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Is Tramadol Bad For You?



Short answer

Tramadol is a good alternative to some other prescription pain relievers on the market when taken as directed. Be aware of the risk of side effects and dependency with any opioid if consumed over an extended period of time.



Long answer

Tramadol is the generic name for Ultram, an opioid analgesic medication used to relieve moderate to severe pain. It is marketed as an immediate release oral pain reliever, touted to work within an hour. Tramadol has recently begun to take the place of hydrocodone as a popular prescription for pain. This change is a result of the recent upgrade of hydrocodone to a schedule II substance by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). The controversial upgrade in schedule puts it in a category that is reserved for cases of severe pain relief. Doctors are reluctant to liberally prescribe hydrocodone, due to the changes in rules for schedule II drugs. Both hydrocodone and Tramadol are opioids, however, the methods in which they react with the brain are different; Tramadol even has application to relieve the withdrawal from hydrocodone.

Tramadol can be administered orally in pill form and also in immediate release oral formulation, or injected intravenously. Tramadol is one-tenth the potency of morphine and is considered less effective for severe pain when compared to morphine or hydrocodone. There are common side effects to be aware of while taking tramadol including nausea, vomiting, dizziness, dry mouth, constipation, drowsiness, headache, indigestion and abdominal pain. Tramadol should never be taken with alcohol as it can cause overdose or death.

Long-term Tramadol use can result in physical dependency, as with other opioids. When stopping tramadol one may experience withdrawal symptoms including numbness, tingling, and tinnitus. There is also the risk of psychiatric symptoms of withdraws including hallucinations, anxiety, paranoia, panic attacks and confusion. Tramadol can also be abused recreationally, although it is often not as popular a choice as hydrocodone, due to the differences in potency.

Tramadol has been classified as a Schedule IV drug under the U.S. Federal Controlled Substance Act. This classification states that Tramadol has a lower potential for abuse relative to the drugs in other classifications. The lower the classification level, the higher the dependency risks. Tramadol is also classified as having limited physical dependence risks and a prescription is required for the narcotic.

Tramadol should be avoided by persons that have kidney failure, liver disorder, COPD, dementia or other brain disorders. Pregnant and nursing women should not use Tramadol because of the risks of the medication being harmful to the developing baby and being passed through breastmilk. Tramadol may interact with antibiotics, alcohol, anxiety medication, and Kratom. You should always tell your doctor about any medications being taken before taking tramadol.

Possible short-term side effects

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • dizziness
  • dry mouth
  • constipation
  • drowsiness

Possible long-term side effects

  • physical dependency

Possible withdrawal symptoms

  • feelings of pins and needles
  • sweating
  • nervousness
  • nausea
  • anxiety
  • palpitations
  • insomnia
  • drug craving
  • numbness
  • tingling
  • tinnitus
  • confusion


  • pain relief for moderate to severe pain

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Written by DeeAnne Oldham | 04-29-2016

Written by DeeAnne Oldham
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