man screaming in pain or anger

We have heard from hundreds of visitors to this website about the serious side effects of tramadol (Ultram). They include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, constipation, headache, drowsiness, dizziness, fatigue, itching, dry mouth, sweating, insomnia and skin rash. Equally alarming are withdrawal symptoms when people try to stop tramadol suddenly. Getting off this drug without great discomfort can be daunting.

People in Pain Often End Up on Tramadol:

Scary headlines about the opioid epidemic have frightened physicians, pharmacists and patients away from opioid analgesics. One of the few medications that is left is tramadol. That’s because health professionals have perceived tramadol as a low-risk pain reliever. It was supposed to have a “low potential for abuse.” In other words, it was considered a non-addicting analgesic.

It comes as a surprise to many patients to learn that tramadol actually does affect opioid receptors in the brain. Even more disconcerting, though, is the impact on neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine. Antidepressants such as duloxetine (Cymbalta), desvenlafaxine (Pristiq) and venlafaxine (Effexor) also impact these brain chemicals.

Over 1,500 people have commented on our article about duloxetine side effects and withdrawal. Here is a link to that post.

Duloxetine (Cymbalta) Side Effects & Withdrawal

If You Stop Tramadol Suddenly Be Prepared:

The FDA requires a paragraph about withdrawal from tramadol in the official prescribing information. We fear, though, that few patients are adequately warned when they receive a prescription for tramadol:

DRUG ABUSE AND DEPENDENCE:

“Tramadol hydrochloride may induce psychic and physical dependence of the morphine-type. Dependence and abuse, including drug-seeking behavior and taking illicit actions to obtain the drug are not limited to those patients with prior history of opioid dependence…Tramadol hydrochloride is associated with craving and tolerance development. Withdrawal symptoms may occur if tramadol hydrochloride is discontinued abruptly. These symptoms may include: anxiety, sweating, insomnia, rigors, pain, nausea, tremors, diarrhea, upper respiratory symptoms, piloerection, and rarely hallucinations. Other symptoms that have been seen less frequently with tramadol hydrochloride discontinuation include: panic attacks, severe anxiety, and paresthesias. Clinical experience suggests that withdrawal symptoms may be relieved by reinstitution of opioid therapy followed by a gradual, tapered dose reduction of the medication combined with symptomatic support.”

Is It Possible to Stop Tramadol?

The answer is absolutely. We do not consider this a do-it-yourself project, however. Stopping tramadol requires careful coordination and supervision from a knowledgeable health professional.

Sadly, the FDA’s guidance leaves a lot to be desired. What precisely does “gradual, tapered dose reduction of the medication” mean? Very few physicians are given clear directions on how to help patients stop tramadol. That is why so many have reported their own experiences on this website. Here is one link with hundreds of stories:

Tramadol Side Effects and Withdrawal are Daunting

A Reader Shares His How to Stop Tramadol Story:

“Two years ago I was prescribed tramadol for arthritis in my upper and lower back, as well as hip. I also had severe leg pain. Over the last two years I moved from one 50 mg pill three times per day to the maximum dose throughout the day (eight 50mg pills).

“Sometimes I’d take 4 or 5 at once depending on the pain. I was never informed that this drug was addictive or that it was an SSRI-type drug. My doctor actually said that it wasn’t addictive! Stupidly I took his word for it and didn’t realize just how bad the withdrawal was until I was forced into. I was working abroad and ran out of pills.

“The first time I went through cold turkey dropping from 400 mg per day to zero overnight. It was horrific. I experienced all-over body pain, flu, vomiting, severe depression and anxiety, brain zaps, fatigue, diarrhea, bouts of feeling confused and angry, paranoia etc. During all this I continued working, though looking back now I must have been a nightmare to be around.

“I had no access to Internet at the time (working in the developing world) and still had no idea what was happening. I thought I had dengue fever or malaria at one point. This all lasted around 5 weeks.

“When I hit home I went straight back to the doctor and got back on the tramadol! I was completely unaware that I had gone through a severe bought of cold turkey withdrawal.

“I decided that 2016 would be the year I would quit this crap for good. At that point I was already down to around 300mg per day (taken in 150 mg doses twice per day). I decided on a longer taper schedule. I dropped 50 mg per week – so 300 mg/day for a week, then 250 mg/day the next week etc. Once I was down to 150 mg I just took all three pills at once in the morning. I always needed at least 2-3 at once to take the pain away. I held at 150 mg for around 2 weeks. I ended up having a relapse due to increased pain, so I moved up to 200 mg/day again for a while.

“Following this tapering method I am now down to 25 mg/day, which means splitting the capsule and pouring 25 mgs of powder into water and drinking it. I’ll hold at 25 mg for a week then drop to 12.5mg for 3 days. After that I’ll do one day on and one day off on 12.5mg for a week before jumping off for good. I figure that 12.5mg over a two week period (with the last week being day on then day off) should be a small enough amount to experience only minimal withdrawal symptoms.

“Last week was the hardest week of the taper. The drop from 100 mg (2 pills taken at once in the morning), to one 50 mg pill was tough. I experienced a drop in mood and felt a little down for three days while my body and brain adjusted to the lower dose. I’ve also noticed a slight increase in muscle pain and back pain since dropping to 50 mg/day. I’ve had a few days of sneezing, bouts of tiredness and fatigue, but once my body adjusted to 50 mg, these symptoms went away. Of course I did experience a slight increase in pain. That’s to be expected though as the tramadol was just masking pain anyway.

“Today was my first day of 25 mg and I feel fine. I actually feel like my mind is a lot clearer! Tramadol definitely fills my mind and leaves my feeling like my head is foggy, if that makes sense. I have no withdrawal symptoms at the end of the first 25 mg day, and it’s been 10 hours since I took it.

“For me, tapering is the way to go if you want to stop tramadol, especially if you are on a high dose. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to coming off tramdol. Every person and every body/brain reacts differently.
“Last Christmas I tried to go cold turkey. Like the first time (when I had no idea what I was going through) it was also horrific. After 60 hours I awoke with severe muscle spasms in both arms and legs. I was an emotional wreck and had all the other typical and some of the atypical symptoms. I took 100 mg and within 20 minutes every withdrawal symptom was gone. That was the catalyst to help me quit. No drug should have that much impact on your body and life. I began tapering a week later.

“One thing that has really helped for me is exercise. I started exercising a lot more around a month ago in prep for the last 3 weeks of the taper. I knew I needed to increase my fitness to deal with the aches and pains of coming off this drug. Even with back problems you should be able to swim or ride a bike–anything to get a sweat on and feel good about yourself. I feel that this has made tapering easier too.

“So, to anyone who is worried about coming off Tramadol I feel tapering is the bet solution especially if you are worried about withdrawal symptoms and/or you are on a higher dose.

“For some people they just want to get off and can deal with 1 week of cold turkey. For others though, that cold turkey doesn’t just last one week. It might be 3 but might also be 6. Tapering has definitely worked for me. I still need to stay strong to make the final leap, but I feel this will be so much easier coming off one quarter of a 50 mg pill rather than a much higher dose. Good luck everyone.”

To read stories from other readers about how they dealt with these problems, here is a link.

Serious Tramadol (Ultram) Side Effects & Withdrawal Symptoms

Share your own story below in the comment section.

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  1. Suzann
    North carolina
    Reply

    I’ve tapered from 1 1/2 tramadol to 1/2 for 3 days. Been on and off tramadol for 4 yrs. I has to go to the ER was having facial numbnesd calling and dizzynesd diarhea. Dr. Have me atarax for the anxiety . I needed intravenous electrolytes fue to diarhea. Im off tramadol but going through withdrawls still.

    With atarax one at night bcuz of restless legs n no sleep. Drinking electrolytes, B12,magnesium,centrum silver,antioxidant tea now. I be glad when Im over this. Its hell. Now even if I need surgery again I will absolutely refuse Abu opiates n tramadol. It’s very horrific.

  2. Leigh
    Colorado
    Reply

    I was prescribed Tramadol 50mg 3 x daily about two years ago for lower back pain associated with osteoarthritis. I explicitly advised my doctor that I did not want any medications that were narcotics, anti-depressants, etc. After beginning Tramadol, I noticed that my pain symptoms diminished, and the RLS (restless leg syndrome) I have seemed to be less frequent as well. But I felt euphoric and hyperactive. Immediately I reduced my dosage to 50mg twice daily for about a week. I was finally able to reduce my dosage to 50mg once daily, then, 50mg every other day.

    I noticed withdrawal symptoms which included anxiety, depression, irritability, hot flashes, flu-like symptoms, insomnia, muscle aches, diarrhea and increased RLS symptoms. I felt horrible. Now I have been taking 25mg daily for about three weeks, after discussing this with my pharmacist. I’m trying peppermint tea as well for nausea and magnesium at night for muscle cramps and RLS. We’ll see how it goes.

    I’m also a nurse, (retired), and I was a pharmacy technician while in nursing school. When I was practicing as a nurse, this medication wasn’t even a scheduled drug. I feel really stupid now but determined that this medication is going to go for good. I’d rather hurt. Take this medication seriously. It’s highly addictive.

  3. Lois
    Indiana
    Reply

    I have been taking 200mg of tramadol for years for back pain. A stomach test required me to stop taking it for two days. I have never had such body misery. I went through all the symptoms of other writers plus high blood pressure. I took one tab after the test and immediately felt better. I want to go off the stuff. My doctor recommended me to slowly cut down for a few weeks. I never want to feel this way again. I would rather put up with the pain. I think Tylenol does about as well.

    • Helen
      Vancouver Bc
      Reply

      Yes, I have been taking tramadol 50mg twice a day for three years. Liver enzymes are elevated, and I have had flu-like symptoms for three weeks. I feel like sleeping all the time, and I feel so tired that I don’t feel like talking. I want to stop it cold turkey. My doctor is not available for two weeks.

  4. Andrea
    Australia
    Reply

    Today I have been 3 days off tramadol cold turkey. Not fun. Was on 400 mg a day, what doctor prescribed. Never took any more. He had told me not addictive. Been on Valium to for so many years and still not sleeping. So as you probably know, I’m doing it the hard way.

    The doctor did give me lyrics, and honestly it has helped with pain in the legs and everything. I don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t on it. But still, getting off these drugs is not easy. I was in hospital as a few days ago because I had severe pain in my chest. But it was all stress related. I am still healthy (lol) although I feel awful. Please, everyone,do not take these tablets (Tramadol). They are very very addictive. I will write in a week and tell you how I’m doing.

  5. Lauren
    Florida
    Reply

    What type doctor will work with you to taper off???

  6. Francis T.
    Nigeria
    Reply

    I got addicted to tramadol after I broke my spine. I was taking about 1000mg a day. I saw it as self- harming. Then I dropped to 250mg a day. And later tarpered to 100mg a day. Now I am off tramadol. I battled with withdrawal symptoms. But today it is less. I sometimes take 100mg to work just in case the withdrawal symptoms get bad. But I have not had any reason to take it. My judgment of this is clearer. Before now I was paranoid. But coming off a strong addiction is a battle for getting your life back.

  7. Chalyn
    Arkansas
    Reply

    I have been taking 50 mg Tramadol every night for over 12 years now. I started taking these because my doctor said they were not addictive and would help my restless legs and severe sciatica. I have tried everything to get off these horrible pills to no avail. Cold turkey is NOT an option folks. The brain zaps, tremors, nausea, shakiness, anxiety, and most of all the restlessness of not just your legs but the entire body is why I won’t even try again to quit until someone comes up with something better. 50 mg, once at night, never any more, the withdrawls are in my head says my doctor as he laughs at me. I have been to the hospital so many times with severe gastrointestinal issues that I will never be able to pay it off. Please, whatever you do, do not ever start taking this medicine. It worked fabulously for years but I never expected the emotional changes that ensued, the anxiety that I didn’t have prior, nor the ulcer, GERD, or explosive, uncontrollable diarrhea. They want to give you another drug (addictive) to replace the Tramadol when you try to detox off of them. Uh…..yea and the country wants to know why there are so many people not only addicted but still in pain. God help me, if I quit, the pain is so bad I have gone days without any sleep at all. What do I do now? My attitude towards others who addicted to pain meds has changed, oh by the way, I am a nurse and they treat me like a street addict. I just want to cry…and I do. Lastly, not only the Tramadol, but other pain meds, antacids, muscle relaxers, benzos, and sleep meds all can cause dementia. This is just wrong on so many levels. Thanks for listening to me rant……

    • Alex
      England
      Reply

      Totally sympathise. I am a nurse too and this is a massive factor with other health”care” people. I have been through it including the ridicule from hospital staff. It’s very difficult but you can. I did cold turkey for 2 weeks on holiday away from any melds and hot weather to soothe the aches and skin crawls. After day 8 ish I did manage to sleep through the night but fatigue then set in for a few days.

  8. Sally
    Oregon
    Reply

    I started Tramadol 50mg twice a day in the summer of 2016 to treat a knee injury that took about 6 weeks to heal. What I noticed after being on the tramadol a couple of weeks was that my insomnia and RLS disappeared. I had been experiencing insomnia for a couple of years and the RLS for about a decade. After that I was convinced I had found the answer to my problems. All is well until I notice I need to increase my dose to get the same effect. I was up to 150mg, then 200mg when I realized I really needed to stop this. After reading much on how to quit I decided tapering off was best. I read up on what to expect and decided to go down 25mg per day. To help with the withdrawal symptoms: for anxiety I take Dr. Schulz’s Nerve Tonic with peppermint essential oil. It really helps.

    I take a product called Restful Legs for the RLS and for the insomnia take calcium, magnesium and Standard Process Min-Tran. I still felt my body resisting my efforts but I just hung in there. Hot showers also helped and lots of ice cold water. I did experience slight nausea but I could control it with the peppermint oil. I am down to 125mg a day and been doing this for 3 weeks. I have been able to go to work and I am not experiencing anything psychotic. I would say on a scale of 1 to 10, tapering puts the withdrawals at between a 3 to 5. I also got very religious on my vitamins and healthy foods. In the beginning it was just 7up and applesauce.

    Three weeks in and I can eat regular meals. I have moments where I feel “off” and I get a bit panicky but I shake that off by reminding myself that I am doing this and I am determined to get off this. I have never been addicted to any drug, alcohol, cigarettes, etc. so to have been deceived by this drug was hard for me to accept. Once I realized I was indeed having a problem I knew I needed to take back my life.

    Best to all who are on this journey. Hopefully I have provided some encouragement to other scared souls on their own road to recovery.

    God’s Peace!

  9. Joann
    Virginia
    Reply

    I’ve been on tramadol for many years for osteoarthritis & fibromyalgia. 6 weeks ago I had knee replacement surgery and was taking dilaudid & tramadol. Two weeks ago I stopped taking dilaudid and relied on 200 mg. of tramadol (50 mg 4x a day). Today I took one tramadol early this morning and none since.

    I am now feeling anxious; my face is flushed, shaky, sweaty, & fast heart beat. I’m not sure if it’s not taking the dilaudid or the length of time since my last tramadol. No one said anything about how to stop taking dilaudid. I went from 8-10 to as needed for about 2 weeks, to none. I’m hoping these symptoms are withdrawal & not a need for a trip to the ER. I can handle this if this is all that happens. Please get back to me. Thanks & blessings!

    • Crystal
      MI
      Reply

      Hi, my name is crystal. I have been on tramadol for 5 years, not including when I got pregnant in 2016. Of course, I quit right away! But I should NEVER have allowed my doctor to give me tramadol again after baby was born. I kept taking it every day for my pain. It wasn’t until I ran out that I discovered these horrible symptoms: sweating, cold sweats, anxiety, restless legs, having to use the restroom multiple times a day, mood swings, increased pain. Hard to sleep! If I had known I would have never taken it again!

      I was taking 4 a day. Yesterday I started taking only 1, today only 1, and for the rest of the week 7days. Then the next week, only a half pill a day, and the week after, none. I pray I can get through this! I just want my life back. I’m scared; I feel alone and affraid..!

      But I know I can do this! I’m looking for a support group. Wondering if I can find someone who is going through this as well. I need somone to talk to. When I first got on tramadol, it was new. Doctor doesn’t prescribe narcotics. Never mentioned it could be addicting or that I would grow dependent on the drug! I want my life back.

  10. Carolyn
    Missouri
    Reply

    I have acute sciatica, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis & have had 3 back surgeries for ruptured discs. I have been on tramadol 50 mg 2 tab 4 times a day. I also wear a fentanyl pain patch 50mcg/hr, changing it every 4 days + hydrocodone 10/325mg, 2 every 6hrs. My doctor decided yesterday to take away the tramadol altogether! I’m still wearing my patch, but I’m out of hydrocodone until Friday or Monday! Will I have any withdrawal from the tramadol? The nurse told me no, but everything I’ve read tells me otherwise! Does anyone know?

  11. Crystal
    MI
    Reply

    Hello everyone, I’ve been on tramadol for 5 years, started of 1 in the morning, 1 at night, those where the times my back would hurt the most, as time went on, I’d take 2 in morning and 2 at night, I ran out, now having headache, nauseous, body ache, no energy, severe mood swings, depression, god I could go on, I do not feel like the person I was 5 years ago, I’ve done some research on tramadol, and had no idea what I’m having is withdraws symptoms..! How can this be possible.

    I didn’t abuse it. I am a mother of 4 boys and they need my full attention! Without medicine I feel sick, with it I feel great. (Like myself) but I’m not, I have 2 wishes, one that I wouldn’t have never got on it. And two, that I can get off it!

    It’s no joke! This isn’t easy to get over, but I’ve been praying, waiting to go get medicine so I can feel better. Who wants to live like this..! Seriously. I’m over it! I plan to get off asap! This bottle being the last I’ll ever take is my plan. I’d like to know if anyone has got off, and how you did it? I pray, not only for myself but for anyone feeling alone about this! You’re not alone!

  12. Dale k
    Northamptonshire
    Reply

    Hi I have been taking tramodol since last June 2017 for a slipped disc plus Gabapantin and paracetamol so 18 tablets a day just to be able to function properly ,had op on my back beginning of December so decided to try and ween myself off all my tablets as I was told this is what I should do. I did cope ok at the beginning I had good and bad days but have kept going I am now back working, and I have managed to go down to no tablets. But for the past 2 weeks, I have been going through hell is an understatement. I cannot re the last full night’s sleep I had I can fall asleep straight away as I’m exhausted but wake up after a couple of hours with hot sweats, shivers and every part of my body hurts and spend the next I don’t know how many hours just walking around then trying to go back to bed until I do eventually fall asleep because I’m shattered.

    I get quite a few symptoms during the day as well, hot sweats and shivering and hurting but also feeling like crying at any minute. It’s horrible I just want it to stop and I thought by now being a couple of weeks down the line of being off all tablets that I should be starting to feel better but I don’t I just don’t know how much longer this will carry on ,can anyone tell me please I do have had enough .

    • Crystal
      Reply

      You’re not alone. I’m going through it, too. Let’s fight this together!

      • Adam
        Nigeria
        Reply

        I am having a tough time now. I can’t sleep. I have been taking 3 pills of 225mg for almost 2 years. I just decided to stop it yesterday, but it is making me crazy now. Can someone please advise me?

    • Slow
      Californis
      Reply

      I went cold turkey. Day16 was as bad as day 2. Day 17 woke up completely fine. Hang in there a few more days!

  13. K.
    USA
    Reply

    I’ve have been on Tramaol for about 5 years for arthritis pain. I used to be able to go on and off without problem. Then during the last bout of taking it for a couple months and trying to go off, I noticed withdrawal effects. I originally began with a total of 200mg a day, built a tolerance and eventually increased to 400mg a day (200mg 2x a day). When I tried to stop cold turkey, I had runny nose, flu like symptoms, but the worst side effect was unbearable restless leg syndrome. I tried cutting back by one pill, and the restless leg issue was still a huge bother, preventing sleep, and just awful, not on just legs but all over.

    It was obvious to me that I developed a tolerance and physical dependence, however the antidepessant effects stopped about a year after taking it. It doesn’t help the pain anymore (maybe a little but it doesn’t feel like it helps), and I’m afraid to take more than this because of the seizure risk. Now I’ve been continuing taking this medicine just to avoid the withdrawal. My original doctor moved, and I’m on my last refill. I see a new doctor tomorrow for help with creating a tapering off schedule, and hopefully they will prescribe something to help the withdrawal symptoms. I really want to be off this medicine and just take aspirin and use ice to numb pain. I don’t ever want to take prescription pain meds long-term again.

    • Amiele
      California
      Reply

      I want off, too, and for all the above reasons you name. Alieve (naproxen) works really well for me (although not completely). I’d like to take Cymbalta, which is like from the frying pan into the fire, but I need an anti-depressant.

      Have you had any luck discontinuing?

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