The Truth About Tramadol: 5 Things You Should Know

Tramadol is an opioid analgesic used frequently for chronic disorders. For many years, tramadol was widely thought to be a safer alternative to narcotics for pain. In 2014, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) changed their attitude toward tramadol.

Tramadol Drug Class

Why did the DEA catoregize tramadol as a Schedule IV substance? Previously, doctors were prescribing the drug frequently to help patients manage pain. Pharmacy Times reports that within the first two years of the drug’s release, two to three of every 100,000 patients dealt with tramadol misuse.

Patients were experiencing withdrawal similar to other opioids and it was clear tramadol addiction was dangerous. The rate of treatment for an overdose on tramadol was rising: ER visits spiked between 2005 and 2011.

Yet the DEA placed tramadol at the lower danger level. Drugs in the United States are classified into five categories based on the addictive properties of the medication. Schedule I drugs have the highest designation as the most dangerously addictive substances. Schedule V drugs have the least amount of risk for addiction.

Here are examples of drugs within the various DEA categories:

  • Schedule 1 – LSD, ecstasy
  • Schedule 2 – Vicodin, cocaine
  • Schedule 3 – Codeine, anabolic steroids
  • Schedule 4 – Tramadol, Ambien
  • Schedule 5 – Lyrica, Motofen

Woman appearing in pain

5 Important Facts About Tramadol

Tramadol works like any opioid, binding to nerve receptors that feel pain. Here are five things you should know about tramadol:

  1. It is easy to mistake tramadol for a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAID). It is important to recognize the addictive properties of the drug.
  2. Everyone cannot take tramadol. Children under 18 should never take this drug. Nursing moms should not take tramadol because it can be shared through the breast milk. Tramadol can cause breathing difficulties. It naturally suppresses breathing when the wrong dosage is taken.
  3. There are several side-effects from taking tramadol, including nausea or vomiting, constipation, dizziness, headache, itching, dry mouth and diarrhea. It can also cause seizures, dangerously slowed breathing or even fluid pooling under the skin.
  4. It should also be noted that people process tramadol differently and side effects can be severe. The drug can interact negatively with other medications, exacerbating side effects such as breathing problems.
  5. Tramadol should never be taken with alcohol, as these effects could be severe and dangerous. A small percentage of people taking tramadol metabolize the drug slowly, so that it stays in their system longer. This increases the risk of interaction with other substances or inadvertent overdose.

What to Do About Tramadol Addiction

If you have developed a substance use disorder involving tramadol, there are a host of rehab resources available to help you. Contact The Recovery Village Ridgefield to explore treatment options and learn about admission to a comprehensive addiction treatment programs.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.