Q. Last February my 84-year-old mother had pain in her lower back due to a car accident. The doctor prescribed tramadol (Ultram). She took it for several months. It helped with the pain, but we did not realize that the problems she had were side effects that the drug was causing.

The most serious one was shortness of breath. The doctor prescribed an inhaler, and was about to refer her to a pulmonologist. Other adverse reactions included confusion, lack of appetite, depression, anxiety and very high blood pressure (we took her to the emergency room in April for blood pressure of over 200 with shortness of breath).

They did not find anything, but prescribed more blood pressure medicine. Around July she stopped taking the tramadol and she soon realized that she was no longer short of breath. Gradually she was back to her old self, with purpose, less anxiety, and able to breath well.

Perhaps the doctor should have realized that the shortness of breath was due to the tramadol. Perhaps I should have read the sheet that came with the medicine. I wonder if any other patients have had a similar experience.

A. Tramadol (brand names Ultram & Ultracet) is a complicated medication that was first approved by the FDA in 1995. It is a moderately powerful prescription pain reliever that has some “weak” opioid activity. That means it acts a bit like a narcotic. It was supposed to be safer than most pain relievers, which is why it is not categorized as “controlled” substance (the way Vicodin, Oxycontin or hydrocodone are). Doctors could prescribe Ultram without using a DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) number.

In the early days there was a belief that tramadol was much less likely to cause dependence than most other narcotic-like analgesics. In other words, there was not supposed to be an abuse potential (doctorspeak for the drug was generally considered non addicting). In theory, this pain reliever was supposed to have a low likelihood for producing withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation, especially when compared to narcotics like oxycodone.

Tramadol also affects neurochemicals such as serotonin and norepinephrine. That means the drug behaves a little like antidepressants such as Zoloft (sertraline, which is an SSRI or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) or Effexor (venlafaxine an SNRI) in the brain, though the drug has not been approved to treat depression. More on this effect (and its complications) in a moment.

The problem with theories is that they don’t always work out the way they are supposed to. In the case of tramadol, there are a number of side effects and complications that were not necessarily anticipated.

TRAMADOL SIDE EFFECTS:

• Dizziness, unsteadiness, vertigo, coordination difficulties
• Nausea, vomiting
• Abdominal pain, indigestion, diarrhea
• Constipation
• Sleepiness, drowsiness, fatigue,
• Itching, skin rash (could be life threatening!)
• Sweating
• Dry mouth
• Anxiety, confusion, nervousness, cognitive dysfunction
• Headache
• Insomnia
• Seizures
• Respiratory depression, breathing difficulties (shortness of breath)
• Suicidal thoughts
• Low blood pressure on standing, hypertension, irregular heart rhythms
• Serotonin syndrome

Your mother’s side effects including her breathing difficulties, confusion, lack of appetite, hypertensive episode and depression could all have been tied to tramadol. The drug can trigger something called serotonin syndrome, especially in combination with certain other medications. You can read more about serotonin syndrome at this link. It can be potentially life threatening.

Perhaps the most disturbing and unanticipated problem with tramadol is withdrawal. Even though most health professionals thought the drug would not trigger this problem, we now know that it not only happens but can be disastrous. In addition to the narcotic-like action of tramadol, the drug also behaves a bit like antidepressants such as paroxetine, sertraline or venlafaxine. At the time it was approved, the FDA may not have realized that when such drugs are stopped suddenly, people can experience very unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. This dual action (the narcotic-like effect and the serotonin “discontinuation syndrome”) can lead to some terrible symptoms. Patients are not always warned about this problem.

TRAMADOL WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS:

• Anxiety, mood swings, irritability
• Brain zaps (shock-like sensations), tingling
• Sweating, chills, goose bumps, shivering
• Tremors
• Headaches
• nsomnia, sleeping difficulties, nightmares
• Flu-like symptoms
• Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite
• Depression
• Hallucinations, unusual thoughts
• Aggresiveness

Here are just two of many stories we have received about this complication:

“I had surgery on my shoulder for a partial rotator cuff tear and manipulation of my frozen shoulder at the same time. The doctor ordered for PT to begin very next day. I was taking tramadol, but starting to feel strange so I stopped taking it abruptly.

“By midnight I was having cold chills and the sweats all night long. By the next morning I was vomiting. In addition to sweating profusely and cold chills I had severe anxiety. I was ended up in ER that afternoon. Apparently, I was having withrawal from tramadol. It was a horrible experience. I do not want to ever experience the “withdrawl” symptoms again.”
Keiko


“I took tramadol for just over 30 days prior to having a hip replacement. I then took the pills for a week after surgery. Then I stopped.

“The withdrawal for me was worse than recovery from the surgery. I had flu like symptoms and was depressed (something I had never experienced). It took about 3 weeks to feel somewhat normal. I would never take this drug again!”
Lorraine

 

GENERIC TRAMADOL PROBLEMS:

In addition to the side effect issues and the withdrawal symptoms associated with sudden discontinuation of tramadol, there is also the generic drug concern. We have heard from a number of people that not all generic versions of tramadol are created equal:

“I was taking the generic version of Ultram (tramadol) for several years when my pharmacy suddenly changed manufacturers (and did not point it out to me before I left the pharmacy with it).

“I gave them the benefit of the doubt, but within 24 hours of taking the other generic, I knew something was terribly wrong. All of my pain symptoms returned overnight, accompanied by extreme anxiety.

“I had to jump through hoops with the pharmacy but managed to get my doctor to write the script as DAW [dispense as written] and within an hour of taking the “Ultram,” I felt completely different. The anxiety disappeared along with the lower back and leg pain.”
P.J.B.


“When my doctor prescribed Ultram for my neurologic pain, it worked for the first time and I was nearly pain free for a few hours. Then the pharmacy changed to the generic tramadol and I never had total pain relief for any length of time.”

Jim

 

The bottom line on tramadol appears to be:

• Tramadol can ease pain somewhat, but has a number of serious side effects (see above)
• Tramadol should not be discontinued abruptly. It can trigger terrible withdrawal symptoms for some people.
• The FDA has not provided physicians with clear guidelines on how to help patients phase off such drugs. We frequently see recommendations like “gradual withdrawal,” but no one bothers to provide clear instructions about what that really means.
• Do not assume that all generic tramadol formulations are identical to Ultram or each other.

If you experience any side effects, withdrawal symptoms or complications with a generic version of tramadol, contact your physician and pharmacist and request the help you deserve.

Share your own story or comment below.

 

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  1. JP
    Reply

    Peter
    Sounds familiar to me. THe whole thing about Tramadol is that many people can take it and have no problems getting off it and no real side effects. The other side of the coin seems to be people like you and I who get different symptoms and have no reasonable cause for it. I was taking tramadol for 5 years. Two weeks after I started taking it I started getting shortness of breath. That started the roller coaster of tests and doctors. After all the medical tests come back negative they finally send you to the psychologist. The diagnosis is anxiety, panic attacks, depression.
    This now starts the new roller coaster of meds to treat the anxiety, none of which work. I feel it is impossible to get the anxiety tag taken off of you once you get it. Now your whole life is about helping the anxiety. I feel for me that it makes sense that tramadol is the cause of all of this. Not one of at least 50 doctors I have seen in the last 5 years will agree with me though. One funny thing that I found is now they add an extra label on the tramadol that says tramadol can affect your respiratory system. (Shocking huh).
    I have been off of tramadol for 6 months. The shortness of breath for me has somewhat changed to a very hypersensitive system. The very slightest movements makes my system go on alert. Relaxation many times makes it worse.
    I am hoping that it is my brain trying to rewire itself and that in time things will get better. It is however very hard to keep the faith day in and day out. I wish you the best and hope all works out for you!
    JP

  2. peter a.
    Reply

    Hi I was taking 8 sometimes 10 x 50mg tramadol hydrochloride capsules for lower back pain for about 10 years. I then had 2 heart attacks and cardiact arrest in one night I was brought back and had 2 stents fitted and diagnosed with heart failure. I then dropped down to 3 x 50 mg per day 1 morning 1 evening and 1 night time.
    I have been suffering shortness of breath which I figured was caused by my heart failure the heart consultant has said that I have a good ejection factor and after testing my chest and lung function cant find any reason for my shortness of breath and to get my g.p. look into other avenues. 1 g.p. told me it could be in my mind and prescribed some anti depressants which I will not take as I don’t consider myself depressed.
    Looking at the effects of tramadol on these comments I was wondering if I were able to stop would I get my breathing back and if so how long after I have stopped could I expect to be back to normal or is the damage irreversible. thank you regards peter.

  3. SA
    Reply

    The following is all my opinion:
    Tramadol shouldn’t be treated as a painkiller. Its effects on serotonin and norepinephrine make it more like an antidepressant.
    I take between one and a half and two 50mg tablets per day and it has changed my life. After taking tramadol for depression, I realize it’s been 30 years since I’ve been happy. My fears disappear and my energy rises after I take tramadol and I finally feel good after being miserable for so long. 1
    That such a small amount affects me so profoundly suggests to me that most of the problems people have with tramadol come from overdosing. Many of the symptoms I see here are similar to those that occur when people overdose on SRAs, SSRIs, or SSNRIs. The withdrawal symptoms are also similar.
    The problem is that tramadol is such modest painkiller that large doses are needed to match the effectiveness of opiates. As a result it’s difficult to avoid the side effects common with taking too much of an SSNRI. The threshold dose for pain relief seems only slightly less than the dose that causes SSNRI side effects.
    This doesn’t make tramadol useless, though. As I said, the antidepressant character of the drug has changed my life (and maybe saved it). Nothing else has worked.
    I hope someone studies the use of tramadol as an antidepressant. Its misuse as a pain killer has given it a bad reputation. I think it could help many people, especially those that need a quick rescue when a traditional SSRI might take weeks to work. For me, the blues go away in mere hours after I take it.
    The only problem I have is with the insomnia. It isn’t unpleasant, but I know intellectually that the body needs sleep. Still, it’s better than the days and days of grey skies I’ve had for much of my life.
    Again, all my opinion.

  4. Disabled Vet
    Reply

    I’ve been taking Tramadol since Oct 2010. I have the whole lower back package of bulging discs, spinal stenosis, disc degeneration, scoliosis and a few other things going on. I’ve been suffering from severe chronic pain since Oct 1996 aka the injury date. Its gotten worse over time. I also have chonic GERD and have had plenty of stomach acid in the nasal passage and lungs.
    Needless to say, the problem breathing has gotten worse. Yet, the Veteran’s Hospital keeps me on this worthless medication. I nearly pass out when I have to bend over to tie my shoes. It does not even give me any relief whatsoever. I also have Insomnia which means taking Trazadone. My Tramadol prescription is 150 mg a day and any more than that I really have problems breathing. To the point my inhalers do not work. They barely give me any relief on 150 mg. If Texas allowed the use of marijuana use for chronic back pain, I’d be the first to sign up for it and skip taking a few of my medications I’m taking and its 8 different kinds.
    And for the record, Tramadol has been changed to a Class IV drug.
    Controlled Status:
    On July 2, 2014, the DEA published in the Federal Register the final rule placing tramadol into schedule IV of the Controlled Substances Act. This rule will become effective on August 18, 2014. All regulatory requirements applicable to schedule IV controlled substances will apply to tramadol beginning
    August 18, 2014. The final rule is available online at
    http://www.regulations.gov

  5. F.F.
    Reply

    I have been on Ultram (Tramadol) 50mg once a day for bad low back pain (stenosis) that I endure for 2 yrs now, pain going down on both legs and mornings are terrible for me, to start walking, I wake up in pain with no energy to get up. still driving my car but not going out of the house more than one hour, pain is too terrible.I had to quit Advil (which didn’t help at all…) I end up with severe stomach problems with it, and more high blood pressure. I am 72 yrs old.
    Tramadol helps a bit more than Advil but I take white wine everyday, I am depressed, cannot meet my friend like before, and wine pushes me out of my blues… sometimes. Last night I took more and today was real bad. Diarrhea since this morning and no relief from pain. Also cramps and nausea… I think the wine doesn’t help. I drank a lot of water only today, hardly eat, hoping it will be better tomorrow… hope it is o.k. May be will have a soup for supper..
    Had some infiltrations 2 yrs ago and it didn’t help a bit. Seeing my psychiatrist this week. Heard lot people are on Lyrica.. is it better…so many different opinions.
    The way it goes, I wont be to walk at all if nothing helps.. I was a real active person till it hit me, kayak, natation, cross c.-ski… all this is behind me.
    Stairs are very hard for me, and I am still living in my house..
    Good talking to you, God help us…

  6. JP
    Reply

    How are you doing with the tramadol withdrawl? Is it getting better?

  7. Billy b
    Reply

    It’s true. I used round tabs for years, then CVS went to oval ones and they made me sick. Then I went to target and theirs were skinny ones. Those did not make me sick. So I believe those are definitely a different formula!!
    why?
    These were not ultram but tramadol.

  8. MG
    Reply

    I have been on Tramadol for 2.5 years for fibromyalgia. It has been very effective for the pain, without making me feel tired. I was up to 100 mg ER + 50 mg in the morning, and 50 mg at night. I occasionally have the jerking body motions in bed at night (legs & abdomen) and constant ringing in the ears. I regularly experience a zipping noise in my ears, on top of the ringing, (similar to sand blocks rubbing together). It is intermittent, but always when I am due for a dose, and sometimes occurs randomly when I am not due for a dose. My hair has become very brittle and dull, and I am not certain if it is related.
    Due to these symptoms, I recently reduced my dosage of Tramadol;I am currently taking 50 mg in the morning and 50 mg at night, along with malic acid, 1 gm two times per day. Initially, it was easy to decrease and I felt terrific on the malic acid however that was a month ago. Now, with the decrease, I have noted that by 7 pm, I am having increased fibro pain, the zipping noise in my ears, a sore throat and a runny nose every evening, accompanied by a feeling of agitation, that is all relieved by taking Tramadol. I am also in a lot of pain waking up every morning on this reduced dose, and not sleeping through the night anymore. The zipping noise has awakened me in the middle of the night. Seems the malic acid effect was short-lived.
    I see my PCP in two weeks and hopefully we will come up with a plan to manage both the pain and side effects. Until then, I have decided to cut my Tramadol 50 mg tablets in half and take a half dose at 4 pm and the another 25 mg at bedtime along with Melatonin to see if that works better. If it does, I may cut the morning dose in half and spread that out as well so that I take 25 mg every 6 hrs, and then stretch it to 8 hrs. I will post the results.
    Aside from medication, I am walking 2-3 miles 4-5 days a week and doing weight resistant exercises once per week, with a goal of 2-3 times per week. Would love to feel normal every day without the meds and I keep trying!
    I am curious if anyone else has the hearing side effects; I have read about brain zaps but this is strictly hearing, no physical zapping.

  9. Mary G.
    Reply

    Can you tell me the name of your new medication? Thanks.

  10. Jessica
    Reply

    My husband and I have danced with this devil on and off for years. I have stage 4 endometriosis and he lower back pain. It’s a love/hate. The only thing that eases the withdrawal symptoms is hydrocodone. We take 1 500mg Vicodin 2xs a day for a few days to help ease the tramadol withdrawal. Takes us about a week to stop most of the withdrawal symptoms. The depression and low energy level issues take a month or more to stabilize. I am proscribed 50mg 3x’s daily, him 50mg 6x’s daily. The flu, combined with restless body syndrome (wish it were just our legs), the need to stretch/crack every bone/muscle, weight loss, depression, irritability when stopping is ridiculous if you try to stop cold turkey. I would much rather get 2 Vicodin 500mg a day than this BS but Dr.’s can’t/won’t proscribe opiates much anymore.
    I always feel like being put on “the rack” would help… that if my body could be stretched to the limit it would relieve the withdrawal feeling of wanting to unzip my skin and crawl out. At first when you take it, it’s like speed. Major energy and sense of well being, but that goes away over time unless you up the frequency or dosage. Other than ibuprofen/Tylenol/aleve we take nothing.

  11. Anonymous
    Reply

    I have been taking Tramadal for about 10 years for my shoulder pain. This April I was having carpal tunnel surgery and the doctor said I should not take Tramadal and Mobic because he was prescribing a Hydrocodone drug for surgery pain. I quit both tramadal and mobic and the next day I was experiencing WITHDRAWAL!
    I called thier office to make sure that I wasn’t suppose to take tramadal, and they said I COULD TAKE TRAMADAL. My symptoms quit. Then I went to see my reg. doctor for a painful knee and he said not to take Mobic or Tramadal, and I quit both, and I was going thru the same withdrawal again. Constant Crying. I had Racing Heart, excruciating HOT FLASHES, high pulse, high blood sugar, sweating, numb left arm and numb left leg. Excruciating nervousness and terrible weakness. Did not sleep for 2 days. I felt nauseated.
    I thought I was dying. I could not concentrate or think clearly. It was PURE HELL!!!!! I did go to see my doctor but he was not in. The Doctor that I did see said I should take a tramadal to take off the edge. I said no. I then saw my reg. doctor on Monday and he said that I should try Lorizopan (anxiety drug) to take the edge off.
    I tried a half pill and it put me to sleep. But I have taken that 1/2 pill for 2 days, and I don’t think it’s helping much. At least I slept some. I NEVER WANT TO GO THROUGH THAT AGAIN!! It’s been a week and I still have extreme weakness and shakyness and high blood sugar. MY ADVICE, DO NOT GET ON THIS DRUG, TRAMADAL!!!

  12. RHenry
    Reply

    I had two knee surgeries one right after another one on March 20, 2014 and another on April 4, 2014. When I was taken to the ER on the date of the injury which was March 16th, 2014. I was put on Tramadol for pain and was sent home, they took x-rays and told me nothing was broken had some bruising and I was given three pills and was told I could walk out of the hospital. I could not walk out of the hospital and was told to follow up with my normal doctor the next day. I did and I had an MRI and x-rays done again. My knee at the top of my tibia was sheered off like you were peeling an apple which was bone and I was in a lot of pain.
    My regular dr referred me to a orthopedic surgeon and four days later I had my first surgery. Still on Tramadol, I came out of surgery, dr couldn’t fix it so I was sent to another dr and he put a 2 inch titanium screw in it. I have been going to PT and have been on crutches for 4 months now, still taking the Tramadol. I have tried to get off the Tramadol but when I do, I feel like I have the flu, no appetite, weepy, absolutely cannot sleep at all and I only have been taking one a day at night. I take it because it makes me sleep sooooo good. I am also on blood pressure pills and an antidepressant each one per day. I want to be off the Tramadol completely and have called my dr to see how I need to wean off.

  13. Heather
    Reply

    i really feel sorry for all who have had these horrid experiences with tramadol, i have been on a slow release tramadol 200 mg and the dissolving tramadol i can take up to 60 mg a day for over ten days, i feel so ill headaches gastric problems, breathing is shallow, although i am a smoker, but intending to stop !
    I suffer from fibromyalgia and doctors have convinced me over the years that this was the best medication for fibro , i also have arthritis in spine, now what i can see a lot of the fibro suffers who is on tramadol may think its the fibro thats giving them these symptons , i also experience headaches daily, i get shaky hands some days but not sure if thats a side effect of the tramadol or the fibro. i have recently came off two other medications that doctors have prescribed me but still feel really ill… so i am going to have to wean myself off the tramodol and start from a clean slate , and what i have read on here this is just appalled me to find out what tramadol is doing to people…. best of luck folks i know i will need it :)
    heather from Aberdeenshire

  14. Heather
    Reply

    hiya, I would suggest you write to your health minister, this has to be taken seriously esp if the hospital isn’t taking it onboard.
    I have been on tramadol for more than 10 yrs, have been using it because of fibromyalgia and I have arthritis of the spine, I have complained about more than a few of the side effects but I was looked at like I had two heads by a couple of doctors, they were putting it down to the fibromyalgia.
    I am a smoker and my breathing, day on day off can vary, I can do very minimal some days as it is with the fibro etc, but when my breathings bad it really is very upsetting and uncomfortable
    Please don’t let this go keep complaining until you get the answers you deserve. Best of luck to your mum and yourself. I am currently going to seek advise from my g.p to come off this nasty drug.
    Hez from Aberdeenshire

  15. MG
    Reply

    I’m sure you did not mean to imply that people who experience a problem are doing so because they are not taking the medication as prescribed. Certainly you are aware that everyone has a different body chemistry, and may be on different medication regimens that may not play nicely with a specific drug.
    I found this page because I have taken it tramadol (150mg total over the course of the day), and recently stopped–tramadol and a couple of other things. I have been recovering from a severely adverse reaction to Reclast in March. It has been the worst struggle of my life. This is a drug given through an IV infusion, so no chance of my not taking it “properly.” After awhile of this, I realized the tramadol was not really helping with pain, and the muscle relaxant was not working either, not the anti-anxiety medication. I read their official paper work and saw no warnings about discontinuing. I felt since they were not working I could up the dose or stop taking them, and I was curious to see if I would feel better. Yes and no. For the last several days my tremor has been worse, horrid headaches, a new fascination for re-opening old scars from a divorce. As I stood there this morning, making my decaff, I thought “this is like withdrawal is portrayed.” So, I got online and found this page. It pretty much covers the nut.
    I am on day three since cutting it off, so I will just sweat it out, but I wish I had known about this earlier. I am glad it works for you, but you should consider yourself lucky. Reclast is ok for most people, too, but turns out I am not one of them. I am just glad I am not the small percentage who go into renal failure and die within the first few days.

  16. JP
    Reply

    Jennifer
    I really feel for you. I was in the same place Feb 1st this year. I too had the same problems as you but added the stomach pain and tingling in my feet all the time. I was prescribed 3 strong sleep drugs at once and only slept maybe 3 hrs for 3 weeks. What I have found is that after around 6 weeks my brain finally came around and the depression left. I finally felt back in the world again.
    It has been 4 full months and I still have the tingly feet all the time and stomach issues. My head feels pressure kind of like when I was on Tramadol. It is a long road and I do feel that eventually after my brain rewires itself that things will get even better! The journey is not fun though. Please stay strong and know that even though it is the fight of your life that you will get through it stronger. I agree with you that the doctors have no clue what this drug is doing to people. I wish a few of them would have to take tramadol and then someone tell them to just stop it. I think they would have a different view of it. With all of the physical symptoms created from the withdrawal it makes you look like a hypochondriac to your doctor and they think you are crazy! It sucks!
    Good luck and stay strong!

  17. LVD
    Reply

    Hi Ric,
    I got Serotonin syndrome as I was on Tramadol and Cymbalta together. I was told to stop both immediately as I could die. Easier said than done. I went through a month of pure hell. Got all the withdrawal symptoms together. After a month it subsided. Still got the occasional twitches and tearful episodes. I was blessed by finding a doctor that listened to my complaints about my sciatic nerve pain. She did heaps more investigations and now I am on new medication and feel better than what I have felt like in the last 4 years.

  18. Ric
    Reply

    Man! I hear you Jennifer. I have known about this for a long time but I just got the 2nd of 2 main issues that I’ve had for quite sometime now taken care of and after being on Tramadol 50 and ER Tramadol 200 for 7 years now I’m stopping the extended release first but know that I have all of the symptoms on this web site so far and am so scared.
    I literally cannot stand the crawling out of my skin all night. I was just looking for, and couldn’t find a site to tell me how long I’m going to have to boulder through this. Day one very very anxious. Good luck to You and my prayers are with all of us. it’s too bad that the help has to be this way when You hope it’s no longer needed any more. I too have to go through getting off cymbalta when I am done with this. Just don’t want to get off everything at once. )0:

  19. mb
    Reply

    Take this drug for trigeminal neuralgia. Nerve severed during dental surgery. Horrible year getting adjusted to meds. Falls, meaness, really lots of pain. Called the suicide disease. True. Tramadol has saved me. Also Klonipin.. Remember at 61 with an incurable injury this drug is helping me have some quality of life. That is all I have been able to take and I thank the people who invented this.
    These drugs are used as anti-seizure meds and to treat depression. They are not for everyone. I am at this moment making it without till my script. ready. Mind over matter and over the counter extra strength pain meds. and nausea med. This will pass but I am in severe pain with headache, earache, and pain that is indescribable. All due to my condition and some withdrawals too.
    I have been taking these meds for 15 yrs since colon cancer and serious spine disorder restless leg syndrome anxiety. I am thankful and have been given some horrible meds that have not worked.

  20. DD
    Reply

    I too experienced this great sense of wellbeing when I took 4 tramadol per day. For the better part of a year I took 1 every 4 hours, as directed. The problem for me happened when I began to cut back. Then all the wind that tramadol had put in my sails simply vanished. I’m now down to 1 per day and feel like I can hardly make it through the day without a nap. I think it behaves differently at different dosages.

  21. Julie
    Reply

    I’m on day 10 off high dose tramadol (400-500 mg/day for years) and it has been an unusual hell. Was taking it per dr orders and thought it an innocuous alternative to opiates for severe pain.
    My pain mgmt dr had me stop the tramadol and go to vicodin every 4 hrs. Almost immediately began tons of nasal congestion, sneezing fits and nose running, insomnia and anxiety. I thought it was allergies but nothing was working to stop the sinus swelling, could only breathe thru my mouth;
    On day 7 I emailed the dr who’d asked me to let him know how I was doing. I told him it was awful, what should I do. He never answered. Luckily I got online and figured out it was the tramadol withdrawal, found a nasal spray that stopped the swelling and over-production of mucous but still have sneezing fits approx every 4 hrs.
    I wonder if the dr thinks this just isn’t any big deal?
    I got pretty scared, wondering if my airway was going to close, unable to sleep, my sinuses filling my head to bursting—oh yea headaches too.
    I’m mad at my dr for taking this so lightly. The vicodin helped with pain but didn’t offset the withdrawal symptoms at all.
    This information on withdrawal needs to be more known to the doctors that prescribe it—and esp those that abruptly take patients off it. It can be avoided with a slow taper.
    It does feel good to have my brain back. I take the vicodin only when I can’t take the pain, along with regular motrin 600 every 5hrs. I have no idea how long this is going to go on but still must use the nasal spray or am swamped by mucous and the swelling starts. Don’t know if anyone else has had this. I’m 66 and have some serious medical problems and am amazed at how cavalier the stopping of high dose/long duration of this medication was.
    Please get the word out. I hate this drug now, used to think it was a holy grail.

  22. katyb313
    Reply

    I’ve been taking tramadol for years off and on. I’m a UPS driver and started taking it everyday for SI joint pain. I was told to only take it when needed so that’s what I did. I took one 50mg pill every day for about 6 months. Sometimes the pain was bad and I took 2 but not often. I got some injection in my SI joints a month ago and it helped a lot. I started only taking one when I had to work. It didn’t take long for withdrawals to kick in. I would take one on Friday for work and go all weekend without. I wasn’t hurting so I didn’t think about it till Monday morning. The diarrhea started first thing Monday morning along with vomiting. it would last all day and all night with no relief from anything I took. It took about three weeks of only being sick on Monday’s and Tuesday before I figured out why. Once food poisoning was ruled out I had to find out what I changed every weekend to cause The violent diarrhea and vomiting. Once I figured out it was the tramadol I took one pill. With in two hours symptoms improved. By the following day I was better. Looking back I now know that I was going through withdrawals all the time and wrote it off as other things. Final symptom count is: extreme diarrhea
    Vomiting
    Headache
    body aches
    chills
    I am back to taking it everyday until I figure out how to stop without ever going through that again. My doctor told me to take as needed. Never told me not to skip a dose. Being a UPS driver means I don’t always have a bathroom available.

  23. JP
    Reply

    This probably does not make you feel better but you definitely are not alone! It seems taking tramadol gives some side effects but not nearly as many as when you try to get off of it. The lack of sleep is the most consistent I have seen and am still going through. The rest make you seem like a hypochondriac to your doctor. Many symptoms/problems that the doc usually cannot find an answer.
    I really think the physical addiction that the body gets is much worse than any psychological addiction. In my case after seeing how the tramadol has kept me in a holding pattern for 5 years of dull senses and emotions I can finally see what I have been missing out on. You could never have told me that was the case while I was taking it because it seemed to give a feeling of well being.
    In my case my feet are still tingling every day. Never happened before or while on tramadol. Only when I stopped taking it did the really crappy stuff start coming out. I still am only 45 days off tramadol but have my life back. I still have a long way to go and know it will take time for my brain to do its repair work. Feeling better mentally but crappy physically still gives me hope. It is taking the first step and getting as far away from tramadol as possible!
    JP

  24. Daniel
    Reply

    I have been taking tramadol for a year since I had my big toe amputated because of diabetes at first I didn’t see any of the side effects until now I have insomnia I will go to bed at a normal time about 10 pm and by midnight I am wide awake can’t sleep for nothing and the itching is horrible I get hives so bad it usually will last for an hour than goes away but it will come back later in the day. I first thought that the hives were from my diabetes but I now know it is from taking tramadol. And withdrawal is so bad I get so paranoid that people are watching me and I get the shakes really bad it will last for about 5 days and I am good after thd. Now I am experiencing leg pain and I am taking tramadol 3 times a day with a Tylenol tablet and it finally worked the side effects are not as bad now.

  25. KLM
    Reply

    That is helpful in that I’m glad I’m not alone in this reaction, but I still experience the jerking/breathing problem/heart issues even if I take the last one at 2pm or 3pm (not to mention the headaches and choking sensation in my neck). It’s very frustrating because this medication is effective in treating the pain and yet didn’t totally mess me up at work. I’ve finally made the choice to move on and try some other options because the cost became just too high and outweighs the benefit. Thank you for your reply!

  26. Is
    Reply

    My 24 year old became addicted to Tramadol following a back injury, if I knew what I know now I would never of let him take it. He is on a withdrawal program and since being on it he has had 3 fits, shaking, unable to sleep and hallucination. GP says it’s not addictive which is rubbish and what we are all going through as a family is awful

  27. RG
    Reply

    I had the same issues trying to sleep, I couldn’t take the med after about 5 pm to be able to sleep through the night. I took 50 in the morning and again about 4pm and then it didn’t cause the same jerking awake/breathing problems/heart issues. I hope this helps.

  28. JP
    Reply

    There is a new label that goes on the tramadol bottles. Caution can cause respiratory distress. Makes you wonder huh!

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