New research demonstrates the potential on the Tramadol’s extended release variant as an alternative treatment for opioid withdrawal symptoms
The study was conducted by scientists from the Pharmacology Research Unit, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland.
Lead author Kelly E. Dunn, Ph.D. told Medscape Medical News, “The main message is there is promise with the use of Tramadol extended-release for opioid withdrawal during taper.”
“And the fact that no persistent withdrawal occurred after the taper ended was exciting and suggests that more research on this topic should be done,” added Dr. Dunn. The findings can be found in the online journal JAMA Psychiatry.
According to the researchers, Tramadol is an “approved analgesic with opioid and nonopioid mechanisms of action and low abuse potential.” They also specified that Tramadol has one of the longest elimination half-lives.
This means that the drug’s effects can last on the user’s body for as long as six to ten hours, making a single dose sufficient to last a whole day.
Currently, the drugs clonidine and buprenorphine are the most common drugs prescribed by doctors to treat opioid withdrawal. However, some drawbacks of these drugs are that clonidine requires the user to take the drug multiple times a day, while buprenorphine has a high abuse potential among patients.
“There are some logistical barriers with buprenorphine as well as some ideological barriers. Some places are not willing to prescribe an opioid agonist for this type of treatment,” said Dr. Dunn.
“Tramadol, on the other hand, has opioid-like properties,” she added. According to her, they wanted to test whether Tramadol could be a more effective alternative than clonidine and buprenorphine.
The five-year study was conducted between 2010 and 2015. It included a 28-day residential program for patients which are then divided into three phases.
“These data empirically support the use and further evaluation of Tramadol ER for medically supervised opioid withdrawal,” said the investigators.
“But our study and previous research have suggested that those receiving buprenorphine could still be experiencing withdrawal for a few extra days, which would put them at risk for things like craving and relapse.”
Tramadol is a new drug compared to its opioid counterparts. Some have claimed that it has helped them get over the pain that they are feeling with lesser side effects. However, more research is needed to verify the drug’s other uses.