Tramadol is a synthetic (man-made) pain reliever (analgesic). Researchers and doctors do not know the exact mechanism of action of tramadol, but it is similar to morphine. Like morphine, tramadol binds to receptors in the brain (narcotic or opioid receptors) that are important for transmitting the sensation of pain from throughout the body to the brain.
Like other narcotics used to treat pain, patients taking tramadol may abuse the drug and become addicted to it.
Tramadol is not a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), therefore, it does not have the increased risk of stomach ulcers and internal bleeding that can occur with NSAIDs.
Doctors prescribe tramadol to manage moderate to moderately severe pain. Extended release tablets are used for moderate to moderately severe chronic pain in adults who require continuous treatment for an extended period.
Tramadol should not be used to treat pain in children younger than 12 years of age, and it should not be used to treat pain after surgery to remove the tonsils and/or adenoids in children younger than 18 years of age. Children between 12 and 18 years of age who are overweight or have breathing problems such as obstructive sleep apnea or severe lung disease should not receive tramadol.
What are the side effects of tramadol?
Tramadol is generally well tolerated, and side effects are usually temporary.
Commonly reported side effects of tramadol include:
- drowsiness, and
Less commonly reported side effects include:
- dry mouth,
- visual disturbances, and
Some patients who received tramadol have reported seizures. It may cause serotonin syndrome when combined with other drugs that also increase serotonin (see drug interactions section).