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How Long Does Tramadol Stay in Your System?

Written by Theresa Valenzky

& Medically Reviewed by Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD

Medically Reviewed

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This article was reviewed by a medical professional to guarantee the delivery of accurate and up-to- date information. View our research policy.

Last Updated - 6/17/2022

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Tramadol (Ultram) is an opioid medication that treats pain by stimulating opioid receptors that slow nerve signals. Tramadol also releases brain chemicals called endorphins, causing a euphoric, pleasurable sensation called a high, which can lead people to misuse tramadol and become addicted to the drug. Because tramadol can slow reflexes and significantly impact people, it is important to understand how long the drug 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 nine hours in a healthy person. Those with health conditions or taking other medications may find the effects of tramadol last much longer. Tramadol also comes in an extended-release form that slowly releases the drug into the body over a prolonged period, typically 12 hours. If someone takes an extended-release form of tramadol, its effects usually last up to nine hours after it is released into the body.

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Tramadol Half-Life

A medication’s half-life is how long it takes the body to process half of the concentration of a drug initially present in the bloodstream. Within five half-lives, the amount of drug present will be about 3% of what it originally 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 or extended-release formula. The difference is that an immediate-release formula will quickly get the full amount of tramadol into the bloodstream. In contrast, an extended-release formula will slowly release tramadol into the bloodstream. Extended-release formulations will cause a slow rise in tramadol over time as the body processes 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 or uses 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 differ based on the type of test and the individual being tested.

Urine

Tramadol can be detected in the urine, creating 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. However, it may be detectable for longer, especially if an extended-release formula is used.

Blood

A blood test for tramadol will not typically be positive for very long, and tramadol will not usually be detectable in the blood for more than 12–24 hours. However, it may be detectable for up to 24 hours 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

Saliva drug tests are not used as commonly as blood or urine tests, but some may still use them. Tramadol will appear in a saliva drug test for about one to two days after the last dose, but this time depends on the lab used and the individual.

Hair

It is uncommon for someone to 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

Several factors 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 longer than expected. Some of the more influential factors include:

  • Frequency and Amount of Use: The more tramadol is used, the longer it will take your body to process it. More frequent use or a greater dose will increase the time that tramadol is in your system.
  • Underlying Health Issues: The body may not process tramadol well if you have poor health. The liver and kidneys are especially important, as the liver breaks tramadol down, and the kidneys help 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 may 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 a doctor about how tramadol will likely affect you and how long its effects can last for you.

False Positives for Tramadol Use

False positives during drug tests for tramadol are rare, but 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:

  • Dextromethorphan
  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
  • Poppy seeds
  • Rifampin
  • Quinine

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.

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How Is Tramadol Metabolized in the Body?

Tramadol metabolism involves a complicated series of chemical reactions in which the drug 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 the liver metabolizes it.

If you or a loved one use tramadol and find it difficult to stop, 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 a Recovery Advocate to learn how to start on your recovery path today.

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Sources

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Medscape. “Tramadol (Rx).” Accessed May 19, 2023.

Wu W. N., McKown L.A., & Liao S. “Metabolism of the analgesic drug ULTRAM (tramadol hydrochloride) in humans: API-MS and MS/MS characterization of metabolites.” Xenobiotica. May 2002. Accessed May 19, 2023.

ARUP Laboratories. “Drug Plasma Half-Life and Urine Detection Window.” September 2022. . Accessed May 19, 2023.

Redwood Toxicology Laboratory. “Laboratory Testing Cutoffs & Methods.”  Accessed May 19, 2023.

Soleimanpour, Hassan; et al. “Opioid Drugs in Patients With Liver Disease: A Systematic Review.” Hepatitis Monthly. March 2016. Accessed May 19, 2023.

ARUP Laboratories. “Therapeutic Drug Monitoring.” February 2023. Accessed May 19, 2023.

Gryczynski, Jan; Schwartz, Robert P; Mitchell, Shannon D; et al. “Hair Drug Testing Results and Self-reported Drug Use among Primary Care Patients with Moderate-risk Illicit Drug Use.” Drug and Alcohol Dependence, May 17, 2014. Accessed May 19, 2023.

Algren, D. Adam; Christian, Michael R. “Buyer Beware: Pitfalls in Toxicology Laboratory Testing.” Missouri Medicine, May-June 2015. Accessed May 19, 2023.

View Sources

Healthline Media. “Tramadol, Oral Tablet.” Oct. 31, 2022. . Accessed May 19, 2023.

Medscape. “Tramadol (Rx).” Accessed May 19, 2023.

Wu W. N., McKown L.A., & Liao S. “Metabolism of the analgesic drug ULTRAM (tramadol hydrochloride) in humans: API-MS and MS/MS characterization of metabolites.” Xenobiotica. May 2002. Accessed May 19, 2023.

ARUP Laboratories. “Drug Plasma Half-Life and Urine Detection Window.” September 2022. . Accessed May 19, 2023.

Redwood Toxicology Laboratory. “Laboratory Testing Cutoffs & Methods.”  Accessed May 19, 2023.

Soleimanpour, Hassan; et al. “Opioid Drugs in Patients With Liver Disease: A Systematic Review.” Hepatitis Monthly. March 2016. Accessed May 19, 2023.

ARUP Laboratories. “Therapeutic Drug Monitoring.” February 2023. Accessed May 19, 2023.

Gryczynski, Jan; Schwartz, Robert P; Mitchell, Shannon D; et al. “Hair Drug Testing Results and Self-reported Drug Use among Primary Care Patients with Moderate-risk Illicit Drug Use.” Drug and Alcohol Dependence, May 17, 2014. Accessed May 19, 2023.

Algren, D. Adam; Christian, Michael R. “Buyer Beware: Pitfalls in Toxicology Laboratory Testing.” Missouri Medicine, May-June 2015. Accessed May 19, 2023.

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