Tramadol HCL is a prescription pain medication that increases the affect of narcotics on the body. Although not classified as a narcotic, tramadol has similar properties and acts on the central nervous system. Tramadol also has similar actions to antidepressants, affecting chemicals in your brain. Taking tramadol with alcohol can increase the side effects of the drug and cause serious central nervous system depression.
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Tramadol and alcohol have similar side effects. Both can depress the central nervous system, resulting in drowsiness, dizziness, respiratory depression, loss of consciousness, slowed heartbeat, floppy muscles, seizures and cardiac arrest at high doses. Taking them together has an additive effect, meaning that the effects you normally have when taking the drug or drinking alcohol will be increased. Your normal dose of tramadol may be dangerous if you're also drinking alcohol.
Both alcohol and tramadol can affect your ability to breathe by depressing the centers in your brain that tell you to breathe. When you take both drugs together, you may breathe more slowly and shallowly. If you take large doses, you may be more likely to stop breathing altogether.
Both alcohol and tramadol are drugs with a risk for dependence. If you already have problems with addiction to alcohol, you may have an increased risk for developing dependence to tramadol, as well. As with alcohol, stopping tramadol abruptly can cause withdrawal symptoms. Stopping both at the same time could cause potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal from either drug can cause hallucinations, paranoia, panic attacks, agitation, confusion and unusual skin sensations such as numbness and tingling. Do not attempt withdrawal from either drug on your own -- you need medical supervision to prevent lethal side effects during drug withdrawal.
Both tramadol and alcohol have mood-altering properties. If you already suffer from depression or suicidal thoughts, taking this drug can increase these tendencies when taken with alcohol. Deaths have occurred in people with a history of emotional disorders taking tramadol who were also abusing alcohol.