Tramadol users have a crazy high risk of hypoglycemia

I’m not a fan of prescription painkillers. But I know there are times when these powerful little pills prevent a lot of suffering…

Like when you’re crippled with cancer-related pain. Or you have major surgery. Or your neuropathic pain is so severe you can’t sleep. Or arthritis pain keeps you glued to the couch.

But even during those times when serious pain has you desperate for relief, you still want to take something safe. That’s why pain-sufferers are reaching for one painkiller bottle more and more often — tramadol.

Tramadol is far less addictive than “big guns” like morphine and oxycodone. In fact, when it was first released, it wasn’t even classified as an opioid (although, that’s since changed). Tramadol also has fewer side effects than other painkillers. Or so we thought…

As more people turn to this “safe” option for pain relief, side effects are bubbling to the surface ­— dizziness, nausea, headaches, and constipation. In fact, a new research review just revealed tramadol’s scariest and most surprising side effect yet — dangerously low blood sugar.

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The scariest side effect of this “safe” painkiller

A research team from the University of California, San Diego recently examined more than 12 million reports from the FDA Adverse Effect Reporting System (FAERS) and Adverse Event Reporting System (AERS) databases. These systems contain reports people gave voluntarily of the negative effects they experienced from medications.

Researchers wanted to have a closer look at the potential side effects of tramadol since it’s become so popular, and is usually thought of as a safer pain-relief option. Unfortunately, they uncovered a doozy of a side effect from this supposedly safe painkiller… hypoglycemia.

Now, hypoglycemia is just a fancy word for low blood sugar. It’s not something non-diabetics typically have to worry about. People who treat their diabetes with insulin or other diabetes medications can get hypoglycemia from taking too much of these medications. But, based on this research, hypoglycemia is something tramadol users need to watch out for too…

Researchers found that tramadol users have a 10 times higher risk of developing hypoglycemia than people who use almost every other opioid (except methadone).

How to recognize hypoglycemia

If you take tramadol, you’re probably wondering what hypoglycemia feels like. Well, the most common symptoms of hypoglycemia are:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Pale skin
  • Confusion
  • Shaking
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Hunger
  • Irritability
  • Tingling near the mouth

If hypoglycemia progresses without treatment, it gets serious quick. It can cause seizures, loss of consciousness and even death. If you’re taking tramadol and you develop symptoms that resemble hypoglycemia, head to the doctor ASAP.

If you’re thinking, there’s no way in heck you’re taking tramadol now after all this scary hypoglycemia talk, then I have another option for you…

Medical marijuana. Research supporting marijuana’s pain-relieving properties keeps mounting. So, it could be an effective alternative to opioids like tramadol when your pain gets severe.

Sources:

  1. Popular pain medication associated with greater risk of hypoglycemia — MedicalXpress
  2. Retrospective analysis reveals significant association of hypoglycemia with tramadol and methadone in contrast to other opioidsScientific Reports
  3. Is tramadol a risky pain medication? — Harvard Health Publishing
  4. Hypoglycemia — Mayo Clinic
  5. All about hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) — Medical News Today

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Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.