Tramadol is the generic name for a prescription pain reliever sold under the brand names Ultram, Conzip, Rybix ODT, and Ultram ER.
Doctors prescribe tramadol to treat moderate to severe pain in adults.
Tramadol comes as a tablet, and as an extended-release tablet or capsule to treat around-the-clock pain.
It’s in a class of pain drugs called opiate narcotic analgesics, which work by changing the way your brain responds to pain. It may increase levels of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and serotonin.
Ultracet is a combination drug, made from tramadol and acetaminophen.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved tramadol in 1995 for the drug company Janssen Pharmaceuticals under the brand name Ultram.
In 2002, the FDA approved a generic version of tramadol, which many companies now manufacture.
A 2014 study suggested that giving tramadol to people before surgery may help ease post-anesthesia shivering – a common complication that develops in people recovering from general anesthesia.
Tramadol ‘High’ and Abuse
Although tramadol is widely considered safe and has FDA approval, there have been many reports of abuse, because the drug can have opioid-like effects, giving users a narcotic “high.”
In 2010, Janssen and the FDA issued a revised warning for tramadol tablets, advising doctors not to prescribe the drug for people who are suicidal, at risk for addiction, take tranquilizers or antidepressants, have alcohol or drug abuse problems, or are depressed or emotionally disturbed.
In 2011, tramadol was linked to 20,000 emergency department visits around the country, according to a report in MedPage Today.
In Florida alone, there were 379 overdose deaths involving tramadol in 2011, a significant jump from 106 deaths recorded in 2003.
As a result of these and many other incidents, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classified tramadol as a controlled substance in 2014, subjecting the drug to stricter controls.
Tramadol (Generic) Side Effects
If you have any side effects from tramadol, let your doctor know right away.
The most common side effects are dizziness, nausea, constipation, and headache.
If you have any of these serious side effects of tramadol, call your doctor right away, get emergency help, or call 911.
Symptoms of serotonin syndrome: agitation, fever, nausea, muscle stiffness, lack of coordination, or loss of consciousness:
- Chest pain;
- Rapid heartbeat;
- Extreme drowsiness;
- Swelling of the face, tongue, throat, or extremities;
- Severe rash;
- Thoughts of suicide.
Other side effects of tramadol include:
- Feeling agitated, nervous, or high;
- Dry mouth;
- Loss of appetite.
If you are over age 65, you may be at higher risk for side effects from tramadol, especially digestive side effects like constipation.
People over age 75 may have to take a lower dose of tramodol than is typically prescribed.