A fairly mild opioid painkiller, tramadol is used to treat moderate to severe pain. Although less potent than morphine, it’s still possible to get addicted to tramadol over a period of time – or have tramadol abuse act as a gateway to abusing stronger opioids like heroin or fentanyl.
Tramadol works somewhat differently than other opioid drugs. Most opioids work by binding to opioid receptors in our cells, changing the way we experience pain. Tramadol also works in the nervous system by acting as a reuptake inhibitor of norepinephrine and serotonin, similar to SSRI drugs like Prozac.
For people engaged in Tramadol abuse, this unique action presents certain complications. Aside from overdose, Tramadol abuse also comes with a risk of serotonin syndrome. Symptoms include increased heart rate, high blood pressure and coma.