Severe addiction to tramadol – many dropouts

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Fact: Overdose can stop breathing

Tramadol is actually a painkiller. I Fass warns that it is addictive.

Abusive youth often use it interspersed with cannabis.

In case of overdose, it can knock out breathing. It can also cause convulsions, causing you to lose consciousness and fall over.

It induces severe withdrawal in the form of diarrhoea, tremors, nausea, sweating, flu-like symptoms, depression and increased anxiety.

An affected person has small pupils and drooping eyelids, becomes unconscious and slurred.

In abusing young people, the ability to learn, the ability to perceive and the ability to take initiative deteriorate. They stop in development. The long-term effects in young people are unknown.

Sources: Maria Malmö and Fass

The conclusion is drawn by Professor Anders Håkansson who, together with other researchers, has taken a closer look at the dropouts among those who received care at Maria Malmö’s clinic for young people with drug problems.

“It is a multifaceted drug that produces many effects, which is why we also believe that it is particularly difficult to stop,” he says.

The study is based on interviews with 335 people under the age of 26. Among those treated for tramadol addiction, 35 percent discontinued treatment prematurely, while about 15 percent did so among those treated for other types of addiction.

— My interpretation of this is that you probably have to do more, says Anders Håkansson.

More specifically

He describes the treatment given to young drug addicts as a kind of basic package, a treatment that is primarily therapeutic and supportive, where you work with the individual and the immediate environment such as the family, school and social services.

— Often, I think that’s enough to find a way to reverse a person’s behavior and relationship with substances. Regarding tramadol, I think the need is greater to find something more specific, he says.

One of the reasons is that there are psychological mechanisms behind abuse of the preparation. They must be understood and the work with this group must be done with a close connection to medical care and perhaps round-the-clock care when necessary, he believes. For those trying to stop tramadol, the withdrawal and detoxification phase is often difficult.

Other effect

Tramadol is originally a drug used in the treatment of pain, but it has increasingly started to be used as a drug. It is an opioid, just like heroin and morphine, but produces a different effect.

— I think that addiction to tramadol is more complex than most other drugs that young people get hooked on. We hear in the symptom picture that it is about relieving anxiety and getting a kind of peace and quiet, but at the same time also about getting a kick, that get high and be able to party all night. Then there are completely different mechanisms that deal with sexual activity.

During a tramadol project that ran at Maria Malmö 2017–2019, the treatment staff got the feeling that tramadol-abusing young people had a greater tendency to drop out of treatment. This has now been confirmed by the study, published in a scientific article.