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What is Tramadol and Can it Treat Depression?

written by: LDP • edited by: Jacqueline Chinappi • updated: 10/28/2010

Since Tramadol release serotonin and inhibits the re-uptake of nor-epinephrine some researchers felt that Tramadol for depression was worthy of being studied. This article outlines the common uses of Tramadol as well as the use of Tramadol for depression and some of the off-label uses of Tramadol.

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    Tramadol, also known as Ultram, is a centrally acting pain reliever for moderate to moderately severe pain. It is often prescribed for those who have chronic pain, such as those with Fibromyalgia. Those with Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) are prescribed this medication sometimes as well for relief. Studies have been conducted for the use of Tramadol for depression.

    The History and Facts about Tramadol

    Tramadol was released onto the market in the 70s. It is a prescription only medication and is a type of opioid. In certain states it is considered a narcotic. The medication was once believed to be non-addictive and did not have the withdrawal symptoms like its opioid category members. In the 2010 Physician’s Desk Reference new information and warning were released about Tramadol. This medication, Tramadol, had for decades been used for pain in place of addictive medications such as narcotics like Morphine and Oxycodone. Read Understanding Narcotic Pain Medications.

    Since Tramadol is metabolized differently in the body, it was believed to not have the same harmful side effects as its opioid cousins and was for decades used to help those with opioid addictions to wean off of the narcotic pain medication and to replace such pain medications as Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, and the likes. However, the 2010 PDR listed warnings that Tramadol does have addictive traits and the withdrawal symptoms are very similar to the withdrawal symptoms of other opioids. It also removed Tramadol as an effective medication to help wean patients off of other opioid types of medications. The PDR listed that withdrawal symptoms can begin within 12 hours from the last dosage of Tramadol.

    Why Researchers Studied the Use of Tramadol for Depression

    Tramadol was studied for use in treating depression, anxiety and even phobias due to components in the medication that have a serotonergic and noradgenic systems. The medication does release serotonin and does inhibit re-uptake of nor-epinephrine. Research on mice have shown some validity to possibly using the medication to treat symptoms of depression but many doctors do not believe the research validates its use as a true anti-depressant unless in very unique cases in which other forms of depression medication have been given and failed. Only then would some doctors consider Tramadol for depression.

    Important Information about Tramadol and Anti Depression Medication

    Since Tramadol does release serotonin it is very dangerous to take Tramadol along with some types of depression medications. The combination of certain SSRI or SNRI medications for depression taken with Tramadol could cause Serotonin Toxicity and can even be fatal. With the new warning information published in the Physician’s Desk References, many doctors are more aware of these new findings and are more aware of the dangers of mixing Tramadol with depression medication.

    Off-Label Uses for Tramadol

    Physician’s use Tramadol for many off-label uses such as for conditions like diabetic neuropathy treatment, Tramadol for the anti-depressant withdrawal from the depression medication Effexor, migraines and premature ejaculation. For more information about the use of Tramadol for neuropathy pain, read Facts About Living With Small Fiber Neuropathy.

    All-in-all, many doctor’s will not use Tramadol for depression treatment because not enough research has been done to prove its effectiveness along with the new PDR warnings of addictiveness and the potentially painful and stressful side effects from missing a dosage of the medication. Depression could be worsened for a patient by using Tramadol due to its addictiveness and the withdrawal symptoms that can occur within only 12 to 20 hours from taking the last dosage.

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    Pain Medication
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    Image Source: by penywise

    Antidepressant-like effect of tramadol and its enantiomers in reserpinized mice: comparative study with desipramine, fluvoxamine, venlafaxine and opiates.

    Tramadol induces antidepressant-type effects in mice.

    Effects of chronic tramadol on pre- and post-synaptic measures of monoamine function.