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Tramadol Withdrawal Can Be As Bad As Heroin Withdrawal (or Worse)

Tramadol is an opioid painkiller with a lot of abuse potential, which means that Tramadol withdrawal can be similar to withdrawal from any other opioid, like OxyContin or even heroin.

Tramadol is labeled as a Schedule IV controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

I have been prescribed this medication for long periods of time while going through a rotator cuff injury.

Although I can say that, much like any other opioid medication, it obviously is going to not only help the pain but will also cause your body to develop a tolerance towards Tramadol. It will also guarantee that your body will become physiologically addicted to this medication, which means that Tramadol withdrawal is pretty much guaranteed.

What happens here is once you get to a place where you’re no longer dealing with pain from the injury, obviously you’d want to just stop taking the medication.

However, when you do try to just stop, you’ll go through withdrawal, during which you’ll feel like you were hit by a truck along with a bad case of the flu caused by your body not getting anymore Tramadol.

Let us look at my past experience with Tramadol and what you can expect when you get to a place where you are ready to safely come off of the medication.

In my opinion, there are right ways and wrong ways to go about withdrawing from Tramadol.

How Tramadol Withdrawal Works

Like any abusable drug, Tramadol can become extremely physiologically and psychologically addicting.

I suffered a pretty intense rotator cuff injury years ago, and that’s when I was first put on the medication. I would then proceed to be on it for the next year, up until it came time for me to want to stop taking it. 

Up until this point, this was my first time not only dealing with a severe injury but also my first time being on any sort of medication that could potentially be physically and psychologically addicting.

Traditional opioids like oxycodone and hydrocodone increase sensations of pleasure and can produce a “high” when taken in larger doses than prescribed.

Tramadol works a little differently by not only activating opioid receptors in the brain but also by blocking neurotransmitters like serotonin and norepinephrine from being reabsorbed back into the system.

With that being said, Tramadol withdrawal may actually take two different forms: what would be more like traditional opioid withdrawal syndrome or atypical opioid withdrawal syndrome, something that is really just unique to Tramadol.

Tramadol has a relatively short half-life. The World Health Organization reports that immediate-release forms of Tramadol are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, with their effectiveness peaking in 1-4 hours.

The effects of extended-release tramadol products may last a little bit longer, peaking in 4-6 hours. I was on both types at different phases of the year

My Personal Experience With Tramadol Withdrawal

Within my first 24 hours after discontinuing the medication, I started to feel like I was getting a very intense version of the flu.

I am talking the worst cold sweats you could possibly imagine. Aside from the cold sweating and feeling like I wasn’t able to effectively regulate my body temperature, my legs felt as though they had 100 volts of electricity flowing through them. 

By the time I got through the first 24 hours, all of these symptoms seemed as though they were just getting worse and worse. With how difficult it was for me to get through the first day, there’s no way I would have anticipated that it was gonna get much worse. 

The cold sweats intensified, the restless legs intensified, and now with all of that, I then had the worse diarrhea I had ever experienced, to the point where I was not properly able to even control it.

The only way I could honestly get just a little comfortable was by curling up in a ball on my shower floor and letting the hot water hit my legs. This lasted at the same intensity for the next week.

Symptoms of Tramadol Withdrawal

For most people, We can divide the withdrawal timeline for Tramadol into two separate timelines — early Tramadol withdrawal and late Tramadol withdrawal.

The symptoms associated with early withdrawal include:

  • Runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Tearing up
  • Yawning
  • Muscle and body ache
  • Trouble sleeping and/or insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Agitation
  • Racing heart rate
  • Hypertension
  • Fast breathing

The symptoms associated with late withdrawal include:

  • Chills and goosebumps
  • Stomach pain and cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pupil dilation
  • Difficulty concentrating or thinking clearly
  • Irritability
  • Drug cravings

Sounds like a great deal of fun doesn’t it?

What I Wish I Knew Before I Got on Tramadol

Had I known what I was getting myself into, there is no way in the world that I would have let a Dr. talk me into being on a medication like Tramadol.

I felt disgusting the entire time I was on it and wasn’t able to really get a full night of sleep until after I had discontinued the medication for over 2 weeks. 

In general, opioid withdrawal symptoms are thought to start within about 12 hours of the last dose.

The DEA has published the fact that 90% of people experiencing Tramadol withdrawal suffer traditional opioid withdrawal symptoms while the other 10 percent may experience an array of symptoms that we could call “atypical” for lack of a better word.

These range from severe confusion, extreme paranoia, anxiety, panic attacks, hallucinations, and tingling or numbness in their extremities.

I’d like to talk about a few things that can help you get through Tramadol withdrawal if you’re another one of the unlucky ones like me.

How to Get Through

There are a few different over-the-counter products you can take that will make your life a heck of a lot easier.

The first product that you definitely are going to want to stock up on is Imodium. Not only will the Immodium help the terrible bouts of inevitable diarrhea, but the medication also actually binds to your opioid receptors in your brain.

Some people take large doses, and it is said that it causes the medication to pass through the blood-brain barrier, creating an effect on the body. 

I do not recommend taking large doses at all because then you’ll be stuck with a whole new set of problems and will have to go through the same process just to get off of the Immodium. 

Another popular over-the-counter medication that can help tremendously with Tramadol withdrawal is over-the-counter cough syrup.

The ingredient that is key is called dextromethorphan. Like the Immodium, dextromethorphan binds to the opioid receptors in your brain as well and can have tremendous benefits in reducing opioid withdrawal symptoms. 

You will have a much less chance of developing a new issue with dextromethorphan than you would with Imodium as long as you just avoid taking too large of a dose. 

Something else that can have a profound impact on opioid withdrawal is megadosing vitamin C.

Out of desperation I tried and tried to find things that would help. Aside from the 2 previous products, the vitamin C had an amazing benefit in helping my body aches and sweats. I had to take a lot of vitamin C though. I’m talking upwards of 20 grams. 

I am not a doctor, so always ask one before taking someone’s advice. These are just the things that helped me, and I would do anything to be able to help anyone experience a more pain-free transition through Tramadol withdrawal.

In the comments, let me know if you have experience with Tramadol withdrawal.

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10 months ago

Teared up reading this. Was left on tramadol 7 years even after it became classified as narcotic by nurse practitioner. Doctor found out and gave me one month supply at one a day after i had been taking 3 a day for 7 years. I thought i would die. For 2 plus years and many doctor visits and drugs finally started buying opioids off the street. After being out of work 3 months now in treatment. May lose my job and i think it did permanent damage to chemicals in my brain. Trying to find an attorney. Was let down by manufacturer and physician. I thought i wss the only one. Thanks for sharing your story.

Adam Fout
10 months ago
Reply to  Sheila

Sorry to hear of your struggles. You’re definitely not alone.


Ryan Henderson

Ryan Henderson is a magician and mental health advocate.

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