How Long Does Tramadol Stay in Your System?
By The Recovery Village Ridgefield
Last Updated: June 1, 2023
Editorial Policy | Research Policy
Tramadol (Ultram) is an opioid medication that is used to treat moderate to severe pain. Tramadol works by stimulating opioid receptors that slow nerve signals, including the signals that transmit pain. Tramadol also releases chemicals in the brain called endorphins; these chemicals cause a euphoric, pleasurable sensation called a high. This high can lead people to misuse tramadol and become addicted to the drug.
Because tramadol slows nerve signals, it can slow peoples’ reflexes and impairs judgment which can lead to problems if used while working or driving. Tramadol can also lead people to have impairments in other activities while taking it. Because tramadol can impact people so significantly, it is important to understand how long tramadol will affect you and how long it can be detected in your system.
Duration of Effects of Tramadol
Tramadol will typically have effects that last up to 9 hours in a healthy person. Those with health conditions or who are taking other medications may find that the effects of tramadol last for much longer. Tramadol also comes in an extended-release form that will slowly release tramadol into the body over a prolonged period of time, typically 12 hours. If someone is taking an extended-release form of tramadol, the effects of tramadol will typically last for up to nine hours after the period of time that tramadol is released into the body.
The half-life of a medication is how long it takes for the body to process half of the concentration of a drug that was initially present in the bloodstream. Within five half-lives, the amount of drug present will be about 3% of what it initially was, making it essentially undetectable and having a negligible effect.
The half-life of tramadol is about six hours in healthy people, although the exact half-life will be slightly different for everyone. The half-life for tramadol will be the same, regardless of whether it is an immediate-release formula or an extended-release formula. The difference is that an immediate-release formula will get the full amount of tramadol into the bloodstream within a short period of time, while an extended-release formula will slowly release tramadol into the bloodstream. Extended-release formulations will cause a slow rise in the amount of tramadol over time as the body starts to process it.
Tramadol Screening Detection Times
Because tramadol is an opioid, there can be legal and employment implications when it is misused, especially if someone does not have a prescription to use it or using it for a nonmedical reason. Both employers and law enforcement may require people to take drug tests in certain situations. Tramadol can be detected in a drug test and the detection time will vary based on the type of test used and the individual being tested.
Tramadol can be detected in the urine and will create a positive result for opioids in a basic urine drug screen. Typically, these tests will not specifically show the presence of tramadol in urine but will show that an opioid is present. Tramadol will usually be detected in the urine for one to three days after the last dose was taken but may be detectable for longer, especially if an extended-release formula was used.
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A blood test for tramadol will not typically be positive for very long, and tramadol will not normally be detectable in the blood for more than 12-24 hours. It may be detectable for as long as 24 hours, however, if an extended-release formula is used. Tramadol may also be detectable for longer in people who are in poor health or take other opioid medications.
Saliva drug tests are not used as commonly as blood or urine tests, but some entities may still choose to use them. Tramadol will show up in a saliva drug test for about one to two days after the last dose was used, but this time frame depends upon the lab used and the individual.
It is uncommon that someone would test for tramadol using a hair drug test, but tramadol can be detected for up to 90 days using this kind of test.
Factors Affecting How Long Tramadol Stays in Your System
There are several factors that can affect how long your body takes to process tramadol. These factors will increase the time it takes to get tramadol out of your system and make the effects of tramadol last for longer than would typically be expected. Some of the more influential factors include:
- Frequency and Amount of Use: The more tramadol that is used, the longer it will take for your body to process it. More frequent use, or using a greater dose, will increase the time that tramadol is in your system.
- Underlying Health Issues: If you have poor health, then the body may not process tramadol as well. The liver and kidneys are especially important, as the liver breaks tramadol down, and the kidneys help to eliminate it from the bloodstream.
- Use of Other Drugs: If you use other drugs, especially other opioids, the body will be focused on breaking down those drugs in addition to tramadol and will break all of the drugs in your system down more slowly.
- Age: As we age, our body’s metabolism slows down. This slows the time it takes for the body to process tramadol and makes it last longer in the bloodstream.
If you have questions about a specific situation, consult with a doctor about how tramadol is likely to affect you and how long its effects can last for you personally.
False Positives for Tramadol Use
False positives during drug tests for tramadol are rare, but it is possible that a false positive result may occur. False positives can be due to testing equipment or techniques, but typically, they are due to foods or other medications. Some substances that can cause a false positive for opioids include:
- Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
- Poppy seeds
If you are undergoing a drug test, you should tell the technician if you have taken any of these substances recently. If it is known that these substances have been used, some tests can be modified to avoid false positives.
How Is Tramadol Metabolized in the Body?
Tramadol metabolism involves a complicated series of chemical reactions in which tramadol is broken down into smaller and smaller molecules called metabolites. The chemicals needed for this reaction to occur primarily come from the liver. About 70% of tramadol is eliminated through the chemicals produced by the liver and about 30% is eliminated by the kidneys before it is metabolized by the liver.
If you or a loved one are using tramadol and find that it is difficult to stop using tramadol, then you may have developed a tramadol addiction. The Recovery Village Ridgefield has a strong record of helping those with tramadol addiction and can provide knowledgeable, compassionate care. Reach out to an understanding team member to learn how you can start on your path to recovery today.
Our Recovery Advocates are ready to answer your questions about addiction treatment and help you start your recovery.
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