Prescription painkiller tramadol is fast becoming a significant cause of death and other problems. In Northern Ireland, up to 33 persons died from tramadol use last year. In Nigeria, there have been sporadic reports of convulsions and other life threatening complications related to the use of tramadol. Tramadol and codeine appears to be popular among young persons in higher institutions because the drugs help them feel calm and able to cope with challenges of life.
Many persons start using tramadol for the first time on doctor’s orders. It is effective in managing moderate to severe pain such as after injuries e.g. fractures or surgical operations. Tramadol has also been reported to be less addictive than other opiates such as morphine and pentazocine. Doctors may also prescribe codeine either as cough syrup to manage coughing or in formulations with acetaminophen to treat pain.
In view of this, most people assume it is safe and continue to use it on their own. Although, it is a prescription only drug, huge quantities are available in the black market at relatively affordable rates. For example, up to 150,000 tablets were seized by law enforcement agents in Kano, Nigeria in December, 2015. Codeine is commonly available as cough syrup and it is also readily available via patent medicine stores and drug vendors in Nigeria.
According a checklist prepared by US Food & Drug administration, ask your doctor these questions before taking opioids such as tramadol and codeine.
Why do I need this medication-Is it right for me?
This is the most important question. Although approved for acute and chronic pain, tramadol has serious side effects making it unsuitable for some individuals. Codeine is also an addictive drug with potentially dangerous side effects at high dosages.
If the doctors decides to prescribe tramadol or codeine, you may need to ask the following:
How long should I take this medication? The longer tramadol and codeine are taken, the more likely an individual becomes addicted.
Are there non-opioid alternatives that could help with pain relief while I recover?
Some individuals may benefit from higher doses of non-opioid alternatives such as NSAIDS (diclofenac, ibuprofen etc.) or non-pharmacological forms of managing pain.
How can I reduce the risk of potential side effects from this medication?
Sometimes, the dosage taken interactions with other medicines and frequency of use increase the risk of side effects. Serious side effects include slow breathing, convulsions and hallucinations.
What if I have a history of addiction with tobacco, alcohol or drugs?
Persons with a history of addiction and those who actively drink or smoke are more likely to experience side effects from the use of codeine and tramadol.
What if there is a history of addiction in my family?
This may make an individual vulnerable to tramadol abuse and addiction.
Could this treatment interact with my other medicine for anxiety, sleeping problems, or seizures?
Since tramadol and codeine also affect mood and behaviour, it is important to know if it would have impact on a person’s mental state and emotions.
Can I share this medication with someone else? Why not?
Individual health needs differ. So it is often not advisable to share medicines with other people.
How should I store my medication to prevent other people form taking it?
Persons addicted sometimes steal tablets from unsuspecting family members or friends to meet their demands for the drug.
What should I do with unused opioid medicine?
It is best for persons with recurrent pain to work out how unused medicines should be managed.
If you have been taking tramadol or codeine in large doses or for prolong periods, do not try to stop taking it on your own. Seek professional help or find a rehab centre.
For help finding a detox or treatment program please click here.