadol Misused?

Tramadol tablets are designed to provided pain management through extended relief. This means the effects of the pill are designed to last several hours, providing lasting relief. When tramadol is abused, it is chewed, broken, or crushed, so the user receives the immediate effect of the entire dose of medication. When used recreationally, tramadol causes feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and improved mood. It may also lead to a potentially life-threatening condition called serotonin syndrome.

Serotonin syndrome is a condition that occurs when you take multiple medications that lead to elevated levels of serotonin accumulating in the body. Serotonin is responsible for the functioning of the brain and nerve cells. As vital as serotonin is to central nervous function, too much serotonin can lead to adverse side effects, including shivering, diarrhea, fever, seizures, and death.

A Little About Alcohol

Alcohol remains the number one abused drug in the United States. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), most substance use disorders and addiction diagnoses are related to alcohol. Like tramadol, alcohol works as a central nervous depressant, but it operates on different neurotransmitters in the brain.

Symptoms of Tramadol and Alcohol Abuse

Both alcohol and tramadol abuse can lead to various short and long-term symptoms. Although some symptoms are shared across both substances, some symptoms are specific to one substance or the other.

Symptoms of Tramadol Abuse

Some of the most common symptoms of tramadol abuse include slowed or irregular heart rate, seizures, hallucinations, slowed respiratory rate, and cognitive decline.

Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse

There are many symptoms of alcohol abuse. They often fall into physical, phycological, and emotional symptoms. Some of the most common include anxiety, mood swings, difficulties sleeping, memory loss, blackouts, and elevated blood pressure.

Tramadol Abuse Statistics

According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, nearly 10 million Americans misused prescription pain medications in that year. The same survey data indicates 1.5 million people misused tramadol. It is important to note that almost 70% of all deaths related to drug overdose were linked to opioid abuse and misuse. More than two million people were diagnosed with opioid use disorder.

The Dangers of Mixing Tramadol and Alcohol

Combining tramadol and alcohol could intensify the sedative and respiratory depressing effects of both. This can quickly lead to respiratory difficulty, unconsciousness, coma, respiratory arrest, overdose, and death. Long-term oxygen deprivation can lead to long-term brain damage and organ damage.

Mixing tramadol and alcohol can also lead to various new or worsening mental health impacts. Both substances typically have depressive implications for users. When someone abuses alcohol, they often experience new or worsening symptoms related to mental health, such as depression and anxiety. Similarly, tramadol and many other opioid drugs lead to depressive symptoms. Although the exact mechanism for how mental health disorders are impacted by substance is unclear, data indicates individuals who regularly engage in polysubstance (more than one) abuse are at a greater risk for developing or being diagnosed with various mental health disorders.

Drinking alcohol while using the extended-release form of tramadol can interfere with the extended-release mechanism of the drug. Extended-release tramadol is designed to release medication over time, allowing the effects of the medication to last longer. When taken with alcohol, it can lead to a “dumping effect,” meaning the entire dose of the drug is released much more quickly. Also, using alcohol with opiate drugs like tramadol may alter the absorption rates and distribution of the drug throughout the body. When using alcohol and tramadol in high amounts, it can increase the absorption rates of tramadol, increasing its central nervous depressant effects.

Polysubstance abuse may lead to an elevated risk of developing chronic diseases associated with using either drug alone. For example, the likelihood of developing a chronic illness like cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, ulcers and other gastrointestinal issues, stroke, arteriosclerosis, kidney disease, liver damage, and neurological conditions that can lead to dementia.

Additionally, mixing tramadol and alcohol can increase the risk of overdosing on either substance or developing addiction or dependence. Physical dependence on one or both substances often leads to withdrawal symptoms when you try to reduce or stop using.

Overcoming Addiction to Tramadol and Alcohol

Trying to quit alcohol or tramadol on your own is challenging, and it can be dangerous in many cases. If you are struggling with an addiction to alcohol and opioids, it is best to seek treatment at The Hills, where professional, medically supported detox services are available to ensure your health and safety throughout the detox process. Alcohol and opioid addiction treatment require intensive and comprehensive treatment to increase the chances of recovery.

The first step in the treatment process for many struggling with polysubstance abuse is detoxification or detox. The detox process from opioid painkillers and alcohol can be life-threatening. For this reason, it is crucial to detox and get treatment in a setting where medical supervision is available. During medically supervised detox, a team of medical staff will continually monitor your vital signs to ensure safety. In some cases, medications can be administered to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms. Detoxing alone or “cold turkey” can be dangerous and often leads to relapse if withdrawal symptoms become overwhelming. Although challenging, the detox process is a vital first step on your journey to recovery. Only after your body is cleansed of all substances can you fully immerse yourself in an addiction treatment program.

Polysubstance abuse is a struggle that can have significant mental and emotional health impacts. As you begin your treatment journey, your treatment team at The Hills will work with you to design a treatment plan around your unique treatment needs and goals. The design of your treatment program will depend on various factors, including your history with addiction and addiction treatment, your history of relapse, and the duration and severity of your addiction. Therapy for substance use disorders, including polysubstance abuse, generally involves cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT. This type of therapy focuses on the behavioral and thought patterns that further substance abuse. The goal of therapy is to ask patients to examine their thoughts and behaviors to help understand the root causes of addiction.

For an addiction treatment program to be successful, it is essential that the program is tailored to each client’s individual goals and needs. Because addiction is different and unique to the individual, cookie-cutter treatment programs will not be successful. In addition to therapy tailored to meet your treatment needs, it is also important to ensure that the overall treatment program addresses the entire person. This means providing therapy that addresses the addiction and the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the client as well. In the case of those struggling with polysubstance abuse, this also requires identifying the reasons in circumstances that led to the desire to abuse any substance and then dealing with those issues appropriately.

At The Hills in Los Angeles, we understand the decision to seek treatment is challenging. It can be frustrating to acknowledge a struggle with addiction that has roots in essential pain management treatment. However, it is vital to seek help for polysubstance addiction to enhance your opportunities for recovery success. At The Hills, we will work with you to develop a comprehensive treatment plan based on evidence-based therapies that have been proven effective in addiction treatment. Our caring and compassionate staff will be here to guide you throughout each step of your journey, beginning with detox and ending with a robust, uniquely designed aftercare plan. Comprehensive aftercare planning is essential to maintaining ongoing recovery. As you approach the end of your treatment plan, our team will work with you to design an aftercare plan that includes continuing therapy and access to support groups and other community supports. If you or a loved one struggles with an addiction to alcohol and tramadol, today is the day to begin your journey to healing. Contact our Los Angeles admissions team today to learn how The Hills can help you overcome addiction.
















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