Prescription pain killer abuse is a major public health problem in the U.S. In 2014, more individuals over the age of 12 reported nonmedical use of prescription pain relievers such as OxyContin in the past month than use of cocaine, methamphetamine or heroin.
OxyContin is a time release formulation of the opioid oxycodone which is a favorite with serious opioid abusers because they can crush the pill to defeat the time release mechanism. Once it is crushed, they can snort it or shoot it up, and get the instant euphoria of heroin. OxyContin is essentially legal heroin, and in the Appalachians it is nicknamed “hillbilly heroin”.
OxyContin addiction has skyrocketed across the country, and has killed so many innocent people there is even a public grass-roots movement to ban OxyContin.
Another widely-prescribed prescription painkiller — Tramadol — has tricked doctors, and in turn their patients, into thinking it is a safer alternative to what are considered stronger narcotic painkillers, such as OxyContin. The truth is, Tramadol can produce a morphine – or heroin-like high, and according to public health officials, it’s in the running to compete with OxyContin addiction.
Thousands of Tramadol overdose cases arrive at emergency medical centers every year, and hundreds more are seeking treatment for Tramadol addiction. And just like the rising death toll from OxyContin abuse, a significant number of people are dying from Tramadol overdoses.
So far, Tramadol hasn’t equaled the destruction caused by OxyContin addiction and abuse, but there are indications that it could.
Tramadol tablets (brand names Ultram® and Ultracet®) are known as “chill pills” or “ultras” on the streets, where they are sold as an alternative narcotic—sort of an “OxyContin lite”.
Although it’s not a traditional street opioid like heroin or morphine, Tramadol can produce a euphoria comparable to heroin, even at a single dose of 75 mg. And many recreational users claim it doesn’t come with the cognitive impairment of OxyContin and other opioids.
But there’s another, more dangerous aspect to tramadol: it also comes in a time-release version, called Ultram ER® (Extended Release) 100mg-300mg, which abusers are now ingesting all at once causing rapid addiction and/or sudden death.
Below are nine reasons why Tramadol could become as deadly as OxyContin addiction:
1. Tramadol is not scheduled as a controlled narcotic substance, which makes it easier to get than OxyContin or any other controlled narcotic—and it’s a lot cheaper.
2. In the US, more than 26 million Tramadol prescriptions were dispensed in 2008, and nearly 40 million in 2012, according to data from IMS Health, a market research firm. And those numbers continue to rise.
3. Doctors and patients still think—quite incorrectly—that tramadol is less harmful and addictive than OxyContin and other opioid painkillers.
4. Anyone, including teenagers and even children, can get the drug from hundreds of internet sites which advertise “no prescription needed” and charge as little as 18 cents a pill.
5. Police across the country say teens can get Tramadol more easily than alcohol, and no one is saying how many millions of Tramadol pills are being diverted to illicit sales. Of course, no one knows how much OxyContin is being diverted to support OxyContin addiction either.
6. Here is the big one: Serious Tramadol abusers defeat the time-release capsules and ingest it all at once to get the same instant euphoric effects as heroin and OxyContin!
7. Crushing and mainlining Tramadol, or OxyContin for that matter, is not required to become addicted or even to die. For some people, just following doctor’s orders can lead to Tramadol or OxyContin addiction, and even death.
8. Tramadol abusers compare the high favorably to heroin, morphine, and OxyContin. There’s nothing like good customer reviews to ensure brisk sales.
9. They also say Tramadol effects can last for eight, ten or even twelve hours—far longer than the four to six hours common to other opioids = more customer satisfaction.
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