“I started taking Tramadol not because I loved to take it, the situation in my house caused me to take it. My mom and dad consider their work more important than me and my sister… I’m happy I have found love in Tramadol. It is the only friend I have.” – Big Boy (19-year old student)
“I can no longer work without Tramadol and sometimes Bullet. When I am so charged with work, it works in my blood like cocaine. I really have no choice now. It’s like I’m married to Bullet and Tramadol. I can’t even sleep well when I have not taken it. I cannot really advice any youth to take this combination. I feel good but at the same time trapped.” – Armstrong Mundi (31-year-old mechanic)
Coping with domestic problems and work pressure are the reason why Big Boy and Mundi use Tramadol. Others use it for longer and higher sex performance and as a cure for premature ejaculation. Tramadol is the drug of choice for today’s youths who indulge in narcotics.
Sadly, it is dominant among secondary school students below age 20. “The consumption of tramadol is higher than people can imagine” says Chantal, a nurse and vendor of Tramadol in Bamenda. “The highest number of consumers are students between the ages of 13 and 19. I am alarmed at the rate at which school children have gotten into this.”
Tramadol is an opioid painkiller which works by changing the way the body senses pain.
Opioid pain killers are usually used to relieve moderate to severe pain particularly pain arising from the internal organs.
It is a strong opioid just like morphine, methadone and oxycodone.
Why is Tramadol Abused?
Felix, an “okada man” (motorbike rider) says he and others need tramadol to navigate Bamenda’s pot-holed roads without feeling pain. “When I take tramadol, I feel lighter.” Felix says. “I ride my bike all day in the bad roads of Bamenda without feeling any pain. With tramadol, the situation becomes see no gallop, dodge no gallop” The question is why Tramadol?
- It creates a morphine-like high which can last up to 8 hours.
- It has ‘desired effects’ like; feeling of euphoria, feeling numb and detached from one’s body and feeling relaxed.
- Tramadol is easier to obtain than other opioids like morphine. It is cheap and readily available. 10 tablets go for 200 FCFA and users need to take 2 tablets a day to get a narcotic-like effect. Felix takes up to 6 tablets a day.
- It is believed to be the cure to the cry of most men, premature ejaculation.
What are the effects of Tramadol Abuse?
Other than feeling high and good, tramadol abuse can cause; nauseas, vomiting, constipation, dizziness, headaches, loss of appetite and dry mouth.
The mood elevating properties cause the user to take higher doses of Tramadol or even use the drug for longer periods than prescribed. This leads to Tramadol Dependence which is both psychological and physical.
Psychological dependence includes compulsive cravings for the drug to cope with everyday problems, anxiety which may incite behavioral changes just to access the drug.
Physical dependence includes withdrawal symptoms such as;
- Agitation, anxiety and confusion
- Distress and paranoia
- Severe unbearable pain.
When tolerance is developed, users increase the amount of the frequency of Tramadol intake to achieve the desired effects. This puts them at the risk of accidental overdose, symptoms which include;
- Slow/difficult breathing
- Extreme drowsiness
- Slow/irregular heartbeat
- Loss of consciousness
Common Tramadol drug combinations
What is better than one drug? Two! (or more). Mundi is married to Tramadol and Bullet. He can’t even sleep if he hasn’t kissed his wives. Alcohol is the most commonly substance of abuse with Tramadol. Other combinations will include; pain killers, sedatives, cold and flu syrups, sleeping pills and ecstasy.
The risk of developing tramadol addiction is higher when taken in combination with these other substances. Mixing these substances slows down brain activity and can lead to; alcohol intoxication, Liver disease, brain damage, Kidney dysfunction, confusion and respiratory dysfunction.
Treatment of Tramadol Abuse
Tramadol abuse and dependence present many of the same challenges as addictions to other opiate drugs, and can be addressed by the same facilities and services. Medically supervised detoxification and treatment is the safest way to overcome tramadol addiction to prevent intense and dangerous withdrawal symptoms.
Behavioral therapy and support for problem-solving and stress management are helpful in addressing the root cause of the problem. Post- therapy support and group meetings are also helpful.
Prevention of Tramadol Abuse
Now you are aware of all the may hams of Tramadol Abuse and the various reason why youths abuse this drug. If not controlled, the Tramadol crisis could turn out to be like the crack epidemic era in the American ghettos in the 80s. What now can be done to prevent this rising epidemic in Cameroon?
- Tramadol prescriptions should not be shared with persons for whom it is not prescribed.
- The sale of Tramadol should be on prescription basis only and should be dispensed only by authorized pharmacies. Tramadol is only legally obtained via a prescription, health officials say, but it’s still being used and abused by everyone from school children to motorbike drivers. It’s cheap and easily found on the streets. The drug is still sold in pharmacies and other stores, as well as in roadside call boxes.
- Tighter regulations should be put in place to curb the influx and circulation of the drugs in the country from neighboring Nigeria. “People sell it illegally and in hiding. We are yet to find those who are still selling the drug.” says Julius Sama, the regional chief in charge of Immunization and Drug Control at the Regional Delegation of Public Health for the North-West region. Chantal says she buys the drug from smugglers in Nigeria and hides it whenever health officials come to inspect her store.
- Tramadol administration is not to be stopped abruptly without the consent of a doctor to prevent withdrawal symptoms.
- Create awareness about the dangers of Tramadol by sharing this post with your network.