Having Seizures or Blackouts? The Tramadol Connection

In Blog by Alyssa Reid15 Comments

Did you know that seizures/blackouts can be one of the major side effects of taking Tramadol (Ryzolt/Ultram)?  And when we are diagnosed with fibromyalgia, CFS/ME and seizures/blackouts seem to be ‘accepted’ as just part of our illness, many of our doctors do not realize that it may be our medication causing this issue.  It can also cause Seratonin Syndrome when used alone or with some anti-depressants.  All very dangerous stuff.  And something you need to know about!

What is Tramadol?

Tramadol is  an analgesic used for moderate to severe pain and it stimulates opioid receptors whilst it inhibits noradrenaline and serotonin reuptake.  Seizures and serotonin syndrome are amongst the more commonly reported serious adverse reactions attributed to Tramadol in the CARM and the WHO International Drug Monitoring databases.

Concerningly, toxicity from tramadol appears to be due to monoamine uptake inhibition rather than its opioid effects.

Fibromyalgia, CFS/ME and Tramadol

Many of us with fibromyalgia and CFS/ME  (and other conditions with severe pain) have been prescribed Tramadol when we find that the usual co-codemol (codeine/paracetamol or Tylenol 3) option isn’t helping us.  It is kind of the drug between codeine and the next big step up – morphine – something doctors really don’t like prescribing.  Tramadol is the ‘happy medium’ it seems.

Reading the very long list of side effects of Tramadol is SCARY STUFF.  It also reads like the list of the 200+ co-existing symptoms of fibromyalgia, CFS/ME. Seriously.  It is easy to see how doctors can dismiss the symptoms we are having as it being ‘just your fibro’. The ‘convulsions’ part (read seizures) and fainting are just part of the list, as is joint pain, brain fog, IBS…it is a very long list..one I recommend you read if you are taking Tramadol…

My Experience

I had been taking Tramadol for several years.  I first started out taking the minimum dose and it would knock me right out. The next thing I knew, it wasn’t working – fast forward me being on the max dosage for several years, it wasn’t touching the pain and where it had once knocked me out on a small dose?  It wasn’t doing that at all any more at all…

I started to have seizures and blackouts.  They would always occur in a situation where I was in severe pain and there was an experience of lights (flashing), noises or even just people talking.  It was like my brain was on overload and was unable to process everything at once – so decided to skip town.

I stopped driving.  I was unable to sleep.  And after waiting a year for the neurologist’s appointment, I was told (minus any investigation) that I had Non-Epileptic Attack Disorder (NEAD).  He suggested I get referred for psychiatric help.  I declined.  I knew that this was not a mental health issue.  That there was something insidious going on and I needed to get to the root of the issue. This was of course on top of me taking many different medications to try to help me with sleep, anxiety and depression. (In other words, I was on a double whammy of SSRI anti-depressants, which only exacerbate seizures and blackouts when taking Tramadol…).

But what I didn’t know at the time – nor did my neuro or my GP – was that it was the Tramadol causing both these seizures and the insomnia (and several other issues…). I had also increased my risk for seratonin syndrome, to boot.

I Wasn’t Alone…

I just happened to find out that I was not alone in regards to these blackouts and seizures.  In fact, far from it!  Five of my spoonie (fibromyalgia and CFS/ME) friends were also going through the exact same issues.

And we were all taking Tramadol…

Four of us had our driver’s licenses taken away from us.  One of us was put on anti-epileptic medications (without ever being fully investigated for epilepsy, I might add)…

All of us had our lives severely affected by this medication…but the worst part of it all was the realization that our doctors hadn’t picked up on this.  And that we had put our trust and faith in our doctors being the ones to guide us, advise us appropriately and ultimately help us.

But they all missed the Tramadol connection.

This is why it is imperative that as patients, we are educated about the medications we are taking! And this ultimately means educating ourselves as much as possible and taking responsibility for our health…because if we don’t, then chances are things exactly like this situation will be missed!

Tramadol and Anti-Depressants

As many people who are in severe pain also struggle with depression, the use of anti-depressants is quite common – together with Tramadol.

The use of Tramadol whilst using SSRI anti-depressants can increase the risk of seizures and seratonin syndrome even more!

Seratonin Syndrome Symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Agitation or restlessness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Changes in blood pressure and/or temperature
  • Diarrhea
  • Tremor
  • Heavy sweating
  • Loss of muscle coordination or twitching muscles
  • Shivering and goose bumps

For more information about this, go here.

What Happened Next…

The six of us who were having seizures (and kissed a good part of our lives goodbye because of them), discussed this with our doctors.  We all agreed to try coming off of Tramadol (with help by reducing the dosage slowly to avoid withdrawal – which can be nasty!).  For most of us, we had found that the Tramadol had lost it’s efficacy hugely in regards to pain relief as well.

Every single one of us has not had a seizure since discontinuing Tramadol.

Please note I am not a doctor, nor am I recommending you come off your medications.  If you are taking medications and wish to come off of them, in order to do this safely, you must gain the advice and help from your doctor. Going off medications cold turkey can be hazardous to your health!

For more information about seizures/blackouts and seratonin syndrome from the use of Tramadol, please go here.

Never assume (or let your doctor assume) that all the different symptoms that you are experiencing is ‘just your fibromyalgia’.  It is imperative that you understand the side effects of each of the medications (and suppplements) that you are taking.

The Importance of Tracking

Side effects of meds can sneak up easily on us. Tracking our medication, pain, sleep, moods, fatigue and more is important for us to understand our patterns – and to pinpoint issues that we DO have control over.  This is why the FibroMapp app is so helpful, as it can be personalized to fit each user’s requirements to track, monitor, record and create reports.

There is always a root issue causing symptoms.  Of course, we don’t know the root cause of fibromyalgia or CFS/ME, however, having medications cause even MORE symptoms and issues isn’t helpful!

In Conclusion

Tramadol is a drug that is used a lot for the treatment of pain in fibromyalgia and CFS/ME. And it has a track record of causing seizures and blackouts as well as seratonin syndrome – that obviously our doctors are not as clued up on as they should be and there is a real connection going on here. If you are having seizures/blackouts or experiencing possible seratonin syndrome issues, please discuss this with your doctor promptly.  It could actually be your Tramadol causing these issues. Please leave your comments below!


Comments

  1. Such a terribly sad story and statement on the state of taking drugs which are so harsh.

    1. Author

      I was lucky, because I refused to accept the diagnosis from the neuro of my seizures being psychological!( The neuro, who of course is the ‘expert’…) When I realised that several of my friends were also having these severe issues, and putting on my Sherlock Holmes hat, it was easy to deduct that we all had this drug in common. And the withdrawal?! Can be horrific if not done properly. (Which to me shows how much this drug can really screw us up…). Thank you for your comments – most appreciated, as always. Probably most concerning was the fact that my GP, the neuro and the pharmacist really were disinterested in knowing that it was the Tramadol causing this for me – and for others… x

  2. I have never taken tramadol only one tablet as I have an allergy to them. I have fibromyalgia trigeminal and me and have all the symptoms that are described by yourself so not every case is down to the side effects of the tranodol drug

    1. Author

      Hi Cathy, of course not every issue is down to any one thing. However, there is a high incidence of seizures and blackouts from people taking Tramadol – and in many cases it is being completely missed by the doctors and ultimately, well, wrecking or severely disrupting many people’s lives. Hence the reason for creating the blog to share this in the hopes of helping those taking Tramadol.

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  4. I have been taking Tramadol for 16 years now because, as a long-time CKD patient, I am unable to take aspirin or any NSAID for pain.
    So far, no problems.

  5. I was prescribed it over the telephone by a gp for long term joint pain which Co Codamol didn’t help. I took 1 tablet and woke up with a bad headache. The following night , I took another , got ready for bed..I blacked out Fell from standing position and shattered my lower leg. I don’t remember anything for the next 2 days. Don’t know if I will walk properly again. Beware.

    1. Author

      Oh Sarah…I am so very sorry to read that this has happened to you. It is truly an evil drug – one that should be fully investigated (not that that is going to happen anytime soon – think of how much money Big Pharma is making!!!).

      I am so sorry to read about your leg. I really appreciate you taking the time to comment and share your story. Perhaps you would consider sharing this blog elsehwere? We need to get the word out! So many people are going through hell because of this drug – and unlike your good self, don’t even realise that it is Tramadol that is actually the cause! (Heck, I was on it for YEARS and didn’t clue in – and neither did any of my friends – or their doctors or neuros, either…nor were the health professionals remotely interested….!).

      I hope you are able to walk again. I am not sure where you reside, but if it is in the US, do Google ‘Ultram lawsuits’ – there might be compensation available for you. No, it isn’t being able to walk properly again, but perhaps it would certainly help in some way, one way or another, I am sure. A.x

  6. Thank you so very much for this information about Tramadol. I have told my Dr’s repeatedly over the years I was “allgeric” to it ,but, they insist it’s just the side effects I am having to it. Well, whatever the reason, I will not let them put me on Tramadol again. That has been Almost 20 yrs ago. I have fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic pain syndrome and degenerative disc disease. Trying to sleep more than 5 hours is a nightmare. Again thank you for the information.

    1. Author

      Hi there, I am glad that this has helped you – please spread the word! Also, please take this information to your doctor : https://www.drugs.com/tramadol.html the NUMBER ONE side effect listed on here is…seizures. And our doctors seem to be absolutely oblivious to it. This drug is wrecking people’s lives (as are many!). Ps – chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia are actually more about toxic overload syndrome…just thought I would share that.x

  7. Yes this drug causes very bad things to happen. I for one had 4 seizures in a matter of 6 months taking tramadol. Once I stopped I have not had a single one!! This drug took over my life for many years and has caused many many problems. I have now been off tramadol for almost 2 years and it took the 1st year of it to just get back to feeling normal again! Please be advised DO NOT TAKE THIS DRUG IF YOU DON’T HAVE TO!!I wish I would of known the hell it caused before I staryed. I thought it was (safe) as a non narcotic drug they said,well they were wrong!!I pray no one has to learn the hard way of this evil drug as I did,and please ,please,don’t think it is safe!!

  8. I’ve just been prescribed Tramadol. I looked up the side effects and noticed that people with metabolic disease, such as mitochondrial disease, are more at risk of seizures. Some believe that Fibromyalgia is a symptom or cause of ME/CFS. Interestingly, it’s becoming widely believed that ME and/or CFS is largely due to mitochondrial dysfunction so this could explain why people with ME and/or CFS are more prone to seizures.

    Luckily, I only need Tramadol on occasions when standard NSAIDs won’t work so hopefully I won’t need large or regular amounts, or become addicted such that I need higher and higher doses for it to work. Even so, I’ll be keeping an eye on any reactions.

    1. Author

      Hi Helen, Thanks for sharing this. Yep, mitochondrial disease/dysfunction is a huge issue…and a large component of the cause? Antibiotics. They smother/kill the mitochondria. (And then of course there is the whole gut health issue…and of course toxic overload syndrome…!). It would be great if you could share your resource in regards to Tramadol reactions and mitochondrial disease! Thanks for posting and sharing! Alyssa

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