The effects of codeine and tramadol use – Short and long-term effects of drug abuse/addiction.
The Effects of Codeine and Tramadol Use
What is Codeine?
Codeine is an opioid pain medication. It is used to treat mild to moderately severe pain. It is one of the many pharmaceuticals classified as an opiate. Opiates are narcotics with a high potential for addiction.
Codeine is used to provide relief from a number of conditions. They include:
- Mild to moderate pain
- Severe pain (when combined with aspirin or paracetamol)
- Dry irritating cough
- Cold and flu (when combined with antihistamines and decongestants)
Some people misuse codeine by intentionally taking more than the recommended dose to get high, or as an act of self-harm. Most individuals who are prescribed codeine to manage a medical illness take the drug directly as prescribed and never have a problem, but some individuals develop an addiction.
Used for centuries to manage pain in chronic pain sufferers, codeine and other opiates are becoming the drug of choice for many drug addicts. In fact, opiates are now the most commonly abused drugs in the world. Opiates such as codeine are drugs of abuse due to the powerful effects on the user. In addition to pain relief, in higher doses, codeine can lead to a pleasurable euphoric sensation. When opiates enter the nervous system, they activate the reward system of the brain, allowing for the excessive release of pleasurable hormones. It is this feeling that codeine addicts crave.
Like any addiction, codeine use and abuse can lead to devastating health and interpersonal problems. Many individuals who abuse codeine become tolerant to the mild effects of the narcotic and begin to abuse heavier and stronger narcotics to achieve greater highs. In addition, many individuals with codeine addiction begin to use other drugs such as benzodiazepines and alcohol in order to achieve greater highs. Others may abuse codeine and stimulant drugs in order to reduce the side effects of the stimulants and produce a more mellow high.
Codeine addiction is a serious disorder that can cause much suffering for all involved.
Symptoms of codeine abuse
The symptoms of codeine abuse are varied among addicts depending largely upon the length of time a person abuses codeine, the amount used, and the frequency of usage. Some of the most common symptoms of codeine abuse are:
- Emotional numbing
- The sense of well-being and calmness
- Mood swings
- Withdrawing socially from loved ones
- Social isolation
- Forging prescription in order to obtain more codeine
- Doctor shopping or visiting a number of doctors in order to obtain greater amounts of codeine
- Frequent ER visit for vague complaints of pain
- Stealing or borrowing codeine from friends
- Financial problems
- Fixation on codeine
- Legal problems
- Health care fraud
- Indifference toward loved ones, job, and social activities
- Ordering codeine on the internet
- Faking illness to obtain more codeine
- Lying to hide the amount of codeine being abused
- Interpersonal relationship problems
- Poor work or school performance
- Nodding off during a conversation
- Blue tinges on the lips and fingernail beds
- Dry mouth
- Urinary retention
- Low blood pressure
- Decreased sex drive
- Respiratory depression
- Worsening of mental health
- Decreased memory
- Increased mental illness symptoms
- Lack of emotions
Effects of codeine abuse
The effects of codeine addiction can impact nearly every area of an individual’s life. These effects include:
- Acute pancreatitis
- Liver damage
- Kidney damage
- Increased sensitivity to pain
- Major depression
- Muscle twitches, cramps, spasms, and pain
- Respiratory depression
- Cold and clammy skin
- Lack of muscle tone
- Job loss
- Legal problems
- Domestic abuse
Effects of withdrawal
Depending on the length of time a person is addicted to codeine, he or she may suffer from severe symptoms of withdrawal. Withdrawal from opiates such as codeine should always be done under the care of a medical professional. These withdrawal effects include:
- Intense drug cravings
- Runny eyes and nose
- Chills and goosebumps
- Stomach cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
- Muscle spasms
- Suicidal thoughts
- Homicidal thoughts
- Racing thoughts
What is Tramadol?
Tramadol is a synthetic opioid analgesic (painkiller) that is frequently prescribed to manage moderate to severe levels of pain such as that experienced after surgery or in chronic conditions like arthritis.
The drug, while somewhat atypical with its activity as an opioid, still elicits its narcotic properties via the brain’s opioid receptors. Similar to other drugs in this class of substances, some people may be at risk for addiction if they:
- use it for a long period of time
- take larger doses than recommended
- take it more frequently than has been prescribed
- take it for non-medical purposes
- take it concurrently with other substances such as alcohol, sedatives, or other painkillers.
Addiction is characterized by:
- Compulsive drug seeking behaviour
- An inability to limit use on one’s own
- Difficulty functioning without the drug
Tramadol works by modifying the processing of pain signals travelling between the nerves and the brain. However, it has several different targets in the nervous system, each importing contributions to tramadol’s pain relieving and sometimes, mood altering properties. However, two well-known effects of tramadol are considered to be the most relevant for its ability to relieve pain and encourage abuse.
First, like heroin, codeine, and all other opiate analgesics, tramadol binds to opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord. These receptors are responsible for both the pain-relieving effects that patients need and at higher doses, the euphoric effects that abusers seek.
Because tramadol is much less potent than other commonly abused narcotics when it is injected, it was thought to be a safe alternative to other painkillers like morphine. However, when taken by mouth, tramadol is converted into another compound called -desmethyltramadol, which is a much more potent activator of opioid receptors than tramadol itself. As a result, users may get high on tramadol, even if that was not their intention when they first started taking the drug.
The second important mechanism of tramadol is that it raises the brain levels of the neurotransmitters; serotonin and norepinephrine, similar to antidepressant drugs like venlafaxine (Effexor). Ultram’s effect on serotonin and norepinephrine signalling in the brain is thought to be partially responsible for the drugs ability to reduce depressive and obsessive-compulsive symptoms in patients taking it.
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Side effects of tramadol
- Difficulty falling asleep
- A headache
- Loss of appetite
- Dry mouth
- Hives, blisters, or rash
- Difficulty swallowing or breathing
- Lack of coordination
- Rapid heartbeat
Note: People who have a seizure disorder should consult with their doctor prior to taking tramadol. Tramadol’s effects on various neurotransmitter systems are thought to mediate potential pro-epileptic response. In other words, this medication may cause seizures. This property also makes tramadol especially dangerous for abusers because the probability of convulsions or seizures increases at high doses.
- Physical dependence
- Cognitive decline
While tramadol must be used carefully, patients should not stop taking it suddenly. Discontinuing use of tramadol need to be done gradually and under the guidance of a physician.
Stopping the medication all at once may produce unpleasant and even dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Nervousness, chills, nausea, and diarrhoea are common side effects of withdrawing from tramadol abruptly.
N.B: If you feel you are in a crisis, or you are having thoughts about hurting yourself or others, please call the emergency number 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.