Tramadol is an effective opioid-based medication commonly prescribed for the management of chronic pain. However, it can also be physically and psychologically addictive even when taken as directed. 
It is recommended that anyone dealing with a tramadol addiction should seek treatment at a specialised rehabilitation centre. These can be attended as an inpatient or an outpatient depending on the severity of the addiction.
The decision to enter rehab for a tramadol addiction can feel overwhelming, so it is important to gain a greater understanding of the process in order to make an informed decision.
What does the process of tramadol rehab look like?
An effective treatment plan for an individual dealing with a tramadol addiction will generally involve four key stages. While each of these stages is essential in successfully identifying and treating addiction, the combination of all four can increase the chances of long-term recovery and lower the risk of relapse.
The four key stages of a tramadol addiction treatment plan involve:
In order to correctly diagnose addiction and create a treatment plan, a medical professional must perform an initial assessment on the individual.
The process of removing the addictive substance from the body is known as detoxification, and this can help the body begin to break free from a physical dependency on tramadol.
It is possible to be physically and psychologically dependent on certain substances, and effective counselling can help to address the root causes of the addiction while identifying triggers and teaching effective coping strategies.
Once the treatment programme has ended and the individual is able to return to their daily life, they must be equipped with a plan to ensure that they continue certain aspects of treatment and avoid the risk of relapse.
Many people can benefit from tramadol rehab and go on to live healthy and fulfilled lives after completing these four stages, which are explained in more detail throughout the course of this article.
How does a tramadol rehab assessment work?
Before entering rehab for a tramadol addiction, an assessment is usually carried out by a medical practitioner in order to provide a professional diagnosis and formulate a personalised treatment plan.
The doctor will ask a number of questions to determine the severity of your addiction including the length of dependency and the frequency and amount of tramadol dosage ingested. They may also require an overview of your medical history and any other medications that you are taking or have previously taken, as well as a physical examination including blood tests and a general overview of your health.
Your family and friends may also be involved in this assessment, as they will be able to give a third-party perspective on any physical, psychological and behaviour symptoms displayed.
During the assessment, the doctor may use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) in order to correctly diagnose you with a tramadol addiction.
What happens during a tramadol detox?
Detoxification is the process of cleansing the body and removing all trace of the addictive substance, which in this case is tramadol. 
It is not recommended to completely stop taking tramadol over the course of one day. Instead, the dosage should be slowly reduced and tapered off over a period of time until the individual is no longer ingesting the medication. This process allows the body to rebalance and learn to function again without the presence of tramadol, and can reduce the severity of many withdrawal symptoms.
As tramadol is an opioid-based medication that increases the production of serotonin, the act of detoxification will likely cause the serotonin levels in the body to drop dramatically. This can increase feelings of anxiety and paranoia, making the withdrawal process more uncomfortable and difficult to deal with.
Everyone will experience the process of a tramadol detox differently, and there is no concrete method to predict how any one person will react to the process. However, there are a number of factors that can increase the chances of experiencing more severe withdrawal symptoms. These include:
- A family history of substance abuse and addiction
- A co-occurring mental health disorder such as anxiety or schizophrenia
- Experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms in the past
- Using other substances or medications
- Being in poor general health
Even if your symptoms appear to be mild, it is still recommended that you are monitored by a medical professional during the detoxification process. Withdrawal symptoms can get worse very quickly, so the safest and most effective method is to undergo this treatment in a rehabilitation centre as part of a personalised treatment programme.
Signs and symptoms of tramadol withdrawal
Most people are receptive to the idea that you can become dependent on tramadol when using it illegally without a prescription, but many are unaware that addiction can form even if you have been prescribed this medication by a doctor.
When an individual is dependent on a substance such as tramadol, they will likely experience a range of physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms when the dosage is reduced or completely stopped.
While not typically life-threatening, these symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable and difficult to deal with and this is particularly apparent when withdrawal is undertaken in a non-medical setting. This can increase the chances of relapse and therefore the risk of overdose is greater.
Physical symptoms of tramadol withdrawal include:
- Excessive perspiration
- Increased blood pressure
- Fast heart rate
- Flu-like symptoms including fever, muscle aches and body chills
- Cramps in the abdomen
- Lack of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Gastrointestinal problems including diarrhoea
- Feelings of anxiety
- Coughing, sneezing and a runny nose
Psychological symptoms of tramadol withdrawal include:
- Panic attacks
- Sleep disturbances including insomnia
- Feelings of anxiety
- Agitation and irritability
- Visual, auditory or tactile hallucinations
- Intense cravings for tramadol
Which counselling options will I receive during tramadol rehab?
While it is important to address the physical aspects of dependency and prioritise the detoxification process, it is equally as important to examine and treat the psychological nature of a tramadol addiction. 
Our reactions to past experiences, emotions and traumas can develop into an addiction if we use unhealthy coping mechanisms in an attempt to escape the pain and discomfort. During tramadol rehab you will be encouraged to explore these behaviours and search within yourself for the root causes of the addiction, guided by an experienced and empathetic therapist.
Most people develop unconscious self-beliefs and mindsets throughout their lives that can influence our behaviours without our knowledge. If you believe that you do not deserve friendship and connection with others, you may display detrimental behaviours within your relationships that can drive people away. These self-beliefs can also manifest in a substance or behavioural addiction, and they are most effectively addressed and treated through the use of therapy.
Common counselling treatments used in tramadol rehab include:
- Cognitive behavioural therapy
- Dialectical behavioural therapy
- Individual therapy
- Group therapy
- Family therapy
- Medically-assisted therapy
- Holistic therapies such as mindfulness, acupuncture or music therapy
Each of these therapy treatments can be extremely beneficial in the treatment of a tramadol addiction, and you will be encouraged to discuss your preferences and any concerns with your treatment team.
What happens after tramadol rehab?
Once the treatment programme is complete, you will be encouraged to slowly return to daily life and relearn how to function without the use of tramadol. This is the most dangerous aspect of addiction treatment, as the risk of relapse and temptation is highest when leaving rehab due to the lack of monitoring and potential availability of addictive substances.
On completion of the treatment programme, you will be provided with a personalised aftercare plan designed to continue the healthy behaviours and activities that were implemented during rehab and build up a strong support system to reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.
This may include regular attendance at local support groups or 12-Step programmes such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) during which you will meet other people who have undergone similar experiences. These groups are safe and non-judgemental spaces in which you can share your struggles and emotions, receiving and providing support and continued motivation.
It may also be helpful to continue counselling on an ongoing basis in order to further unburden any past experiences and emotions, and continue the psychological progress that you made during the rehabilitation process.
How long does tramadol rehab take?
Most treatment programmes specialising in tramadol addiction last between 7 and 28 days, with many inpatient rehabilitation centres offering stays of between two to four weeks.
In most cases, you will be permitted to leave on a date of your choosing, but it is recommended that you stay for the entirety of the programme in order to receive the most effective and long-lasting treatment.
The detoxification and withdrawal process can begin as soon as a few days after the last dosage has been taken, but individuals with more severe addiction may notice the symptoms beginning to appear after the first week. This is due to the delayed activation of this medication along with the fact that it often remains in the system for up to five days.
Physical symptoms of withdrawal will gradually build over the course of a week, eventually dissipating and decreasing by the end of the second week. However psychological symptoms such as cravings, anxiety and paranoia can linger for a few months after the treatment has ended.