Kicking my Tramadol addiction - Tramadol Hell

charleeh Member Posts: 173
edited 6. May 2017, 12:44 in Living with Arthritis archive
Hi folks,

I hope you are all well, I haven't been on here in a while - I have had such a hectic time the past year but I won't go into that here. I want to talk about how I got off Tramadol.

I was first prescribed Tramadold back in 2010 by my rheumatology nurse for my arthritis pain. I suffer with 'sero negative arthritis' - basically my white cells behave like I have arthritis but there is no 'arthritis' factor when I am tested although my joints show the damage. My condition is caused by emotional trauma and diet I am sure.

Tramadol is a synthetic opiate that works on the pain receptors in the brain, it is prescribed to treat pain, prescribed as an anti depressant and it is also used to get heroine addicts 'clean' in the US. I was given it for arthritic pain - I was not told any risks, or any dangers or long term effects the drug might have on me. I was told it is a painkiller. That's it. Tramadol was created in a lab in the 1970s.

Tramadol actually works by feeding the body dopamine and serotonin to induce pain relief, these are the happy chemicals in the brain basically and when you try and stop taking it you're brain is addicted to the Tramadol providing these chemicals. After long term use the brain also 'forgets' how to make serotonin and dopamine naturally from your food because the Tramadol actually blocks your brains receptors.

Tramadol can cause many side effects; I was lucky that I didn't really feel anything while I was on them. I think maybe that's why I under estimated how bad this drug actually is. The only thing I ever got while on them was constipation :oops:

I never knew I was addicted.... I only ever took them for pain relief, but as many of you know if we get upset, angry, teary, anxious etc we can have flare ups or physical pain. I didn't even realise how often I was hitting the Tramadol. Then in 2015/2016 I had 2 very bad things happen to me in the space of 6 months, my 58 year old cousin (I am still in my 20's) tried to groom me into a relationship through psychological manipulation and then a few months later my dad died. I found that because I was emotionally upset and worried about working and being well I was taking more Tramadol as 'prevention' to 'get through work'.

My emotional state deteriorated and I was taking more and more Tramadol - not every day, intermittently really but when I took them I would take more than double my dosage; by this time I had realised that I could eradicate my emotional upset with the painkillers - I was so very fearful of getting sick again and being debilitated; I would sit and watch my wrists and knees swell up if I got emotionally upset. I would get to about a week and then have a melt down, worry about a flare up and then over dose to 'keep well' and 'keep working'.

I finally tried to stop the Tramadol the beginning of December, I got until Christmas Eve and had the worst emotional melt down I have ever had in my life, my partner had to talk me out of killing myself - I had never felt such depression and confusion in all of my life. It is like a fog takes over your brain, you cannot see any other thing that things that hurt you - you think the world is ending, and you can't see a way out other than dying. Now I know that might seem extreme but it is 100% true.

I had to take Tramadol Christmas day to calm down - I was in such a mess.

I started to research then;

My brain was starved of serotonin and dopamine.

I wanted to go cold turkey - against all advice, the alternative was to go on diazepam to get off the Tramadol - no way I thought, it will be the same thing again.

I wrote out all the research I could find about nutrition for creating serotonin and dopamine and pinned it to my walls. I also pinned affirmations to my walls things like
"the negative thoughts are drug induced do not trust them"
"I will get better, I will feel good"

I hated my life, my job, my friends, my family and I just wanted to die - I can't explain that level of chronic depression - I blamed myself for everything and I hadn't even began to grieve for my dad yet.

I detoxed and cleansed and went to stay with my partner for 3 months.... yes, it took me 3 months to begin to feel like myself again. Super clean diet (although I had a lot of sugar) and plenty of exercise and gallons of water.

I would argue with my partner and take everything the wrong way - be in floods of tears or fits of anger at the drop of a hat, lose 3kg in weight, lose my appetite, sleep too much or not enough, be a complete miserable wreck and take it all out on my partner because I couldn't think straight, it seemed like everything was done to hurt me - and I couldn't see any other perspective off my own back. The emotion just seemed to bubble over without much cause really, just out of no where, a slight thing would upset me and my brain would spiral out of control and follow thoughts that would intentionally hurt me, I couldn't stop thinking badly. I would try and order my thoughts and get a fog - utter confusion, not being able to put things in time context or even see things normally.

It was absolute hell.

I am so blessed that he stuck by me through all of this. He helped me when I was so confused, in tears of sadness or anger and not being able to focus on what I am doing right now let alone yesterday, it's almost like having amnesia, you just can't order your thoughts and you get this fog in your head that blocks the thoughts forming. He helped me order my thoughts and bring my mind back to logic by sitting down with me and talking me through why I was upset and seeing the situation properly, without being blinded by brain chemical imbalances and drug withdrawals. He helped explain what a situation was that upset me, and what was the right reaction, almost like letting me brainstorm with him a proper reaction. He was my unqualified counsellor.

My advice to you is this;

If you go cold turkey get counselling support, you will need to have someone there to help you think straight - and I mean it, you won't see sense and you won't be yourself. Write a diary. Pin up affirmations in your house, write how you are and describe yourself.
You won't trust yourself, so having someone close to you who you trust to monitor you is essential.
Eat a high serotonin diet; it was interesting as I was craving a lot of the foods that produce serotonin.
Eggs, mushrooms, salmon, almonds, salt, dark chocolate.

I am now only able to cope on my own after 3 months cold turkey.

I have no idea what I would have done without the support from my partner - he had no experience dealing with this and it was so hard on him; if you do try and quit it, research together, forewarned is forearmed. I had no idea what i would put us both through either.

I can happily say I am clean of the drug Tramadol now. And I won't go back to any for of opiate again, I went to see the doctor today and I told her to take Tramadol off my prescription and write not to prescribe opiates in the future because of how addicted I have been to them. She was very happy with my progress and astounded with how I had done it without proper help going cold turkey.

By no means am I 100% yet, I have to re-learn how to cope with day to day life without prescription medication making me 'carefree'. I have found that I have lots of anxieties and I am quite anxious still - I find it harder to relax and am going to try CBT to help with that. I am also now able to meditate again and practice my yoga. Its only now I can see how bad I was, how far I have come and what that medication did to me. It is so scary.

I am left with this thought though;
I have suffered so badly with pain from my condition - as many of you have too, and what choice do we have when we are climbing the walls in agony other than to take the painkillers we are prescribed; it is a scary thought and I hope I never have to take any ever again. I understand a lot more about living with my condition and controlling it with diet and emotional stability these days.

I wish you all the best and all of my love if you are thinking of trying these meds or quitting them. Research the hell out of it like I did please, and do it before you hit rock bottom like I did. And if you're reading this wondering if you should start to take Tramadol I would urge you to consider your options carefully, it's been hell for me and ruined a few years of my life, altered decisions I made and changed my perceptions which had put me in danger and ruined my self esteem, if there are alternatives you can use try those. Opiates are bad and really, only use them if its unavoidable and set up a plan to get off them as soon as you can and get all the help and support that you can. I know how bad the pain of arthritis is - what its like not to sleep for more than 4 hours for months on end.... but as I said, forewarned is forearmed and if you have a get out plan and see the drug for what it is and what it does properly I hope you can survive it better than I did. The more you take the more you get used to the effects and the more you need. Its a vicious cycle.....

I am so glad I had my partner. I owe him so much.

charleeh x


  • Helenbothknees
    Helenbothknees Member Posts: 487
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Thank you so much for that. My partner was on tramadol for several years, and tried to get off it but couldn't. He cut the dose down drastically, but can't stop if altogether, and has now given up trying. After reading your account, I can understand why.

    I was given tramadol for arthritis, but couldn't take it as it made me so sick; I think now I'm glad of that. I was given codeine instead, and told I was unlikely to have problems coming off it. After two knee replacements, I cut down the codeine gradually, and it seemed to be OK. But when I stopped it altogether, I had nightmares and a strange sort of anxiety that lasted about two years!!! My GP insisted withdrawal symptoms couldn't last that long, and it must be something else. I know she's wrong, as I've never had anything quite like it before or since. But of course, since she didn't believe me, there's no record of this!

    I will never take opiates for any length of time again. People need to know about this.
  • stickywicket
    stickywicket Member Posts: 26,271
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    I'm so sorry you've had auch a bad time with tramadol. We have enough problems with arthritis alone.

    I aim to take as few meds as possible. The DMARDS are essential but I regard pain relief as optional.

    Opioids of any kind tend to produce tolerance (ie one has to up the dose to get the same effect) and dependency because they can actually make us more sensitive to pain.

    Well done om getting off tramadol. Like Helenbothknees, I was omce prescribed it on leaving hospital but they messed up my stomach so I soon stopped taking them.
    "The deeper sorrow carves into your being the more joy you can contain." Kahlil Gibran
  • lynnemarie1123
    lynnemarie1123 Member Posts: 295
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Than you fit your honesty - & welll done you x

    I was once given tramadol as an answer to my pain by the hospital. When actually all I wanted was then find out why the pain was there and stop it from happening lol.

    Something inside me made me not take the drug even though I was in pain. It just felt wrong somehow to be masking the pain so intensely. I'm on 30/500 co codamols that I now only take when needed and on a night - although I sometimes try manage with just paracetamols xx
  • frogmorton
    frogmorton Member Posts: 26,739
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Charleeh you are amazing!!

    I think you are incredibly brave sharing your story about your battle to get off of tramadol. Another person on here shared her story a few years ago, I can't remember which it was, but it was definitely an opioid painkiller and her GP helped her she didn't do it cold-turkey.

    It is incredible to hear that you weren't even taking them daily! I read somewhere that for some people the effects are massive and highly addictive.

    I took them prior to and following on from my back surgery with no problems, apart from the constipation of course. I had some left and some months later, after a particularly bad day pain-wise I took one and vomited into the next day so luckily for me I haven't had them since.

    You and your partner did an amazing thing together, he sounds a really really strong person and your relationship must be very good to have withstood what you described to us.

    I wish you both a very happy and positive future together Charleeh. :D


    Toni xxx

    Toni xxx
  • dalek
    dalek Member Posts: 32
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    I recently took Tramadol for seven days on the trot.
    Obviously I get a bit tired anyway...but i have one of those fitbit things that records your sleep, a friend was looking at it and said "no wonder you are tired, you get so little deep sleep", I then twigged it was the tramadol.

    I never normally read the side effects on drug packets otherwise I would never take anything.

    Luckily the pain reduced and i stopped taking them. Now due to my condition I do feel quite low sometimes anyway but the day after i stopped Tramadol I was making porridge in the microwave and almost burst in to tears because I left it to long and it exploded everywhere. I felt so low that day and the day after. It must be hideous for people taking them longer to get off them.

    When I googled them it was scary how awful they are. Another friend couldn't understand why I take them and suggested I smoke weed instead, it is safer!! obviously it is illegal and i must add a disclaimer at this stage then i don't have any. Certain strains of it are being legalised in Europe and USA for medical use. I wish this would be explored more in the UK, don't understand why there is such a taboo around it.

    I will probably have to take Tramadol again but will restrict it to one day at a time.
  • stickywicket
    stickywicket Member Posts: 26,271
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    That's interesting. I guess it might well be a matter of how much deep sleep as opposed to the more shallow sleep that we get and tramadol won't be the only opioid to interfere with deep sleep.

    I suspect the thing with weed is that it has been banned for so long. Imagine the hoo-haa as soon as someone suffered any ill-effects after legalisation. If cigarettes and alcohol had started off banned they, too, would never get legalised.

    Some US states allow 'Medicinal Marijuana'. I always find it amusing on Venice Beach when they try to get my healthy husband in to buy some while totally ignoring the unhealthy one (me) whose wheelchair he is pushing.
    "The deeper sorrow carves into your being the more joy you can contain." Kahlil Gibran
  • dibdab
    dibdab Member Posts: 1,498
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Well done you and your amazing partner, and thank you for sharing your story. Like others I have only ever take 1 dose of tramadol and it made me feel so unwell I flushed them down the loo the next day. I take :oops: coco's at night but without them the pain keeps me awake al night, I've tried just paracetemol but it doesn't even touch the pain so needs must I guess. I have to confess to being assiduous in reading potential side effects and make my meds decisions based on them, though I also know that some of those side effects are so rare as to be negligible.

    Life with RA is a roller coaster isn't it :oops: ,

    Hope all goes well into the future and that your CBT is beneficial.

    Deb xx