Drug and Alcohol - Opioid Addiction

Tramadol and Alcohol: Understanding the Risks of Combining Tramadol and Alcohol

Mixing tramadol and alcohol can be seriously dangerous. Learn why combining these depressant drugs can be lethally dangerous in our blog.

Mixing Tramadol and Alcohol: What Happens?

Table of contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

August 9, 2023

The Edge Treatment Center

Consuming tramadol and alcohol at the same time can be dangerous. Both substances depress the CNS or central nervous system and interact with brain chemicals that determine how you cope with pain or stress and manage your mood.

Both are addictive due to the effects such as relaxation or exhilaration, which cause a person to crave these substances more frequently. However, this lethal combination can elevate the respiratory and sedative impacts of both that might gradually cause drowsiness, coma, breathing troubles, overdose, or possibly death.  

Mixing opioids like tramadol and alcohol is never a good idea. It can result in life-endangering respiratory arrest causing long-term neurological damage and a severe lack of oxygen. This can rapidly escalate to an unconscious or potential death. 

What is Tramadol?

Tramadol is an atypical opioid analgesic addressed with multiple brand names, such as Ultram, ConZip, Rybix, and Ultracet (an combination of tramadol and acetaminophen). Tramadol serves as a synthetic opioid medication used to relieve moderate to extreme pain caused by surgery or a variety of other disorders.

Tramadol was advertised as a better opiate medicine for the alleviation of pain when compared to pharmaceuticals with increased addiction potential, like Vicodin and OxyContin; however, the US DEA or Drug Enforcement Administration still classifies it as a Schedule IV banned substance. Medications in this category have an average likelihood of misuse and, if taken regularly, might result in physical reliance on the medicine.

What is Alcohol?

Alcohol is a depressant drug that can slow down your central nervous system. It affects the brain and body in different ways, depending on how much you drink. When taken in large amounts, it can lead to impaired judgment and decision-making, slowed coordination, decreased alertness, and other dangerous behaviors.

Alcohol is made from fermented grains, fruits, or vegetables. It contains ethanol, a type of alcohol that can make you drunk if consumed in large amounts. Because it is so widely available, it can be easy to overconsume and increase the risk of adverse health effects.

It is important to understand the risks associated with drinking alcohol. Overconsumption can lead to serious health problems including liver damage, addiction, and even death. The risk of these effects increases when combined with other drugs or medications such as Tramadol.

When combined with Tramadol, the effects of alcohol can be even more severe. It increases the risk of overdose and other serious side effects, such as liver damage, atypical reactions, increased risk of accidents and injury, and chronic disease.

For these reasons, it is important to avoid drinking alcohol while taking Tramadol or any other opioid medication.

What Happens When You Mix Tramadol and Alcohol?

When you mix Tramadol and alcohol, it can be a dangerous combination. The primary danger of combining the two substances is an increased risk of overdose or other serious side effects.

Tramadol is an opioid analgesic medication, while alcohol is a depressant. When taken together, they can cause central nervous system depression, slowed respiration, and difficulty breathing. This can lead to serious health problems, including death.

In addition, Tramadol taken with alcohol can cause nausea and vomiting, dizziness, confusion and disorientation, increased blood pressure, blurred vision, and insomnia. In extreme cases, it can even lead to coma or seizures.

For these reasons, it is important to understand the risks of combining alcohol and Tramadol. It is never recommended to drink alcohol while taking Tramadol or any other opioid medication. Even if you are not drinking heavily, any amount of alcohol can increase the risk of overdose or other serious side effects.

These side effects are explained below:

Tramadol and Alcohol: Both Substances Have Stronger Effects When Combined

When taken together, the effects of Tramadol and alcohol can be stronger than when taken alone. The combination increases the risk of overdose and other serious side effects. This is because both substances are depressants that work to slow down your central nervous system. Taking them together can lead to slowed breathing, decreased alertness, confusion, disorientation, and other symptoms.

Tramadol and Alcohol: Overdose Risk

The most serious concern with taking Tramadol and alcohol together is the risk of overdose. Alcohol increases the effects of Tramadol which can lead to an overdose. When too much Tramadol is taken in combination with alcohol, it can cause respiratory depression, a slowed heart rate, and even coma or death.

Tramadol and Alcohol: Liver Damage

Another potential risk of combining alcohol and Tramadol is liver damage. Both substances can be hard on the liver, but when taken together they can cause increased toxicity in the body which can lead to serious liver damage. This can include cirrhosis of the liver or other life-threatening complications.

Tramadol and Alcohol: Chronic Disease

People who combine Tramadol and alcohol are also at increased risk for chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. This is because the combination of these two substances can have a negative effect on the body’s overall health.

Tramadol and Alcohol: Atypical Reactions

People who take Tramadol and alcohol together can experience atypical reactions. These reactions can range from mild to severe and may include nausea, vomiting, confusion, disorientation, dizziness, blurred vision, increased blood pressure, insomnia, and even coma or seizures.

Tramadol and Alcohol: Increased Risk of Accidents and Injury

Tramadol and alcohol can also increase the risk of accidents and injury. When taken together, they can lead to a decreased level of alertness, decreased coordination, impaired judgment, increased risk-taking behavior, and other dangerous behaviors. This can put you at a greater risk for falls or car accidents if you are operating a vehicle while under the influence.

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How Can I Avoid Mixing Tramadol and Alcohol?

The best way to avoid the risks of combining Tramadol with alcohol is to abstain from drinking entirely. If you do choose to drink, make sure that you never mix it with Tramadol or any other opioid medication.

If you are currently taking Tramadol and need help quitting alcohol, talk to your doctor or seek professional help. There are a variety of resources and treatments available to help you safely quit drinking and reduce your risk for overdose.

Tramadol and Alcohol Addiction

Addiction has a variety of causes and is different for everyone. Even a single event can change the course of a person's viewpoint toward life and compel that person to indulge in addictive substances or medications. As per The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, an individual is required to meet a minimum of two of the below-mentioned standards within twelve months to obtain a diagnosis of an alcohol use disorder or an opioid use disorder:

  • Using liquor or narcotics in settings when it is physically unsafe to do so (for example, while driving)

  • Drug cravings and strong impulses to restart drug consumption

  • Unable to quit or reduce usage

  • Consuming alcohol or using greater doses of opioids more regularly than intended.

  • Suffering from withdrawal effects when attempting to quit

  • Establishing a tolerance in which greater or more regular dosages are required to attain previous effects

  • Investing a great deal of time in acquiring, consuming, and recuperating from the effects of opiates or alcoholic beverages

  • Developing a mental or physical condition that is most certainly caused by drug use, but persisting to use nonetheless

  • Choosing to continue even though persistent personal and social problems are arising because of it

  • Due to continued drug use, individuals cannot meet their commitments at work, school, or college.

  • Halting activities, be it personal or occupational, because of drug addiction

What Does a Tramadol Overdose Look Like?

Also, consuming tramadol in large quantities can result in drug poisoning or overdose that necessitates rapid medical attention when mixed with other substances like alcohol. The following are warning symptoms of a possibly dangerous tramadol overdose:

  • Respiratory arrest

  • Unconsciousness

  • Clammy, bluish skin

  • Dilated pupils

  • Lack of muscle coordination

  • Increased perspiration

  • Elevated heart rate

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What Causes Tramadol and Alcohol Addiction?

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), tramadol's working method is comparable to those of other opioid/narcotic medications. It quickly connects to certain neurons in the brain that have been developed for a class of neurotransmitters known as endogenous opioid neurotransmitters. Such neurotransmitters comprise endorphins and enkephalins, which can help people cope with anxiety, physical activity, and discomfort.

When utilized, the medication may also boost the accessibility of serotonin and norepinephrine. Tramadol, similar to other opiate medicines, is categorized as a CNS or central nervous system depressant, which means that its general impact causes a decrease in neuron activity in the brain and spinal cord (CNS).

As per the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), alcohol constitutes the topmost substance of misuse in the US, and many SUDs or substance use disorders in the US involve alcohol. Like tramadol, alcohol is also a CNS depressant; however, it functions on varying neurotransmitters. It influences various chemical messengers, including gamma-aminobutyric acid (an inhibitory chemical transmitter), N-methyl-d-aspartate (an excitatory chemical transmitter), and glycine. 

Although the specific count on the total number of people who consume tramadol while drinking alcohol is not accessible, owing to the rates of medical prescriptions for tramadol (and thus its presence in the marketplace) and the large number of people who misuse alcohol, it is safe to say that there are numerous instances of co-occurring alcohol and tramadol misuse. 

How is Co-occurring Alcohol & Tramadol Addiction Treated?

Comorbid drug use conditions or polysubstance drug dependence occur when an individual suffers from both an opioid and alcohol use disorder. Effective treatment and therapy must provide more than simply substance withdrawal administration covering psychological, interpersonal, physical, and occupational, along with legal issues to adequately tackle an individual's needs. 

Drug Detox

The initial stage in substance addiction management is generally a clinically managed detox to lower withdrawal effects and prevent possible health complications. Following detox, residential or ambulatory therapy may assist in managing mental health issues related to dependence or drug abuse and teach novel techniques for coping with aiding in sobriety.

Drug Rehab

If you are struggling with addiction to Tramadol and alcohol, specialized drug rehab treatment can help. Rehab treatment combines a variety of therapeutic techniques to help individuals break the cycle of addiction and regain control of their lives.

Inpatient drug rehab programs provide a safe and supportive environment for individuals to work on their recovery. Treatment typically involves individual therapy, group counseling, medical care, and medication-assisted treatment (MAT). MAT combines medications such as buprenorphine with behavioral therapies to reduce cravings and help individuals stay sober.

Outpatient rehab programs may also be used to treat Tramadol and alcohol addiction. Outpatient programs allow individuals to continue living at home while attending therapy sessions on a regular basis. Treatment typically involves individual and group counseling, as well as relapse prevention strategies.

Talk Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which can be provided in personal, group, or familial settings, is a significant aspect of SUD and AUD treatments. Prescription medicines can be employed to lessen the cravings for alcohol and narcotics and reduce the chances of relapse. Opting for treatment that combines therapy and medicines might also help manage other concerns that might emerge with addiction, like general health troubles, behavioral conditions, and legal issues.

The Edge Treatment Center: Evidence-Based Treatment for Tramadol and Alcohol Abuse

Mixing Tramadol with alcohol is a dangerous combination that can cause serious side effects or even death. The best way to avoid these risks is to avoid drinking altogether, or at least abstain from drinking while taking Tramadol or other opioid medications.

The Edge Treatment Center offers evidence-based treatment for individuals struggling with addiction to Tramadol and alcohol. We offer both inpatient and outpatient programs to meet the individual needs of our clients. Our treatment approach offers medication-assisted therapy (MAT) and a variety of therapeutic techniques, including individual counseling, group therapy, and relapse prevention.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to Tramadol and alcohol, reach out to us today. Our compassionate team of professionals can help you find the path to recovery and get your life back on track. Take the first step toward a healthier future – contact The Edge Treatment Center today!

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