What Are the Benefits of Tramadol for Depression?

Side effects of tramadol may include dizziness and headache.
Those with a history of narcotic drug use should avoid tramadol.
Drowsiness is a common tramadol side effect, and the drug may make it difficult to stay awake.
Initial research suggests that tramadol might work for people who have not found relief for their depression using other drugs.
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  • Written By: Lee Johnson
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 04 December 2014
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The benefits of taking tramadol for depression have not been fully researched, but the initial findings suggest that it could be very effective for the treatment of refractory major depression and severe depression, even in people who were not improving on traditional antidepressant medicine. Some people also use tramadol to treat depressed dogs, with seemingly positive effects. However, tramadol can have several side effects, some of them severe.

Tramadol was traditionally used as a pain reliever, and is similar in many ways to narcotic pain relievers such as codeine. It is a synthetic version of opiate pain relievers and works in roughly the same way, by decreasing the body’s perception of pain. Unfortunately, also like opiates, tramadol can become habit-forming, and presents several withdrawal symptoms that may occur when a user tries to stop taking the drug.

The use of tramadol for depression has not been fully investigated, but the initial findings are very positive. While extensive formal research has yet to be conducted, depression sufferers and users of the drug have commented that the only thing that takes their depression away is tramadol. Some users are even trying to raise support for reclassification of the drug.

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Although using tramadol for treating depression seems to have a lot of positive effects, there are also negative effects from taking the drug. The potential side effects of tramadol include dizziness, drowsiness, vomiting, headache and shaking hands. These are relatively minor side effects, and patients should only contact their doctor if the negative effects are particularly severe or persistent. There is also the possibility of more serious side effects when taking tramadol, such as difficulty breathing, hallucinations and seizures. If a patient experiences any of these more serious symptoms, he or she should contact a doctor immediately.

While there seems to be many benefits to taking tramadol for depression, patients should only take tramadol when prescribed to do so by their doctor. Further studies regarding the effects of tramadol for depression may lead to the drug being re-classified as an anti-depressant, but as of March 2011 it has yet to reach that point.

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anon971068
Post 7

I have been taking Tramadol for about 10 years. My current dosage is 1500 mgs a day. I believe the reason I take this is to help me with depression. I started with it being prescribed for migraines. I found that not only did the migraines subside dramatically, but also during the process, I found myself to be less depressed. The problem was that the effects wore off over time and I needed to increase the amount taken. I think it's time to consult a mental health physician to see if I can find an alternative that does not need to be increased to the point of an increased dosage.

anon934812
Post 5

I too have tried many SSRI / SNRI's for treating my depression but I seem to be very sensitive to the mainstream medications. I become very sick when I take them and feel so much worse than I did before taking them.

I found Tramadol by accident when trying to alleviate a bad sciatica "wave". I noticed that I felt so much better in general, but not in the pain area. Upon researching, I too found that Tramadol has mild SSRI properties and so I talked with both my P-Doc and my GP and while my P-Doc was unable to prescribe them to me due to pain killer laws now in Florida, he did agree that tramadol was a very viable medication and so I discussed this conversation with my GP and was able to convince him to prescribe it to me on a regular basis.

I now take 100mg's twice daily and have never felt better! I also do not get sick in the slightest while taking them. However, as some others have found, if I do run out and don't get them refilled in a timely manner, the withdrawals are nearly unbearable and I am finding myself "circling the drain" within 24 hours of stopping them. I think that it could be weaned off of but for me, this is the only medication that truly works and so I will stay with them.

While I find it to be a fairly ineffective pain killer for me, I would however, highly recommend talking to your doctor about Tramadol if you find that traditional anti-depression medication just doesn't work for you. It too has been a wonder drug for me.

anon351480
Post 4

Tramadol is indeed a novel anti-depressant. But, it isn't commonly prescribed for psychiatric reasons is due to the fact that it is a μ-opioid receptor agonist. Also, it does reduce the seizure threshold in high doses due to it's effect on GABA receptors. Seizures in patients who unscrupulously self administer high dosages, especially in conjunction with other serotonin agonists/releasing agents, are not uncommon. In fact, I have seen patients with seizure-inducing complications long after the administration has ceased.

The positive benefits are due to its actions and affinity with certain neurotransmitters and receptor cites, including 5HT, NE, ACh, and NMDA, in general terms. The anti depressant, I believe, that is of the closest relation would be Buproprion, notwithstanding it's activity with DAT and the fact that it is a both a substituted cathinone and amphetamine. However, the onset of action is considerably more delayed. Chemically, the molecular structure is more similar to Venlafaxine, but I believe its therapeutic value is less significant to that of Bupropion in terms of neurotransmitter modulation.

In my opinion, Tramadol's effects on the μ-opioid receptor in particular add to its therapeutic effects; but as mentioned above, it also adds to its problematic profile.

That being said, recent drug research and development has been targeting opiate peptides and receptors, in hopes of producing an anti-depressant with a lower abuse profile. I do believe we shall be uncovering significant therapeutic benefits in the future, possibly leading to clinical success.

anon284367
Post 3

Doctors who say that typical antidepressants are not addictive, and use this as their argument that those medications are OK for depression, but Tramadol is not, are flat out wrong.

I never had so much trouble coming off of taking a prescribed medication as I did from Cymbalta (severe panic attacks, sweats, unable to eat, etc.). And it was doing nothing for my depression, which is the reason I was trying to get off it.

I've been taking Tramadol for depression for eight years. It's the only thing that has ever worked. And I still take 150mg a day or less. It's too bad we live in a culture that wants to stigmatize and/or outlaw any drug that may possibly help your brain feel good about life, especially when you're dealing with major depression.

So there are medications to help you deal with it, it's just illegal in many cases because of the close mindedness of our puritanical culture.

anon259940
Post 2

I had been taking tramadol for only 12 days -- a total of 17 tabs. I have not taken it for three days now and I'm having bad dreams, nausea and diarrhea and hot flashes. This drug is highly addictive. I'm never taking it again!

anon243285
Post 1

i have been taking Tramadol for migraines. Also I take Cymbalta, Topamax. Tramadol seems to help not only my migraine prevention but also my depression that Cymbalta did not help on its own. It has been a wonder drug for me.

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