Why are so many people terrified of taking Tramadol. Unlike every other painkiller I have tried. It works!

I take Tramadol, it's only dangerous if it's abused. RA is an extremely painful disease and it needs a strong drug to deal with it. I have not heard of it being very, very dangerous unless you take an overdose or try and drive or operate heavy machinery whilst under the influence of it. I have not found a single other painkiller that even reduces the pain even slightly until I was prescribed the tramadol.

All painkillers have risks, but if used correctly then they can make your quality of life so much better.

Have I missed out on some new information about this drug or is it just old myths that it's 'super addictive' even though there is no evidence to support this?

31 Replies

  • The evidence does not suggest that it is any more addictive than other drugs in this category. And most people who take it for pain can reduce or stop these drugs if they no longer have pain. But like any other drug which also has effects on the mental state, a few people get hooked on those and quite a lot of people don't like the effects on the mental state. I personally didn't like the spaced out and sleepiness that it gave me when I took it.

    Also all of us worry about the number of drugs that we have to take and would prefer not to, so often we make more of a fuss than perhaps we should!

  • Tramadol paralysed me down one side so I felt and looked as if I'd had a stroke each time I took it. Great that it works for you so well but not everyone can tolerate it.

  • Perhaps I should have been clearer. I am not referring to when people try tramadol and find that it really doesn't suit them or they have pretty terrible side effects. I mean I am not sure why people recoil when it is mentioned and won't consider using it on the basis that some people (but relatively few) have actually become addictive.

    I can't say I like the effects of being 'spaced out' and don't take it unless the pain is really bad, but if it is severe I would sooner be a bit woozy than in searing agony. I do find if I take it on an empty stomach the wooziness is much worse, so although you don't have to take it with food it's probably best to.

    I spent years trying to 'soldier on' and take nothing worth taking but I suppose in the last couple of years I thought differently. I started to think there are no prizes for going without the pain relief I need.

    As for mood changes personally I find pain changes my mood far more than the tramadol. I might be a bit woozy but I can concentrate on a book, a film, a conversation (usually). Really bad pain makes that impossible. I have tried weed for the pain and that has a similar effect but that gives me the risk of getting a police record.

    Weirdly I find I eat in slow motion when I take it. Not a bad side effect, just weird.

  • I thank you for this post and I understood what you meant. Many of us do use Tramadol and get on ok with it, I do have to say, I resisted it for ages but gave in after a particularly bad flair. True...a lot of people can't tolerate it but a lot of people can! I can't tolerate Naproxen etc very well but I won't ever slate it as I know it works perfectly well for others. It's a personal choice and a personal tolerance. Best wishes to you 🙂

  • I think that most people who use this message board are still trying to achieve the right balance with their RA meds to manage their disease better. I believe that it is always better to deal with the underlying disease first, before resorting to using strong pain meds to deal with the pain caused by the underlying disease (strong pain meds do absolutely nothing to keep RA under control). Having said that, a lot of folk who have had RA for some time and been left with permanent painful damage, or who have other pain conditions alongside the RA will need strong pain meds, but they probably shouldn't be the first line of attack against the pain of RA. The first line of attack should always be disease control. Maybe that is why people recoil at the thought of having to rely on meds like tramadol if they have the feeling that their disease could be better controlled (and thereby reduce the pain and the need for painkillers).

  • Hi, not sure if this reply for me? I totally agree but as someone who has been trying for a few years now trying to get their disease under control and has tried a few medications and failed for various reasons, tramadol has helped me deal with my condition and helped me to continue to work which I have no intention of giving up. I do not tolerate Naproxen as well and to be honest that would be drug of choice to help obviously with the inflammation I experience. I have been trying for years to get my disease under control and resisted Tramadol for years but until you've experienced the pain of bones fusing or RA having a good old munch at your joints whilst still trying to get the disease under control who are we to judge, we can offer an opinion but not judge. I don't think anyone on here needs telling that we need to get on our condition under control...we're are all trying to do that but for some that takes a very very long time!! It's a drug that helps me deal with things at the moment and if I can offer some help or advice on my experience with it then I will do that. That's all I have to say on the matter.

  • I appreciate your support LittleBirds. But this example is what I am talking about. That people assume that because I have decided to admit my pain needs more effective pain relief that somehow that means I am not bothering to try and manage my condition better. I think some people are quite lucky, they are prescribed a drug and it works and the flare ups stop, but that doesn't work for all of us.

  • You are very welcome, I would support anybody who I felt was being judged and to be honest patronised!! Do not judge anyone until you've walked a day in their shoes. From what you've said you've been dealing with this condition for the majority of your life and I'm sure have tried many many medications. I'm on Rituximab at the moment which as we know is a big one and not to be taken lightly and yes it helps get my disease under control but does not not stop the pain of damage I already have to joints that need operations but all this takes time, I'm not popping tramadol for the fun of it or because im using it to control the disease. What am I supposed to do when I'm having a really painful day...ring my Rheumatologist to get me in that day...no...that's impossible and why HE THE EXPERT MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL PRESCRIBED ME THE DRUG IN THE FIRST PLACE I'm going to take his advice not someone's ill informed opinion.

  • It's really hard for almost everyone who comes here to strike the balance right with drugs and pain and advice and support. I stopped coming to this community for a while because I'm so drug intolerant, but this was construed by some members as me being part of some anti -drug brigade. I felt distressed by this assumption because I'm not at all. I will try anything once or maybe twice, sometimes even a third time if I'm sufficiently ill or in pain.

    But if something makes me seriously ill, even puts me in hospital, as many drugs including Tramadol have, then obviously it won't be prescribed for me any longer and I know better than to keep taking it. This only applies to me of course.

    I don't have any issue with others taking any drugs that work at all and am always happy that fellow sufferers find some relief where they can. No one should make another feel bad about what they can or cannot tolerate.

    In my case I don't take certain drugs if they make me feel worse than I feel already - or if they don't work - that's my measure.

    I feel the way you feel about Tramadol, about Zopiclone. It helps me enormously to take one a week so I get one decent night's sleep. I plan ahead and look forward to it as some healthy people look forward to a night out on the town with their friends! But I'm running out now and know I'm going to have to plead my case with GP to get another prescription because of their concerns that is addictive. It's so hard to find something that works only to have it stopped.

    So do I understand now what you mean by praising Tramadol to the skies if it's good for you. It's not a sign of weakness that you need Tramadol and I need my occasional Zopiclone. It's a sign of us trying to gain better control over our lives. Take care and best of luck.

  • I am thirty five and was diagnosed thirty four years ago. During that time a lot of doctors have spent a lot of time dealing with my underlying disease. It's not a 'first line of attack' it's a tool to be added to the kit of dealing with the condition.

  • Just wanted to add we don't want users of tramadol to feel like failures or like drug addicts.....but for some this drug works and helps but it's not for everyone that's fully appreciated!!! Hopefully NRAS will comment too x

  • I'm supposed to take Naproxen. The first time I tried it I felt so dizzy I couldn't stay standing and I felt so sick I couldn't tolerate water. The second time was exactly the same. They prescribed me something to settle my stomach (yes more drugs!) I thought this is a lot of drugs considering I have epilepsy medications as well. So I gave it up as a bad job. I tried one after taking my porridge yesterday and I didn't feel sick so I might take another one with porridge tomorrow and build them up really slowly, one every other day for a week, then one every day for a week, until I can be on the three a day they prescribed.

    But on the other hand, the tramadol works and I can take it as and when. For the Naproxen to work you have to take it regularly whether you are in pain or not so it's constantly in your system. So although the Naproxen seems like the milder option when you look at it like that is it really? But it works well for other people and I don't judge their choice of medication. We are all different.

    I suppose it just bugs me a bit when people talk about as though it were heroin or something. "No way would I take Tramadol, it's dangerous terrible stuff." I think well I do. I'm not weak or stupid or addicted, I just want pain relief that actually you know relieves my pain.

  • I can't drive on Tramadol, I call it a wacky tablet. But it does lessen the pain. I reserve it for days when I don't have to do anything or go anywhere.

  • I like that wacky tablet. I think I might pinch that name if that's ok ;)

  • I am glad you are finding it useful.

    I really didn't like it because I found it horrendously addictive - to the point where if I didn't take exactly the same amount every day at the same times I would start getting quite bad withdrawal symptoms. It also generally made me quite nauseous and headachy. Aside from all that, it didn't do anything at all for the underlying (active) disease that was causing the pain in the first place. Strong painkillers do have their place, but for anyone who is still getting inflammatory pain (rather than pain from permanent bone damage) I would still recommend working with a rheumatologist to manage the disease better, rather than dull it with strong painkillers. I also found I was much more alert when I wasn't taking strong painkillers.

  • You seem to be very critical about my drug choices. What makes you think I am not working with a rheumatologist? Some people find their RA drugs halt their disease altogether, but not everyone is this lucky. Some people find that despite being prescribed long-term DMARDS flare-ups are still a part of their experience of the disease.

    Of course strong pain killers don't slow the underlying disease. No-one suggested that it does. It takes the edge of the pain BUT it sounds as though you were taking a heck of a lot of it. It's there to be used when the pain is really bad. I use it when the flare-ups are unbearable. This could be once a week or three times a week but I don't think I would be taking it several times a day, every day. No wonder you weren't alert.

  • Your responses to me today earthwitch have been very presumptuous and come across as very judgemental. I do work with a rheumatologist. I have regular drug reviews. I had one just a couple of weeks ago. Not everyone just takes DMARDS and the symptoms disappear. Even though I take long term medication my RA is very volatile. I have had this my whole life and only recently have I begun taking strong painkillers. I am not using it to 'dull my symptoms' I am doing it to cope with my pain.

    You judged me harshly for having a steroid injection on another thread, even though this is a recognised treatment for the management of MY condition. What makes you an expert on how MY condition affects MY body and impacts on MY life.

    I asked for advice and support not a lecture from someone who knows absolutely nothing about me but still feels they have a right to judge me.

    I usually find this site helpful. I come here when I need support and to support others. I would be most grateful if you would not comment on my posts because for the first time I have ever been on here I feel very upset.

  • You are quite right ❤️ None of us take drugs for the fun of it💊 We are all trying to live our life's pain free to lead as normal life as we can xx don't be preturbed ☹️ Keep sharing X it helps us all 😘😘

  • Hi there, really glad of this post because its exactly how i feel! I am often embarrassed to admit to taking tramadol as there are so many bad vibes about it out there. But without it on a bad day I cannot get out of bed. I dont take it regularly and when Im fine i gladly put the packet away where I dont even need to look at it... but when im in a flare there is nothing else that even touches the pain, sometimes i need to take 2 before I can do anything.

    No I fully agree that the brain fog and dizziness aren't great, but im more than happy to experience that than the pain that disables us....

    Hopefully one day Ithere will be a drug that works for everyone!

  • I think it's quite natural to be frightened of the unknown. Look at how many posts there are about people being frightened to start on Methotrexate. And to me it's a sensible human reaction as it stops people doing things without thinking them through first. And all opiod drugs can have bad side effects for some people, so it's not just about the possibilities of addiction but also possible effects on kidneys or lungs which can be extremely dangerous. And to me it's also right that doctors go step by step in prescribing painkillers, and start at one end of the scale and slowly work through them. We should all be aiming to take the least amount of the gentlest drugs possible to manage our disease.

    It is sadly a feature of having this disease that we each have to make these judgements, and decide what's best for us. And we are all very different in our reactions to drugs. So we also need to be careful not to open the door to disease comparisons.

  • We are all different. I can't tolerate ibuprofen but I think you have to try different things and see what works for you. It is a bit like Russian roulette but if it works for you. Great!

  • I am incredibly lucky that I don't get the spaced out feeling or any side effects part from it being a really good pain reliever for me. I have reactions to every other pain reliever from ibuprofen to other opioids, so apparently I am just weird. I also cannot tolerate NASAIDs so they are not an option for me either. I take 200mg slow release every night and it is the only thing that gets me at least 4 hours sleep a night.

    My disease has not been controlled after nearly 4 years so I will continue to take Tramadol on a nightly basis until I don't need to any more. I refuse to be made to feel like some sort of drug addict because I choose to take a drug that is available to me for pain relief. I do not ave any problems if I don't take it at the same time or forget to take it, so maybe I have a weird metabolism as I have missed doses and had no dramas. I think it is everyone's personal choice as to what works for them. I work full time so to get 4 hours sleep using Tramadol as a pain reliever so I can slog through the day, is my choice and no one has the right to make me feel any less of a person for taking a prescribed drug to assist me in my disease and symptom control.

  • Hi, I am prescribed Morphine for back pain, and it doesn't touch my RA, need to find something different that I can have, unfortunately Tramadol I am allergic to, as well as Codien, you are so lucky that you have something that eases the pain x

  • Well any medication has potential to be dangerous if abused. Every body says it more about pain medication cause of illegal use.

    Personally tramadol never helped me, it' works for some people.

    That being said we can't go around worry about what everyone else thinks about the meds we take or how we deal with our medical issues.

  • Hi pinksugarmouse

    I have mixed feelings regarding opiates. I apologise in advance for this being a long post!

    I started on dihydrocodeine about 4 years ago now due to having a worsening vagus knee deformity, being 'too young' for a replacement and having to look after 2 preschool children full-time.

    After a while (and also being on Diclofenac, Pregabalin and amitryptaline) I ended up swapping to morphine because dihydrocodeine is limited in what doctors can prescribe (as is tramadol) whereas morphine has no upper-limit.

    Over the years I have also taken tramadol and oxycodone. I am now on 45mg per day of morphine, down from a much, much higher dose.

    In my opinion they are all good pain reducers (apart from Pregabalin and amitryptaline which did nothing pain-wise) and all have major issues. For me, dihydrocodeine, tramadol and oxycodone all have more abuse potential than morphine (and if you think people recoil at tramadol, try telling someone you're on morphine - it's basically heroin - right? 🙄). By this I mean they produce the 'euphoric' effects (aka wooziness/ light-headedness) that some people get a bit hooked on. However, this does not last long once you develop a tolerance if you are using them as directed. Hence the problem, if you are looking for the 'buzz' then you need more and more to achieve that effect and before you know it you can become hooked.

    The same is true for pain relief but to a much lesser degree, you tend to need more to achieve the same effects - if you are taking them regularly - as your tolerance increases.

    The problem with this is that as the dose increases so do the risks and side-effects. The major risks would be accidental overdose causing respiratory depression and (without caring if anyone thinks I'm being melodramatic😎) potentially death. That's the cause of all (or most) of these opiate deaths you read about. The side-effects can also be quite serious including organ damage and most noticeably for me, hormonal imbalances.

    With tramadol in particular regular over-use can cause fits, I know this because I know someone who developed an addiction and this is what happened. He now can't drive, nearly lost his job and still has occasional episodes despite being off the tramadol (and being highly unlikely ever to be prescribed any form of opiate ever again). To give some context, he was probably taking a strip in one go - 10 X the prescribed dose. No wonder, you might say.

    One of the issues I now have with this class of drug is that whilst they undoubtedly serve a purpose (and I agree pinksugarmouse - they are a useful addition to the regime), once you are on them regularly if you develop more pain (which happened to me when I developed serious spine problems), you start to run out of options. I had my knee replaced and was starting to wean off the truckloads of painkillers I was on and then my back went. I was already on everything I could be on, only option was to increase the dose of morphine. Hence I needed up on a huge dose.

    Which leads me to the final problem I have - reducing from a large dose is not pleasant. Again in context, I reduced my morphine intake by > 90% as soon as I had a break in the constant sciatic / lower back pain I was (and still am) suffering with over a period of 4 months or so. Insomnia and general 'edginess' are my main issues, but it messes with your emotional state a lot too. It has been no worse than reducing prednisolone or even Pregabalin for me, but not nice all the same. I still have the final (hardest) bit to go, I have learned that you have to do it slowly or it becomes a much bigger problem.

    So, if you take tramadol occasionally, FOR PAIN RELIEF, and don't mind / can tolerate the sedative effects - it can be very helpful and you are highly unlikely to become truly addicted (note: addiction and dependency are different things by a long, long way). If you end up taking it constantly at the maximum dose it can be tricky to stop, difficult to add anything else in when new pain arrives, and over time will cause some secondary effects.

    It's all a balance though, pain sucks and opiates help with pain. They have side-effects (as does any other drug) and can be addictive. We all know this, used sensibly they are fine IMHO.

    Incidentally 'weed' (better off with cannabis oil) is not addictive, helps with most of the things that opiates help with (and a whole lot more), has never caused A SINGLE OVERDOSE EVER, has almost no side-effects and is illegal. Go figure.


  • "Incidentally 'weed' (better off with cannabis oil) is not addictive, helps with most of the things that opiates help with (and a whole lot more), has never caused A SINGLE OVERDOSE EVER, has almost no side-effects and is illegal. Go figure."

    It's ridiculous that whilst cigarettes and alcohol known to be the cause of huge numbers of deadly diseases are legal and available in every corner shop, people with a chronic condition can't use cannabis without risking a criminal record. Then there are the "legal highs" which are arguably as potentially deadly as heroin.

    It's little wonder so many young people don't listen to official advice on drugs. They know it makes no sense. Yes it is more risky for adolescents but is it seriously more risky than being able to buy huge bottles of cheap cider on offer at their local shop or supermarket?

  • I agree, the drug laws are a total farce. In reality your prospect of getting a criminal record for possessing medical cannabis is probably quite slim - even if they caught you red-handed IMHO.😈

    I have heard (though don't quote me on this) that for fewer than 8 plants they don't even bother prosecuting, at least in a large city not far from me.

  • Tramadol can be used as an effective painkiller for some people with RA . Like all drugs for some it works well and others it doesn't due to side effects. It is often used along side other medications such as Dmards etc. We have a section in our pain article under opioids that explains this in more detail: nras.org.uk/managing-the-pa... .

  • I've taken it for a couple of years. Every now and then, when I am feeling really good, I go without for a while until I cycle back around. I've not had any trouble personally with it being addictive, and I agree with you, for me, it works well on the RA pain. It is also the drug we used to get my mother in law off of Oxycodone, Fentanyl patches, and a handful of other nasties. By getting her on Tramadol, she claimed that she was relieved that she was "on a stronger medicine and it took care of her pain". She was also no longer medication seeking. So, personally, if you need pain control, and it doesn't bother you (I am one of the lucky ones), I say go for it!

  • I think people think it makes them spaced out

  • I have been on a lot of different meds, and have one GP in my surgery who takes every opportunity to go on and on about how addictive pain medication is, and would hardly ever prescribe me anything stronger than codeine (which only made me sleepy, it did nothing for pain). I've done the lot: naproxen just messed up my lungs, co-dydramol made me horribly constipated, codeine made me sleepy, paracetamol is just like taking smarties. I saw another GP and was surprised she prescribed me Tramadol almost immediately - considering the prescription requirements have changed greatly and I thought it would be nearly impossible to get, and the other GP who is so opposed to prescribing is her husband! But boom, tramadol prescribed and while it made me sleepy, it definitely put the pain on the back burner so I could make it to my next injection day (the simponi isn't as effective as it used to be, heading into rheumy on 5 Sept and hope to get another game plan for managing illness).

    There are many camps of thought on pain management - cannabis oil doesn't absolutely nothing for me, I've run the gamut on alternative medicine, vitamins, diet changes, you name it. I'm allergic or non-responsive to a lot of meds for some reason, so when I find something that works, I'm just happy it works.

    There's all kinds of ZOMGADDICTION literature out there, and a distinct narrative of the dangers of medication not just by the anti-Big-Pharma people, but my medical pros themselves. But as someone else said above - there's a huge difference between addiction and reliance; RA has no cure, and as it's likely I'm going to need medication for the rest of my life, I'm not really that worried about the ZOMGADDICTION factor: I just want something that works. But I benefit from being a particular type of person who really dislikes how 'spaced' I get on certain medications, so addiction is unlikely. I take things only when I absolutely have to, and that's all. But it can be hard to convince a medical specialist who has already decided to 'profile' me to believe me, and getting decent medication is a huge battle for me. I'm glad I got tramadol when I needed it. I hope I can get it again if I need it.

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