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How long does tramadol stay in your system?

Medically reviewed by Sally Chao, MD. Last updated on Feb 2, 2021.

Official Answer

by Drugs.com

Tramadol is eliminated from your system within roughly 2 days of taking the drug, but this does not mean that it can no longer be detected by certain drug tests.

  • The half-life of tramadol is around 6-8 hours, meaning that 6-8 hours after taking the drug, the concentration of tramadol in your blood has been reduced by half.
  • Most drugs are eliminated from the body after four or five half-lives. For tramadol, this process could take somewhere between 20 to 40 hours — or a maximum of almost two days — at which point you will no longer feel the effects of the drug.

After around 48 hours, tramadol — like most other drugs — will also be undetectable in your saliva.

Drugs remain in your body fluids (saliva, blood and urine), hair and even breath for varying lengths of time. Even if tramadol is no longer present in your blood and saliva, it can still be detectable in other ways.

Most drugs, including opioids that are similar to tramadol, can be detected in the urine anywhere from 1 to 4 days after the last dose. As a comparison, the hair on your head can detect prior drug use 90 to 100 days after the last dose.

Some urine tests do not routinely test for tramadol and similar opioids. An extended opioid panel may be needed to detect tramadol.

While the amount of time it takes for tramadol to leave your system can be estimated based on its half-life and existing data, there are many factors that affect how fast the body eliminates a drug.

The following factors may prolong the process of ridding tramadol from your system:

  • Dosage of the drug. Higher doses will take longer for your body to eliminate.
  • Frequency or length of drug use. More frequent doses will take longer for your body to eliminate.
  • Route of administration. If the medication is taken in pill-form, it may take longer to metabolize than if it is injected.
  • Metabolism. People with a slower metabolic rate will take longer to break down the drug.
  • Organ function. Reduced liver and kidney function impedes the body’s ability to get rid of waste, prolonging the process of eliminating a drug.
  • Age. Older people are more likely to metabolize slowly.

Tramadol is prescribed for the management of pain. Although it is an opioid, it is considered to be a “weak” opioid compared to other drugs like morphine. It is approximately 6,000-fold weaker than morphine. It is thought to have a low potential for dependence, but chronic, long-term use makes dependence more likely.

Tramadol is available in immediate release and extended release formulations. The fast-acting formulation should begin to relieve pain within one hour and peaks in your system within 2-3 hours. The extended-release formulations may take longer to start working, but the effects last up to 24 hours.

Common side effects of tramadol include:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Headache
References
  1. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). ULTRAM (tramadol hydrochloride) Tablets. December 2016. Available at: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2016/020281s036s038lbl.pdf. [Accessed November 17, 2020].
  2. Hallare J, Gerriets V. Half Life. StatPearls. 2020 Oct 6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK554498/
  3. Ito S. Pharmacokinetics 101. Paediatr Child Health. 2011;16(9):535-536. https://doi.org/10.1093/pch/16.9.535
  4. American Society of Addiction Medicine. Appropriate Use of Drug Testing in Clinical Addiction Medicine. 2017. Available at: https://www.asam.org/docs/default-source/quality-science/appropriate_use_of_drug_testing_in_clinical-1-(7).pdf?sfvrsn=2. [Accessed November 17, 2020].
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Urine Drug Testing. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/pdf/prescribing/CDC-DUIP-UrineDrugTesting_FactSheet-508.pdf. [Accessed November 17, 2020].
  6. World Health Organization. Guidelines for the Psychosocially Assisted Pharmacological Treatment of Opioid Dependence. 2009. Available at: https://www.who.int/substance_abuse/publications/Opioid_dependence_guidelines.pdf. [Accessed November 17, 2020].
  7. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Highlights of prescribing information: Ultram (tramadol hydrochloride) tablets. April 2019. Available at: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2019/020281s041lbl.pdf. [Accessed November 17, 2020].
  8. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Highlights of prescribing information: Ultram ER (tramadol hydrochloride) extended-release tablets for oral use. May 2010. Available at: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2010/022370s000lbl.pdf. [Accessed November 17, 2020].

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