I. The Basics of Tramadol Rehabilitation

This guide was written to provide an overview of the tramadol rehabilitation process as well as to offer helpful resources for persons recovering from tramadol addiction.

The tramadol recovery process usually begins with an initial assessment. During this assessment, a treatment professional asks questions about the individual’s substance use and medical history. Gathering this information helps staff members develop an appropriate treatment plan for the individual. Once this step is complete, the user enters the initial detoxification (detox) period, which is when tramadol is eliminated from the body. If the facility offers medically managed detox, the individual may be given supportive medications to reduce the severity of any withdrawal symptoms.

Once tramadol has been eliminated from the body, the user engages in therapy and receives social support from treatment staff and other individuals in treatment. A strong support network can help an individual stay sober.

Description of the Four Steps of the Rehab Process

For more information, read our guide to the rehab process.

What Makes Tramadol Rehabilitation Difficult?

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency considers tramadol to be a Schedule IV controlled substance. Although drugs on this schedule have a lower addictive potential than other opioids, they can still cause harm. The availability of tramadol has also increased, making it more likely that individuals with a high risk of developing a substance use disorder will start using tramadol and become addicted to it. According to the World Drug Report, increased availability of tramadol has caused a public health crisis in Africa and the Middle East.

Tramadol affects the central nervous system, making it difficult to stop using for several reasons. When tramadol attaches to the brain’s opioid receptors, a rush of dopamine activates the brain’s reward circuit. Dopamine enhances the user’s well-being and produces a pleasant sense of calmness. Over time, the user’s brain does not respond as well to normal doses of tramadol, so the individual must keep taking more and more tramadol to experience the same effects. Even if an individual feels ready to stop using tramadol, it can be difficult to do so due to the severe withdrawal symptoms associated with opioid withdrawal.

The Unique Struggle of Tramadol Addicts
Tramadol…
  • floods the brain with dopamine, making it more likely that the user will start to crave tramadol.
  • activates the brain’s reward circuit, forcing the user to take larger, more frequent doses to experience the same pleasurable effects.
  • produces severe withdrawal symptoms, making it difficult to stop using.
  • remains in the body for several days, increasing the risk of relapse.

Tramadol Rehabilitation Statistics

Opioid Treatment Admissions by Gender (Opioids Other Than Heroin)

52.7% Male
47.3% Female

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) estimates in 2015:

Demographics of Individuals Seeking Treatment for Tramadol Addiction

According to a 2017 SAMHSA report that charts admissions to and discharges from publicly funded substance use treatment facilities, men are more likely to seek treatment for opioid abuse, which includes tramadol. The gender breakdown of treatment admissions for opioids was 52.7% male and 47.3% female. While tramadol addiction occurs in all age groups, the most common age group admitted to a treatment facility for opioid use was individuals aged 25 to 34, with 35 being the average age of all individuals from all age groups who are seeking rehabilitation.

Opioid Treatment Admissions Percentages by Age Group, 2017 (Opioids Other Than Heroin)
Age at the Time of Treatment AdmissionPercentage of Opioid Treatment Admissions
12-170.4%
18-2410.4%
25-3444.9%
35-4425.4%
45-5412.1%
55-645.9%
65+0.9%

II. Tramadol Detoxification and Withdrawal Process

The tramadol recovery process begins with an initial detoxification period. During this period, users have the opportunity to eliminate tramadol from their bodies. This can cause unpleasant side effects, but supportive medications are available to make the elimination process more comfortable. Since tramadol has a half-life of 5.1 hours, it takes about five hours for half of the tramadol to be eliminated. It can take several weeks for a user to complete the withdrawal process.

In some cases, withdrawal symptoms last for several months. When these symptoms last for more than two weeks, they’re known as post-acute withdrawal effects. Several factors influence the length of this process, including the individual’s medical history, the presence of co-occurring disorders, and how long the individual has been using tramadol.

Withdrawal Symptoms

BodyMind
Short-Term SymptomsRunny nose
Sweating
Increased tear production
Insomnia
Frequent yawning
Muscle aches
Agitation
Excessive worry/anxiety
Mood swings
Long-Term SymptomsDilated pupils
Nausea/vomiting
Abdominal cramps
Goose pimples
High levels of anxiety
Changes in mood

Sources: MedlinePlus

The risk of overdose increases in the early stages of the tramadol recovery process

Some withdrawal symptoms are so severe that tramadol users start using again within just a few days or weeks of going through the initial detoxification process. These users have an increased risk of overdose because eliminating tramadol from the body reduces the user’s tolerance for the drug. When tramadol users relapse, they may take the same amount of tramadol they did when they were regularly using, leading to unintentional overdose.

Sudden death may occur due to nausea and vomiting withdrawal symptoms

Nausea and vomiting aren’t usually considered serious, but they can be deadly for an individual going through tramadol withdrawal. If an individual vomits while lying down, his or her stomach contents may enter the lungs, which increases the risk for pneumonia.

Tramadol withdrawal can cause severe dehydration

Some users vomit or have severe diarrhea when withdrawing from tramadol, increasing the risk for dehydration. In healthy individuals, dehydration can usually be treated with fluids and electrolytes; however, someone withdrawing from tramadol may need more advanced treatment. If the individual is not treated quickly, dehydration can lead to death.

Tramadol Detoxification Medications

To make the withdrawal process safer for the user, some treatment professionals prescribe supportive medications. Loperamide can be used to control diarrhea, over-the-counter pain relievers reduce the aches and pains associated with withdrawal, and metoclopramide helps with nausea. Some users may also take sedatives to help with insomnia and anxiety.

 

For more information about withdrawal, read our guide on Tramadol Addiction.

III. Treatment for Tramadol Addiction

Naltrexone, buprenorphine, and methadone are used to treat opioid addiction by reducing cravings and easing withdrawal symptoms. Naltrexone works by preventing the user from experiencing the sense of euphoria that can contribute to tramadol addiction. Buprenorphine can be administered orally, implanted under the skin, or given in the form of a patch. Methadone is effective for tramadol addiction treatment, but it can only be administered by a licensed medical professional.

Medications are often used in combination with behavioral therapies to ensure that each individual has an opportunity to address unhealthy behaviors and addiction triggers.

Rehabilitation Settings

Within either an inpatient or outpatient setting, treatments such as detoxification services, behavioral therapies, and medication-assisted treatments are offered for varying lengths of time.

Inpatient treatment involves living full time (including overnight) at a treatment facility for a set period of time. Outpatient treatment involves scheduled appointments at a facility in which you are free to come and go. Within each category, there are several distinctions.

Tramadol Treatment Programs
SettingType of TreatmentDescriptionDurationTime Commitment
InpatientShort-Term ResidentialIntensive treatment, sometimes in a hospital setting. Therapies offered are extensive. Medication-assisted treatment is available to those who qualify.14-30 daysHours Per Day:
24
Days Per Week:
7
Long-Term ResidentialIntensive treatment in a non-hospital setting, most often a therapeutic community with other patients. Therapies offered are extensive. Medication-assisted treatment is available to those who qualify.3-12 monthsHours Per Day:
24
Days Per Week:
7
Partial HospitalizationIntensive treatment in a hospital setting. Patients do not stay overnight. Considered inpatient due to the hospital setting. Extensive services are provided and require a near full-time commitment every week. Medication-assisted treatment is available to those who qualify.14-30 daysHours Per Day:
6-8
Days Per Week:
5
OutpatientIntensive Day TreatmentExtensive services of an inpatient program but patients return home each day following treatment. After completion, patients often transition to less intensive counseling. Therapies offered are extensive. Medication-assisted treatment is available to those who qualify.3-4 monthsHours Per Day:
2-4
Days Per Week:

3

CounselingBoth individual counseling and group counseling focus on short-term behavioral goals to develop coping strategies. Therapies offered are moderate. Medication-assisted treatment is not available.As long as desiredHours Per Day:
1-2
Days Per Week:
1-3
Support GroupsSelf-help groups center on maintaining abstinence after another form of treatment. Typically meet one day a week for 1-2 hours.As long as desiredHours Per Day:
1-2
Days Per Week:
1

Behavioral Therapies

Behavioral therapy for substance addiction seeks to identify and manage addictive behaviors that lead to use and prevent relapse. Behavioral therapy is based on the concept that all behavior is learned, and thus, unhealthy behavior can be changed through learning coping skills and increasing awareness of negative thoughts and beliefs that contribute to substance abuse.

Behavioral Therapies for Tramadol Addiction
Type of Therapy

 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

 

Further reading:

Definition

 

Some individuals participate in 12-step therapy to ensure they remain committed to following the principles of a 12-step program. This type of therapy was designed for individuals, but it can also be delivered in a group setting.

 

Over a period of 12 to 15 weeks, the user works with treatment professionals to comply with the guidelines of programs like Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous. The individual must also admit that the only way to truly recover from tramadol addiction is to abstain completely.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

 

Further reading:

Cognitive-behavioral therapy seeks to address the negative thought patterns that contribute to tramadol addiction. CBT also helps tramadol users learn how to solve problems without using tramadol or another substance.

 

Several types of CBT are available, including contingency management, a treatment approach that rewards recovering tramadol users for abstaining from substance use. Under this approach, an individual may receive a monetary reward or some other prize for avoiding tramadol.

IV. How to Find Help

Finding a Rehabilitation Center for Tramadol Addiction

Many rehabilitation programs exist to help tramadol users recover from their addictions. When searching for one of these facilities, it may be helpful to limit the search to rehabilitation centers offering medically managed detox. Medical management can help users avoid some of the most severe withdrawal symptoms, reducing the risk of relapse.

It may also be helpful to choose a treatment facility that offers supportive medications, behavioral therapies, and medication-assisted therapies, as a combination of medication and behavioral therapy is likely to be more effective than either type of treatment alone.

Our Directory

Our directory of rehab programs includes a comprehensive list of available treatment centers and programs as provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). In the directory, you will find tools to filter the programs by setting, price, and location.