If you are in an immediate emergency, call 911. If you are looking for more information on substance abuse treatment and it is not a medical emergency, call our 24/7 Tramadol Helpline at 844-897-9118.

Tramadol is a synthetic opioid medication used to treat mild to moderate pain. The drug is weaker than many other opioid pain medications, including morphinehydrocodone and oxycodone. Because tramadol is less potent than other opioids, it was once considered to be a less dangerous medication. However, it’s now clear that tramadol use still poses a number of risks, including addiction.

What Is Tramadol Used For?

Tramadol is a Schedule IV controlled substance, meaning it carries some risk of abuse, addiction and dependence. It is prescribed for pain severe enough to require an opioid. Although tramadol is relatively weak compared to many other opioids, it can still be dangerous, especially if you take too high of a dose.

Tramadol Brand Name

Tramadol comes in several formulations, and it can be sold as a generic drug or under a variety of brand names. These include:

  • Qdolo, a short-acting oral solution
  • Conzip, a long-acting oral capsule
  • Ultram, a short-acting tablet
  • Ultram ER, a long-acting tablet

Tramadol also comes as a combination drug with acetaminophen. This combination is sold both as a generic drug and under the brand name Ultracet.

Is Tramadol Addictive?

Tramadol is addictive due to its effects on the central nervous system. Tramadol activates mu opioid receptors, and the activation of these receptors leads to pain relief and potentially pleasurable effects.

Tramadol has mood-elevating properties because it increases the level of feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain, including serotonin and norepinephrine. These feel-good effects can trigger a reward cycle in the brain, which is how addiction develops. When someone is addicted to tramadol, they continue to use it despite negative effects or consequences.

People who use the drug can also develop dependence. With dependence, the body and brain adapt to the presence of tramadol. If someone is dependent on tramadol and stops using it suddenly, they’ll likely experience withdrawal symptoms.

Tramadol Dosage

Doctors usually prescribe the lowest possible tramadol dose for the shortest period of time to relieve pain. The recommended tramadol dose depends on the exact dosage form that was prescribed:

  • Short-acting tablets and liquid: tramadol is usually started at a dose of 25mg daily, and can be slowly increased to a max of 100mg every 6 hours to a max of 400 mg daily
  • Long-acting tablets and capsules: tramadol can be started at a dose of 100mg daily and may be slowly increased to a max dose of 300 mg daily
  • Tramadol and acetaminophen: tramadol can be started at a dose of 75mg every 4 to 6 hours as needed to a max of 300 mg daily

What Does Tramadol Look Like?

Tramadol comes in several different forms, including:

  • Short-acting tablet
  • Extended-release tablet
  • Short-acting oral solution
  • Extended-release capsule

However, because tramadol has many different manufacturers, the drug’s appearance can vary widely. 

Tramadol Side Effects

Tramadol has many common side effects, including:

  • Weakness
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Indigestion
  • Flushing
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Itching
  • Fatigue
  • Appetite loss
  • Sweating

Tramadol and Alcohol

It can be dangerous to drink alcohol while on tramadol, as both substances are central nervous system depressants that slow your brain activity. As a result, they have a drug interaction that can cause increased side effects. These include:

  • Dizziness
  • Sleepiness
  • Confusion
  • Problems concentrating
  • Cognitive impairment 
  • Problems with decision-making and judgment
  • Coordination problems

Due to the dangers of combining these substances, the FDA has a Boxed Warning about the risks of taking tramadol while using central nervous system depressants like alcohol.

Tramadol Overdose

It is possible to overdose if you take too much tramadol. Unfortunately, tramadol overdose is one of the rare types of opioid overdose that is not completely reversible by naloxone (Narcan). This means that naloxone may not be able to stop someone from overdosing. For this reason, it is crucial to call 911 if you suspect someone has overdosed on tramadol.

Tramadol Overdose Symptoms

Tramadol overdose symptoms are generally similar to those of other opioids. Unlike other opioids, however, tramadol overdose carries a risk of seizures. The risk of this side effect increases with the dose of tramadol a person takes. Other overdose symptoms for tramadol include:

  • Slowed or shallow breathing
  • Weakness or lethargy
  • Cold, clammy or bluish skin
  • Dizziness when standing
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Unconsciousness or coma
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rigid muscles

How Long Does Tramadol Last?

Tramadol lasts for different periods of time depending on whether you are taking the short- or long-acting form of the drug:

  • Short-acting tramadol: This form lasts for approximately three to six hours. For this reason, it is usually prescribed to be taken every four to six hours as needed. The dose begins to work within one hour, with peak pain relief occurring between two and four hours after the dose. 
  • Long-acting tramadol: This form lasts for around 24 hours. However, little data exists regarding how long the medication takes to kick in or when peak pain relief is expected. 

How Long Does Tramadol Stay in Your System?

Although tramadol’s pain-relieving effects may dissipate after a few hours, the drug can stay in your system for much longer. How long tramadol is detectable in your system depends on what is being tested:

  • Urine: In urine, tramadol can be detected for up to four days.
  • Hair: In hair, a 1.5-inch sample can show tramadol use over the past 30 days.
  • Saliva: In saliva, tramadol can be detected for up to two days.
  • Blood: In blood, tramadol and its breakdown products can be found for up to 10 hours.

Other factors can impact whether tramadol shows up on a drug test. These factors include:

  • Your tramadol dose 
  • How often you take tramadol
  • Whether you take long- or short-acting tramadol
  • Your age 
  • Your body composition 
  • Your sex
  • Any co-occurring health conditions 
  • Whether you take any other medications 
  • Your hydration and nutritional status 

Tramadol Withdrawal

Taking tramadol on a regular basis and suddenly stopping or significantly lowering your dose can cause withdrawal symptoms. This is because tramadol and other opioids can cause physical dependence. Being physically dependent on tramadol means your body becomes used to tramadol’s presence and adapts to the drug being in your system. For this reason, stopping tramadol abruptly means your body needs to adapt to its absence, leading to tramadol withdrawal symptoms.

Tramadol Withdrawal Symptoms

Tramadol’s withdrawal symptoms are similar to those of other opioids and include

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Hot and cold flashes
  • Sweating
  • Muscle cramps
  • Runny eyes and nose
  • Diarrhea

Tramadol Withdrawal Timeline

The timeline for tramadol withdrawal symptoms can depend on whether you are taking the short- or long-acting form of the drug: 

  • Short-acting tramadol: Symptoms can start within 12 hours of the last dose, peak within 24 to 48 hours and improve over the next three to five days.
  • Long-acting tramadol: Symptoms can start within 30 hours of the last dose and may last as long as 10 days.

Tramadol Detox

Tramadol detox is the process of stopping tramadol use and allowing your body to cleanse itself of the drug. Because tramadol withdrawal symptoms can be hard to overcome on your own, it’s safest and most effective to undergo detox in a medically supervised setting. In a medical detox program, you receive around-the-clock care and support from doctors and nurses. Your team of experts will work to treat any dangerous or unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that arise, ensuring you have the most comfortable detox possible.

Tramadol Addiction Treatment in Orlando, Florida

Medical detox is only the first step in treating tramadol addiction. Experts recommend undergoing a rehab program after detox, as it takes at least 90 days of treatment to reduce relapse risk. 

Many different rehab options are available, and each is designed to meet different needs in treatment. Orlando Recovery Center provides a full continuum of care that includes programs like:

  • Inpatient rehabThis type of rehab is also known as residential rehab. During inpatient rehab, you live onsite at the treatment facility so you can avoid outside stressors and triggers in early recovery.
  • Partial hospitalization programIn this program, which is a transition between inpatient and outpatient rehab, you come back to the rehab center regularly to be treated in an intensive setting.
  • Intensive outpatient rehab: In this type of rehab, you live in a sober living environment but regularly come back to the facility for outpatient visits.
  • Outpatient rehab: In outpatient rehab, you live in a supportive environment and continue your rehab. In contrast to intensive outpatient rehab, you spend less time in a rehab setting.

If you or someone you love is struggling with tramadol addiction, help is available at the Orlando Recovery Center. Contact us today to learn more about tramadol addiction treatment programs that can work well for your situation.

Editor – Jonathan Strum
Jonathan Strum graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha with a Bachelor's in Communication in 2017 and has been writing professionally ever since. Read more
Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD
Dr. Jessica Pyhtila is a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist based in Baltimore, Maryland with practice sites in inpatient palliative care and outpatient primary care at the Department of Veteran Affairs. Read more

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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.