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422425 tn?1307996590

Tramadol side effects

Hi I posted this in the Autoimmune forum, with no response.....I was prescribed Tramadol 3 x a day for pain due to Lupus and Sjogrens Syndrome.  I am having some strange symptoms that I think might be side effects....Just wondering if anyone who has taken it had really weird sleep distubances like funky dreams and feeling like you are drowning.  I don't want to quit taking it because it really helps, but this is weird.  Just wondering, thought I would post this before asking my DR.
23 Responses
547368 tn?1440545385
Hi Cudagirl,

Your symptoms may be related to the Tramadol. You didn't say how long you have been on it. Often side effects will subside as your body adjusts to the drug. Possibly the dose may require some adjustment until you become acclimated to the medication. Tramadol is a man-made pain reliever. Its exact mechanism of action is unknown but similar morphine. You should never stop taking Tramadol abruptly. This may cause serious issues.

Some side effects of Tramadol include, vertigo or dizziness, some weakness, visual disturbances and loss of coordination. The usually side effects with most meds including tramadol include nausea, vomiting or stomach distress.  This and most other pain meds may also cause constipation, headache, drowsiness, anxiety, irritability, dry mouth, or increased sweating. Also more rare side effect may include mental confusion, disorientation, seizures, tingling of the hands or feet and trouble breathing. If you notice any of the rare side effects you should notify your physician or pharmacist.  

So your symptoms could come under some of the side effects listed above. I would suggest your first call would be to the pharmacist and report what you are feeling. He/she can better advise you. I took a narcotic that caused vivid dreams, not nightmares, just vivid dreams. When I awoke it will take me awhile to determine if I had dreamed an event or if it really happened. This same med gave me horrid headaches some days but the side effects gradually subsided.

I am glad to hear that the Tramadol is therapeutic. I would report your side effects to a health care professional asap. If you feel like you are drowning this sounds like an issue with oxygen supply or process, which may be attributed to the Tramadol. So please make that call this evening.

Take Care, Tuck
712802 tn?1274649085
I'm glad Tramadol is working for you. Does it help you sleep better? Just a thought - if you are sleeping harder and maybe on your back you could be having those dreams because you are really experiencing a feeling like you are drowning while you are sleeping - if that makes sense? Maybe try using pillows so you don't end up on your back while you sleep? I agree with Tuck, I've had some narcotics cause vivid dreams; also as she said side effects often get better after you've been on the med a while. I hope you get it figured out. Good luck.
Avatar universal
I take Tramadol 2 x a day and I make sure I don't take it after 6:00 pm.  It give me a "racing" feeling which I can ignore during the day, but really does disturb my sleep.  The drowning feeling sounds miserable--like anxiety air hunger.  Does that happen during the day?  Have you tried taking it with food?  
Avatar universal
all i am going to say about tramadol is that from my experience is very dangerous.
didnt help much with the pain but it did give me a seizure, and while i was driving!
i could have been dead if i were driving on the highway or something, and seizures are a huge side effect from tramadol
Avatar universal
I'm not a doctor so take this on advisement. However, I have some experience with a number of medications...

Seizure effect from tramadol is rare for low doses, but it is dose dependant. The risk increases with the size of the dose. My advice is not to exceed 400mg/day of tramadol, in order to reduce the risk of seizure. If your dose is 300mg/day or above, I would recommend avoiding driving just in case. More information is at the location:

I am not able to interpret the dreaming about drowning. It might be nothing, or it might be important - if your initial dose/day is too high, you might get mild respiratory depression while sleeping, in which case cutting back on the dose and/or not taking a dose just prior to bedtime could solve it.

I used tramadol for a while and had a number of short term side effects - but it did work. Extended release is far better than standard tramadol as it avoids the "hit" effect. I found tramadol does cause dependence (which goes with the territory when using opioids), but after some time I started to feel that I needed it more often and even when not in a particularly painful state. That led me to eliminate tramadol from my list of pain medications. My method was to go cold turkey as it gives a neat decision point; some discomfort typically occurs as the body goes into withdrawal though. It takes about 3-5 days to be clear of it.

A particularly nasty effect, called "Serotonin Syndrome", may come from tramadol adding to the effects of other medications, especially antidepressants and another drugs that enhance inter-cellular serotonin. Anything with tryptophan in it can further increase the serotonin effect. See:

Finally, tramadol seems to have a mild serotonin action, beyond its analgesic effect.  SSRI antidepressants can induce vivid dreams as an early side effect: it normally fades out as the body/brain adjust to it. I'm speculating here but possibly you are getting this from tramadol, just like someone on a modern antidepressant (eg prozac SSRI, effexor SNRI).

Tramadol has been used by many people with success so don't be too hasty to drop it. With regular doctor advice and monitoring you should be able to use it long enough to see off the main side effects.

All the best,

Avatar universal

Tramadol is a mu agonist and it blocks serotonin and norepinephrine re-uptake, so it also has weak antidepressant effects like a drug such as cymbalta or effexor.  The latter could be affecting you more leading to the side effects you're getting.  If they're too severe, you're doc will probably just switch you to a different drug.  If you can deal with it, then ok.  The seizure risk is for high doses or people with history of seizure disorder, so unless you fall into one of those 2 categories I wouldn't worry too much
Avatar universal
Sleep disturbance like you are experiencing is a known side effect of taking Tramadol. I had a similar thing happen to me when I first started taking it so I avoided taking it before sleeping. Based on my experience this side effect tends to go away once your body gets used to Tramadol. If you take Tramadol every day within 6 weeks to 8 weeks you'll become physically dependant on it and will feel bad if you stop taking it so ideally you should try and have rest days from it to avoid this.
422425 tn?1307996590
Thank you so very much for all the information....I did talk with my Dr and they told me the same thing...it is just a side effect and I should "out grow it".  I am going to continue on it for another week or so, and if I still have the same problems I am going to stop.  It is hard to find a pain med that works that is non narcotic...I have taken oxy and hydromorphone and others, but I am afraid of dependancy....That really scares me.  I only take Tramadol 3 times a day, 150mg total, so I would really like this to work.  Again thank you all very much!
Avatar universal
I have been taking Tramadol for about 4 yrs now and have become very dependent on it.  I do vaguely remember when I first started taking it, I had very vivid dreams and it did mess with my sleeping habits a bit.

As, someone said above, so does SSRI's.  When I first started taking Lexapro, it gave me the same kind of vivid dreams until my body adjusted to it and then there weren't any problems.  If you just started taking it, I would give it a little more time for your body to adjust to the medication.  

Be careful because Tramadol is very addicting, I should know.  I have tried to get off of it and have failed.  

Good Luck,
422425 tn?1307996590
Wow that is a little scary...How do you know if you are addicted to it.  I only take it a night and I'm on 50mg.  My doctor told me I could take it 3 times a day.  I do sometimes, but only if I am in really bad pain.  If it is non narcotic, how can it be addictive?  What are the withdrawl symptoms?  
Avatar universal
Tramadol is subtly addictive. If you take it every day for more than 4 to 6 weeks it produces a feeling of increased energy and a mood lift and you feel down if you don’t take it. You'll know you are addicted if you start taking it because it makes you generally feel better (and you take more of it to achieve this) rather than only for the pain relief it provides. If you stop taking it the withdrawal symptoms last for up to 4 or 5 days and are reasonably unpleasant-feeling low, lacking in energy, restlessness, inability to sleep, restless legs while trying to sleep, rebound pain etc. Once the onset of withdrawal begins people naturally tend to take more to rid themselves of the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. If you look on the substance abuse forum you’ll  find a lot of stories about how difficult people found getting off it and how bad withdrawal is. Withdrawal for me when I stopped taking it was unpleasant but bearable. You should be okay with the doses you are taking if you have rest days from it and occasionally use an alternative medication. According to a doctor I once saw Tramadol is safe taken with Tylenol and provides greater pain relief that way so you don’t have to take as much Tramadol.
547368 tn?1440545385
Though Tramadol is not considered a opiate it's action is very similar to morphine. It does have addictive qualities. There are very few medications that you can take for pain that does not has the potential for abuse or addiction. The key here is to use it as prescribed and respect the medication.

Some ppl have addictive personalities and anything they take becomes a problem for them. If you have not had a problem in the past with addictive substances you should not be overly concerned. Just keep it in mind and watch for behavior that is not usual for you.

You do not sound like you will have any issues with misuse. If concerned you can always discuss this with your physician. I am sure he will put your mind at ease.
422425 tn?1307996590
Thank you for the information. I have been taking it with tylenol, and I think that is why I only need  a small dose.  For people with Lupus and fibromyalgia it is a great pain reliever, and without it you can't hardly get out of bed.  I am going to talk with my dr when I see him this month and ask for an alternative treatment to supplement it maybe every other day or so.  I am so glad for this forum, because I wouldn't have known that.  Thank you to all.
547368 tn?1440545385
You are welcome. It is used for other painful conditions too. It was prescribed for me and I have neither Lupus or Fibro. It did not work very well in my case in controlling the pain. But I know it has done wonders for others. I am very glad it is working for you and very glad that you have joined us. You are a good addition to our membership.
Avatar universal
I was on max dose of 8 50 mgs a day. My child was born with tremors even though through the 9 months i weened down to 3 a day. After having him I would only take 4 a day. I was so dependent on it and it took 1 fentanyl patch to take away the withdrawl symptoms. I am very Happy to say that I have not taken tramadol now for over 6 months and i feel like i have my life back. I would have to take it just to stay away from the withdrawls even if i wasnt in pain. It's non narcotic they say but It is easier to come off of hydrocodone than their non narcotic tramadol. My friend eats them like candy and has had several seizures. I try telling her but she don't listen. Very frustrating they give um to her still.
Avatar universal
Can tramadol cause the feeling of closure of the throat or lump in throat sensation or swollen throat sensation or persistent feeling of sinus drip
Avatar universal
I have also woken up with a feeling like I am choking-similar to drowning feeling as spoken about by another member
2211406 tn?1340502886
This may have been mentioned already, but... I have been on narcotics for 15 years, and they always give me vivid dreams, but the dreams I have of 'drowning' or otherwise being deprived of air are because I have sleep apnea, where I actually DO stop breathing during sleep, and it's those times I have the same dreams. You may want to have a sleep study done just to be sure, because sleep apnea is very dangerous.
Avatar universal
Boy you hit the nail on the head with your comments of what I am experiencing at this time. I have been on it since my hysterectomy in April, this year. When I went to get my last prescription my Walmart Pharmacy said my insurance company will not cover due to it becoming a controled drug on Nov. 1. The insurance company was to check with my doctors as to why I was taking it......my reason: I have about 40% loss of kidney function and can not take any durgs such as Tyleno, Ibrofen, etc. Two days after my hysterctomy and was in severe pain in my left leg from a pinched nerve in my back. It has been since last Thursday and believe me I am dragging, nauseated, restless legs so bad at night, no sleep, ringing in my ears, lower back pain, depressed, crying in private, scared.... the list goes on. On good side, Walmart has approved my subcription...I was miss- advised from one of their clerks...I going back on it as I did feel so much better except for the sweating!!!!
Avatar universal
i am having a lot of pain in my tummy,can any 1 help me with this ,i take tramadol 250 mg at once in the morning, i was told off the doctor 2 take 2 in the morning and 2 at dinner tme and 1 at night i am in a lot of pain in my tummy now could this be the tramadol i am so worried that i may have done damage i wownt go the doctors im so ashamed.
710547 tn?1295449630
I just wanted to make sure that an emphasis was made concerning sleep apnea.  Any narcotic, natural or man-made, or sedative can increase the likelihood that a patient will have sleep apnea or depressed respiration.  I have severe sleep apnea, lung problems, aspiration problems and am on narcotics - so I know of what I speak.

I don't want you to ignore the drowning-like feeling, as it could be that you aren't getting enough oxygen due to depressed respiration drive, and/or sleep apnea.  This can be found out in a sleep study in a sleep lab, or even with an in-home pulse-ox machine measuring your oxygen concentration throughout the night.  It would certainly put you at ease to know.

Otherwise, I've taken tramadol for many years and have had good results.  Always remember, however, that all of these meds have the potential for abuse, which, as we all know, is very different from addiction.  Everyone on consistent narcotics, etc., for any extended period of time becomes dependent/ addicted.  It doesn't mean they're taking them to achieve a "high", only that stopping them would produce withdrawal.

(sorry to repeat some info)

Blessings, Jan
Avatar universal
i have taken tramadol for years now and no it doesnt cause those side effects
Avatar universal
Hi Tuckamore, your Dr. prescribe to you this medication, I'm 5 years away from your comment since it was in 2009, I never took this med but my Dr. prescribe to Morfine 4 times a day and it works for 5 hours but I thought it out for 6.

I know how you feel about having this terrible pain but my dianostic is Fibromyalgie.

If you browse the internet you will found out more about it.

From Superman.
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