Whether you are an occasional drinker or one who regularly imbibes and has “one too many,” it is critical to understand that certain medications can adversely interact with alcohol. If you have been prescribed tramadol (Ultram), you were likely already informed by medical personnel that drinking while using this medication is risky and ill-advised.
So, what precisely are the potential risks of combining tramadol and alcohol? What should you do if you’re struggling with an addiction to tramadol or alcoholism?
Whether it’s prescription drugs or alcohol, it’s essential to use these substances responsibly and only as directed. Engaging in actions others than those prescribed by a physician can lead to chronic abuse, addiction, health complications, and overdose.
What Is Tramadol?
Tramadol is a synthetic opioid agonist that is prescribed to treat various degrees of pain. This function is due to its action on the body that induces pain-relieving effects by altering pain perception. Some people use tramadol mostly on an as-needed basis for pain, while others may be prescribed to use it on a regular basis for chronic conditions.
Although tramadol is believed to have a lower potential for addiction than many other opioids, it can be habit-forming and result in a variety of adverse side effects. For this reason, it is currently classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration as a schedule IV substance.
Side Effects of Mixing Tramadol and Alcohol
Most prescription medications come with the potential for certain side effects, especially if abused. Both tramadol and alcohol act on the central nervous system (CNS) to reduce activity and, therefore, have sedating effects.
When used at the same time, the effects of these drugs can be compounded, meaning that each substance amplifies the effects of the other. Their combined impact can result in profound CNS depression, overdose, and even death. Please note that the effects of combining tramadol and alcohol are far greater than each substance’s individual effects.
Side effects of tramadol abuse include the following:
- Slowed breathing
- Slowed pulse
- Heart palpitations
- Impaired cognition
Side effects of alcohol abuse include the following:
- Impaired memory
- Mood swings
- Blacking out
- High blood pressure
There are many reasons why a person would decide to mix drugs and alcohol. One of the most obvious reasons is to induce feelings of being “high” or euphoria. Another would be for self-medication purposes. That is, someone with chronic pain or mental illness may turn to drugs or alcohol in an attempt to relieve physical or emotional pain or both.
When a person becomes addicted to one substance, that person may be more likely to use other substances at the risk of also becoming dependent on it, as well. The following are some of the hazards combining tramadol and alcohol:
- Combining tramadol and alcohol can increase the chances of experiencing an overdose on either substance.
- Both substances are CNS depressants, which means they work to slow brain function, either when used alone or when combined.
- Mixing tramadol and alcohol can cause or exacerbate depression, which may, in turn, result in suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
Other Side Effects of Mixing Tramadol and Alcohol
Most people encounter the following side effects as a result of using tramadol in combination with alcohol:
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Intracranial pressure
- Liver disease
- Impaired kidney function
- Eccentric behavior
- Impaired memory
- Impaired coordination
- Shallow/irregular breathing
- Loss of consciousness
After using tramadol, many patients observe that the effect of alcohol is amplified, even after consuming just a small amount. This compounded effect is why tramadol comes with a warning label indicating that those who are under the influence of alcohol should not use it until their body is clear of alcohol.
It is crucial to understand that both tramadol and alcohol can cause profound respiratory depression. This condition is life-threatening, and it is hallmarked by difficult, slow, and shallow breathing. In short, the combination of tramadol and alcohol can cause various health problems, some of which can be fatal.
Tramadol Overdose Symptoms
Drinking alcohol while on tramadol has been found to potentially be detrimental to one’s health, and even life-threatening. An overdose of tramadol is considered to be a medical emergency. If you or someone you know is experiencing the following symptoms, please call 911 immediately:
- Cold, clammy or bluish skin
- Dizziness when standing
- Pinpoint pupils
- Heart palpitations
- Slow pulse
- Muscle rigidity
- Respiratory depression
- Unconsciousness or coma
Recognizing tramadol overdose symptoms is vital in life-threatening situations. Any overdose in which respiration is impaired has the potential to cause death or produce irreversible brain damage. Brain damage may occur if oxygenated blood is unavailable for too long.
Alcohol Overdose Symptoms
An alcohol overdose, which is otherwise referred to as alcohol poisoning, may cause many of the same symptoms of an opioid overdose. These symptoms may include the following:
- Slow breathing
- Irregular breathing
- Bluish or pale skin
- Low body temperature
- Passing out
As with an opioid overdose, alcohol poisoning is usually life-threatening, and 911 should be contacted as soon as possible to avoid the worst complications. Keep in mind that if a person has used tramadol and alcohol, he or she could be overdosing on one or the other, or both. It is critical to know what substances he or she has used because opioid overdose treatment is different for that of alcohol poisoning.
When a person becomes physically dependent on a substance, they will inevitably encounter withdrawal symptoms when they abruptly stop using it. In severe cases of alcoholism, withdrawal can be extremely dangerous, and the person will experience seizures and psychosis—a condition known as delirium tremens. For this reason, a professional clinical detox is strongly recommended by most medical providers.
Although withdrawal from opioids such as tramadol is not typically life-threatening, it can be highly unpleasant and painful. Nausea, diarrhea and flu-like symptoms may onset and compel the person to relapse in order to avoid this process. Whether a person is addicted to alcohol, tramadol, or both, they should be supervised by medical personnel to ensure their safety and comfort during the detox phase.
Treatment for Tramadol and Alcohol
You may be reading this as a person who has been misusing tramadol and alcohol and is hoping to find help. Or, you may be a loved one who is concerned for the health and well-being of a friend or family member and are trying to determine what options are available for treatment.
Harmony Treatment and Wellness offers help and hope for those who are motivated to break free from the cycle of addiction and reclaim their lives. We accomplish this through the use of a comprehensive approach that includes evidence-based services that are clinically proven to increase the likelihood of a successful recovery, such as the following:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Individual/group counseling
- Peer group support
- Health and wellness programs
- Substance abuse education
- Art and music therapy
- Adventure therapy
- Bio-feedback therapy
- Aftercare planning
Contact us today to speak with a treatment specialist who can discuss your options with you or your loved one. We are dedicated to providing our clients with all the tools they need to succeed at recovery and enjoy the healthy, satisfying lives they deserve!