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Tramadol and Alcohol

Tramadol and Alcohol

Tramadol is an opiate analgesic (or narcotic). To this end, its purpose is to treat moderate to severe pain. As an opiate, there’s a significant risk of addiction and this increases with long-term use.* For the most part, it’s meant to help people that need 24/7 help for their pain. The need for continuous pain management contributes to the potential for long-term use – something medical professionals should monitor. Tramadol, like any opiate, should only be used under medical supervision. Likewise, it should not be stopped without medical supervision. Of course, someone taking tramadol might not always disclose use of other substances. In spite of the danger of mixing substances, a somewhat common combination is tramadol and alcohol. 


The mixture of tramadol and alcohol might not result in overdose every single time, but there is always the risk. Indeed, excessive alcohol intake significantly increases the risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Further, they state there is no safe use of alcohol and opioids. Additionally, most people likely do not realize how few drinks it takes to reach excessive or binge-drinking levels. Increased consumption of alcohol heightens the effects of alcohol increasing the risk when combined with tramadol. To this end, excessive alcohol use can depress the central nervous system, impairing breathing. Likewise, a side effect of opioids is also suppressed respiratory function. As stated by the CDC, there is really no safe combination of tramadol and alcohol, and the risk increases the more either substance is used.

How long does tramadol stay in your system?

Tramadol comes in different forms (tablets, capsules, drops, injections, etc.) as well as slow-acting and fast-acting forms. According to the National Health Service (NHS-UK), fast-acting will work within 30 to 60 minutes. This is better for pain that is expected to only last for a short term. Slow-acting will be released into the body over 12 to 24 hours and will take longer to work, but will last longer. Thus, this is better for long-term pain management. What is more, it’s important to take Tramadol only under medical supervision. 


Depending on the dose and length of time, someone might have different reactions with tramadol and other substances. Above all, it’s important to communicate consumption of any other substances with medical professionals. According to the Mayo Clinic, tramadol and Tylenol (acetaminophen), is a safe combination. However, it is still best for anyone taking tramadol to communicate with their doctor if they are taking any other type of medication.

Tramadol Side Effects

Some common side effects of tramadol can include:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue, low energy
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Sweating

These symptoms are common and not immediate cause for concern. However, anyone should always communicate with their doctor any concerns. 

Tramadol Withdrawal Symptoms

Under proper medical supervision, tramadol should not cause serious issues or withdrawal. However, it is possible for someone to mistakenly take an extra dosage, miss one or more doses, mix with other substances that cause issues, or even of course be using tramadol illegally. Ultimately, any of these possibilities, and many others, can cause someone to experience tramadol withdrawal symptoms. Equally important, sudden disuse of tramadol is more likely to cause withdrawal, so when possible it’s best to taper off with the help of a medical professional.

Tramadol withdrawal symptoms may set in 12-20 hours after the last dose. Symptoms can include:*

  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Tinnitus

Psychiatric withdrawal symptoms might include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Panic attacks
  • Confusion

With this in mind, it’s important for anyone experiencing tramadol withdrawal symptoms to seek medical help right away. Moreover, it’s important to call 911 if anyone’s in immediate danger or in fear of overdose.

Tramadol Overdose

Under proper medical supervision overdose is not common. However, even someone using under supervision may accidentally take too much tramadol. As a result of tramadol misuse, from 2005 to 2011, emergency-room visits from tramadol misuse tripled to 21,469. In regards to what tramadol overdose looks like, the a Wall Street Journal article states, “Excess tramadol intake tends to cause seizures and a fast collapse.” 

According to a U.S. National Library of Medicine resource, other symptoms of overdose include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Unconsciousness 
  • Slowed heartbeat
  • Muscle weakness

Again, under proper medical supervision the chance of overdose should be extremely low. However, mistakes happen as well as abuse being a common reality. It’s important for anyone using tramadol to be aware of the signs, as well as those with loved one’s using tramadol. Should you or anyone experience these symptoms as a result of tramadol use, it is important to call 911 as soon as possible.

Treatment

Most resources affirm that low-dosage, short-term use of tramadol under medical supervision shouldn’t result in addiction or serious health problems like withdrawal or overdose. Nonetheless, many people react differently and it’s always important to watch out for side effects and other problems. In many countries, this has led to a lack of oversight over the usage of tramadol. Moreover, in the United States, it was not controlled at a federal level until a few years ago. This allowed (and continues to allow) widespread use and abuse around much of the world. While it’s not as strong as morphine, it’s still an opioid and has the potential for abuse and addiction. 

If you or a loved one are struggling with tramadol abuse or addiction, we can help at Reflections Recovery Center. We can provide help and resources for intervention, if needed. Initially, each client goes through an assessment, which will help us determine if detox is necessary. We offer a 5-day detox program. Throughout treatment, we will help our clients improve their physical and mental health as well as providing the skills to maintain sobriety long after treatment. In addition to this, each client goes through an assessment so that we can determine what exactly they need. No person is the same, nor is their experience with addiction the same. Therefore, we form a treatment plan around each person’s unique needs. If you or a loved one needs help, please reach out today.

*Resources:
Tramadol: MedlinePlus Drug Information. (2019, June 17). Retrieved July 23, 2019, from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a695011.html

Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention for People Who Consume Alcohol and Use Opioids. Retrieved July 23, 2019, from https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/pdf/prescribing/AlcoholToolFactSheet-508.pdf

Tramadol. (2018, November 26). Retrieved July 23, 2019, from https://www.nhs.uk/medicines/tramadol/

Tramadol And Acetaminophen (Oral Route) Description and Brand Names. (2019, May 01). Retrieved July 23, 2019, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/tramadol-and-acetaminophen-oral-route/description/drg-20062870

Epstein, D. H., Preston, K. L., & Jasinski, D. R. (2010, September 22). Abuse liability, behavioral pharmacology, and physical-dependence potential of opioids in humans and laboratory animals: Lessons from tramadol. Retrieved July 23, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2943845/


Epstein, D. H., Preston, K. L., & Jasinski, D. R. (2010, September 22). Abuse liability, behavioral pharmacology, and physical-dependence potential of opioids in humans and laboratory animals: Lessons from tramadol. Retrieved July 23, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2943845/

Scheck, J. (2016, October 20). Tramadol: The Opioid Crisis for the Rest of the World. Retrieved July 23, 2019, from https://www.wsj.com/articles/tramadol-the-opioid-crisis-for-the-rest-of-the-world-1476887401

Schedules of Controlled Substances: Placement of Tramadol Into Schedule IV. (2014, July 02). Retrieved July 23, 2019, from https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2014/07/02/2014-15548/schedules-of-controlled-substances-placement-of-tramadol-into-schedule-iv