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Global consumption of the opioid Tramadol, a drug that in some parts of the world is unregulated, increased 186 percent between 2000 and 2012, reports the International Narcotics Control Board.
In the United States, the synthetic opioid analgesic received government approval in 2010. By 2014, the Drug Enforcement Administration had placed it on the controlled substances list with a Schedule IV classification.
Tramadol was developed by German scientists in the early ’60s and goes by the trade name Ultram. The drug, which many believed held non-addictive properties, is prescribed for moderate to severe pain in adults. The DEA’s Schedule IV classification suggests a “low potential for abuse” but that is simply not true, and people are getting addicted in large numbers.
Unlike other opiates, the low potential for abuse is only when the drug is injected. Tramadol is an oral medication though, and The Wall Street Journal writes that recent research shows it packs a stronger punch than morphine taken orally.
What Are the Potential Dangers of Tramadol?
With millions of prescriptions handed out each year in the United States, awareness surrounding the potential dangers of the synthetic opioid have only begun to gain ground. The non-medical use of tramadol manifests all the classic symptoms of addiction, such as:
- Developing a tolerance that requires more of the drug to produce the same effect and causes symptoms of withdrawal when out of the system
- Cravings for the substance that lead to drug-seeking behavior
- A greater risk of addiction for those all ready struggling with substance abuse, such as “doctor shopping” or claiming to have lost the prescription
- Inability to stop using the drug even in the face of damaging physical and psychological consequences
Last year the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released a report detailing the stark rise of tramadol issues.
From 2005 to 2011, emergency-room visits related to the opioid tripled, reaching 21,649. Internationally, the problem of tramadol addiction is even worse.
The World Health Organization has so far declined to regulate the drug because in developing countries, regulations make it harder for doctors who need to prescribe it for legitimate use.
Doctors Without Borders classifies tramadol an essential medicine. But a thriving generic pharmaceutical industry in India ships tons of the opiate to places like Cameroon in North Africa, where it’s local vendors will add it to their customer’s coffee for a small fee.
Harvard professor and a former U.S. anti-drug official that advised the World Health Organization committee on the matter, Beth Madras, referred to the worldwide market for tramadol as “international chaos.”
What Are the Side Effects of Tramadol?
The side effects of regular tramadol use, like other opiates, are unpleasant and painful, and can include:
• Nausea and vomiting
• Headaches, dizziness and drowsiness
• Difficulty breathing, seizures and death
To say that tramadol addiction is a problem in another part of the world is a denial of the crisis of opioid addiction in the United States.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates there is a staggering 75 fatalities a day due to opioid addiction. For this with access, medically assisted treatment is the most effective option for breaking free of opioid addiction.
However, there are still millions of people, here at home and worldwide, suffering without the benefit of a helping hand.
Side effects of Tramadol image courtesy of Haggstrom, Mikael. “Medical gallery of Mikael Haggstrom 2014”. Wikiversity Journal of Medicine.