How Long Does Ultram Stay in Your System?

Ultram pills spilling out of a glass prescription bottle

Ultram (tramadol) is an opioid pain medication that is used to treat moderate to severe pain. Opioid medications such as Ultram help ease pain by slowing nerve signals that transmit pain messages to the brain. Ultram also slows other nerve signals, decreasing responsiveness and impairing judgment. 

Ultram and other opioids can also become addictive, even when used as prescribed. Because Ultram’s impairing effects and addictive nature, employers or law enforcement may sometimes test for the drug. People who have used Ultram may wonder how long the drug is detectable and how long it can cause impaired judgment and responsiveness.

Duration of Effects of Ultram

The effects of Ultram last for about nine hours. The effects of an Ultram extended-release formulation may last for up to 24 hours. While the effects of Ultram will typically last for nine hours, there are several factors that can increase the time that it takes for the body to process the drug. These factors can make the effects last much longer for some people.

Ultram Half-Life

The half-life of a medication is the time it takes for the body to reduce the amount of medication by half. After five half-lives, the amount remaining in the body will be 3.2% of the original amount that was taken. This percentage of medication will make essentially no difference in the body and will often not be detectable, depending upon the initial amount of medication.

The half-life for Ultram is six hours, which means the body will contain 3.2% of the original amount within 30 hours. While it may take 30 hours to reach this low concentration, Ultram is not typically detectable or causing an effect after 12 hours. Extended-release Ultram has the same half-life as normal Ultram, but it is slowly released into the blood over 12 hours. This makes the effects of extended-release Ultram last for much longer than immediate-release, though it will never be as strong.

Ultram Screening Detection Times

Ultram can affect your ability to drive, operate machinery or function safely in a work environment. Because of this, law enforcement and employers may require testing for Ultram in certain circumstances. 

People may often wonder if Ultram shows up on drug tests, due to the potential consequences of having a positive drug screening. Ultram will be detectable in a drug screen but will not show up as Ultram specifically. A drug screen will typically test for opioids — the class of drugs that Ultram belongs to. Someone who has been using Ultram will test positive for opioids on a drug screen. The detection time for Ultram will vary based on the type of test. Types include urine, blood, saliva and hair tests.

Ultram and Urine

Ultram can typically be detected in a urine drug screen for two to four days after the last dose was taken. Extended-release Ultram may be detectable for 12 hours longer than immediate-release Ultram. While Ultram is not normally detectable for more than four days, there may be some situations where the drug is processed more slowly than normal and is detectable for longer.

Ultram and Blood

A blood test for Ultram will be positive for opioids for up to 12 hours following the last use. This time frame may be up to 12 hours longer for extended-release Ultram.

Ultram and Saliva

Saliva drug tests are less common than blood or urine tests, but some people may still choose to use saliva tests. Ultram will typically be detectable in saliva for one to four days. 

Ultram and Hair

Hair follicle drug testing is uncommon, but it may be used in some situations. Ultram and most other drugs can be detected in a hair sample for up to 90 days.

Factors Affecting How Long Ultram Stays in Your System

There are several factors affecting how long Ultram stays in the system. These factors may influence how long Ultram can be detected and how long its effects are felt. The main factors include:

  • Amount of frequency of use: The more Ultram that is used, the longer it will take to get rid of it. If someone uses large amounts of Ultram or small but frequent doses, it will take longer to get the drug out of their system.
  • Liver and kidney function: The liver is responsible for breaking down Ultram, and the kidneys eliminate it from a person’s bloodstream. Any health issues, especially ones affecting the kidneys or liver, can increase the amount of time that Ultram remains in someone’s system.
  • Whether other medications or drugs are used: The process that breaks Ultram down also breaks down other medications or drugs. If someone has other medications in their system in addition to Ultram, their body may have to divert resources to break down these other medications. This can cause Ultram to remain in the system longer.
  • Age: There is an increase in the side effects of Ultram in elderly people and in how long Ultram lasts in their bloodstream. As people age, the processes that break down Ultram and other medications slow down. 
  • Gender: Ultram has been shown to be processed slower by women. The reason for this is unknown, and the difference is only 10% or less.

While these general guidelines can provide you with a rough idea of how long Ultram will remain in your system, any specific questions about your situation should be discussed with your doctor. Your physician will have access to your medical history and can provide insight into how long Ultram will affect you and remain in your system.

False Positives for Ultram Use

It is uncommon that a drug test for opioids such as Ultram will result in a false positive, but it is possible. There are some foods and medications that can create a false positive drug test for opiates. These include:

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

If you are going to be tested for opioids and have used any of these items, you should let the testing center know. Some tests will be able to distinguish between opioids and substances that can create a false negative, but others will not. 

How Is Ultram Metabolized in the Body?

Ultram is metabolized through a complicated chemical process in the liver. In healthy people, about 70% of Ultram will be metabolized in the liver and 30% will be eliminated in the urine without being metabolized. Ultram metabolism involves the drug being broken down into smaller molecules called metabolites, which are not chemically active. These metabolites are eventually eliminated via the urinary system.

If you or a loved one is dealing with Ultram misuse or addiction, The Recovery Village Ridgefield can help. Contact us today to learn more about treatment options and helpful resources that are available to you.

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Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical, INC. “Ultram® (tramadol hydrochloride) Tablets.” 2008. Accessed July 31, 2019.

Cotter, James. “Urine Drug Screening.” Partnership HealthPlan of California, 2015. Accessed July 31, 2019.

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 July 31, 2019.

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.