In 1996, one person died from tramadol overdose. In 2011, 154 people died from tramadol overdose. This number may still seem small compared to the 1,000 people whose lives are claimed each year by OxyContin, but how big does the death toll need to get before we sound the alarm?
Considering these figures represent a 154 percent increase in five years, that’s pretty alarming.
Or what about these numbers? In 2005, just over 10,000 ER visits were tramadol related. In 2011, tramadol-related visits totaled over 27,000.
A Frightening Trend
These statistics represent a growing trend in tramadol abuse. This developing pattern is especially concerning for several reasons.
- Rising Usage
The sheer numbers are daunting. 2013 saw more than 43 million tramadol prescriptions fly into patients’ medicine cabinets. Just as concerning is the fact that this number continues to rise.
Many patients who are prescribed tramadol falsely view this drug as a safe, milder alternative to other painkillers, when, in fact, it is very potent and potentially dangerous if not taken properly. This “safe” view is often shared by those who abuse it. Even some doctors incorrectly think tramadol is less addictive and harmful than other opiates. Millions have discovered it’s not.
- Deadly Combinations
Tramadol is highly lethal when combined with other drugs. Those taking other sedatives or drinking alcohol are at high-risk for overdose due to respiratory failure. Unfortunately, problems with pain, sleep and mood often travel together, so doctors may prescribe tramadol to someone taking sleeping pills or antidepressants. This combination can be deadly.
Taken as prescribed, tramadol is usually a time-release capsule. It is designed to block pain over an extended period of time. However, tramadol abusers bypass the time-release and ingest all the medication at once. The resulting euphoric effect is similar to the instant highs obtained from heroin (and just as addictive).
- Easy to Obtain
Tramadol is easy to obtain and is less expensive than other opiates. Many internet sites sell it cheap, with no prescription needed. This means even children and teens can get their hands on it.
- Addictive Nature
Patients following doctors’ orders could be as much at risk as those abusing tramadol. Using the drug as prescribed can still lead to addiction.
- A Growing Problem
Tramadol addiction is gaining momentum. Unchecked, the current trend will continue as more tramadol users become addicted and more abusers die of overdose. The public needs to be made aware of the dangers of this drug, before this growing snowball becomes an avalanche.
Additional Reading: Non-Addictive Painkillers May Soon Be Available
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