Tramadol Abuse Is 'Silent Ebola' - Doctor Warns

A mental health expert has called for urgent action to discontinue the increasing abuse of strong pain reliever, Tramadol, which has become very popular among the public, particularly the youth.

Dr Yao Mfodwo, a Consultant Psychiatrist at The Brain Clinic at Abokobi in Accra, fears continued use and abuse of the drug can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms.

“It is as bad as a very silent Ebola or a very silent Lassa fever,” suggested the medical doctor who formerly worked with global pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer with responsibility for Neurosciences and Sexual Medicine.

Tramadol, a restricted medication used to treat moderate to moderately severe pain, has become almost “a street drug” for the treatment of a normal pain like a headache, sometimes with approval from health practitioners.

Its use has sharply gone up among the younger generation because of the reported excitement of prolonged ejaculation, despite reported serious side effects that include seizures, increased risk of serotonin syndrome, decreased alertness, and drug addiction.

“This is why the police and the law enforcing agencies must go after the people who are illegally selling or trading these things...this is a public mental health emergency, Dr Mfodwo told Joy FM Tuesday.

Dr Mfodwo previously worked at the Benoni Sleep Centre, Johannesburg, DISA Clinic, Johannesburg and the Department of Correctional Services of South Africa with responsibility for providing psychiatric services to Pretoria and Moderbee Prisons for 10 years.

Having been involved in multinational pharmaceutical sponsored drug trials as a Principal Investigator, Dr Yao Mfodwo counsels the concerned authorities to take pragmatic steps to curb the abuse of Tramadol.

He said, “even the drug itself is not as potent as when it is broken in the body; it is 200 times more potent when it is broken in the body” and advocated the establishment of rehabilitation centres where people who have issues can seek help.

“But if we are not talking about these things regularly, we are not also then providing the options for treatment where people can get help then we just end up talking without doing anything about it,” he lamented stressing that people who abuse the drug must be given the option of treatment.

“We don’t have treatment outlets, we are not collecting data [and] we are saying very little about it but it is happening so we have to start doing all these things so that we are at least aware of what is going on and then we are able to respond and do something about it,” he advised.