Laura Plummer, a 33-year-old British woman, is in jail after 290 tablets of tramadol were recovered from her suitcase at the Hurghada international airport in Egypt on Oct. 9, 2017. Laura, who was booked on suspicion of drug trafficking, was carrying the pills to treat her Egyptian husband’s sore back. She reportedly had no idea that she was carrying a drug banned in Egypt.
The incident has made many wonder what makes tramadol such a dreaded drug in Egypt. Tramadol, which is available on prescription in the United Kingdom, is a synthetic drug developed in 1962. The drug was introduced in the market in 1972 as a painkiller with a potency of around 10 percent that of morphine. Like morphine, it is prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain.
Tramadol caught attention in 2012
Before its introduction in the United States in 1995, tramadol was up for sale in Europe for nearly 20 years with little evidence of misuse or abuse. The initial reports indicated tramadol’s abuse probability in the U.S. as 2-3 per 100,000, which then declined to 1/100,000.
Tramadol made headlines in 2012 after professional cyclist Michael Barry, in his autobiography, accepted to have used the drug while cycling in the Sky team. He first used it as prescription painkiller after he broke his ribs in a crash. Though it alleviated his pain, it made him experience slight euphoria while helping him enhance his performance.
In the wake of other similar incidents, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) put tramadol on its list of prohibited substances like steroids, amphetamines and other stimulants. However, currently it shares the list with substances like caffeine, nicotine and codeine, whose use is monitored.
While tramadol is a Schedule IV controlled substance in the U.S. and a prescription drug in the U.K., it is a banned substance in Egypt. Therefore, prior permission needs to be sought before taking the drug into the country, especially in large quantities. Egypt has strict laws for people caught in possession of significant amounts of tramadol. If found guilty, convicts may face stiff punishments, including death penalty. However, tramadol is misused in Egypt. In fact, many individuals use it as a recreational drug. People from the poor working class take tramadol to feel energized and to enhance their work efficiency.
Hazards of tramadol
Tramadol use is associated with serious and life-threatening problems, including slowed or difficulty breathing in children. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prohibits tramadol use in children below 12 years. Moreover, the drug is not approved for use in children aged 12 to 18 years who are obese or have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) or a lung disease. Tramadol is also not advised for relieving pain in children who undergo surgery to remove tonsils and/or adenoids.
Tramadol is potentially addictive. Therefore, it should be taken in limited dose. People with a mental disease should also refrain from using tramadol as it may increase their risk of overusing it. Studies show that pregnant women who take tramadol regularly may give birth to babies with life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. Tramadol extended-release tablets and capsules are prescribed only to people requiring medication to relieve pain around-the-clock.
Treating prescription drug abuse
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), around 3.3 million people aged 12 or older misused prescription pain relievers in 2016. Moreover, around 1.8 million people in the same age group had a pain reliever use disorder.
While the statistics imply a serious problem, the good news is that prescription drug addiction is treatable. Drug addiction treatment typically begins with detoxification that helps patients manage withdrawal symptoms and get ready for further treatments. Sovereign Health, one of the leading rapid detox centers in California, follows a systematic detox program to help people recover from addiction. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-682-0103 or chat online for more information on our detox facilities in California.