I found this article interesting for a few reasons. Tramadol is a synthetic opioid used for chronic pain. As a chronic pain sufferer, I’ve tried a few different drugs and none have worked well. Part the reason is that we have only a rudimentary understanding on how to treat pain, and Tramadol’s mechanisms are largely hypotheses. Our Dept at VCU is currently beginning research on understanding the role that pain relievers play in enhancing performance, so I can say that Dr. Steffens claims, “I can imagine it being used for training. Anything that makes an intense effort or suffering more tolerable is going to give you a training advantage.”, are not well informed and perhaps overlook an underlying drug issue unrelated to performance. Why? Well, for starters, pain meds affect everyone differently, so performance enhancement seems hit or miss at best.
My initial experience with Tramadol was ok, but more recently the side effects have were bad enough to make me throw it away; difficulty concentrating and functioning in general even after a full nights sleep, forget driving a car, general fatigue and weakness. That last one is the worst for training. Pain meds are complex and we do not have a good understanding on how they will work for any individual, so to claim that they’re being used as a PED is premature at best, and may be ignoring a larger problem with either pain, or more likely, drug abuse in general. Unlike stimulants like Pot Belge or cocaine, opioids have a more depressant effect for most, so this is not what you want. Nor are the disruptions in REM sleep. While I have no doubt there are legitimate concerns for its abuse, WADA and the UCI need to better understand the why of the problem to head off future drug abuse. However, if you’re asking my opinion, steer clear of all opioids and tune into the body, not out of the pain!