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Tramadol Patient Tips

How it works

Tramadol is a man-made pain-relief medicine that has narcotic-like properties. It acts on similar receptors to narcotics and also increases brain levels of serotonin and dopamine.


  • Tramadol can provide a level of pain relief that is similar to narcotic analgesics.
  • Tramadol acts on a variety of pain receptors and chemical transmitters in the body, which means it treats both nerve-related and more general-type pain.
  • Tramadol may be less likely than other narcotic analgesics to affect breathing.
  • Tramadol is available in a less expensive generic form.


If you are between the ages of 18 and 60, take no other medication or have no other medical conditions, side effects you are more likely to experience include:

  • Side effects include constipation, dizziness, dry mouth, itchiness (pruritis), nausea, sweating, sleepiness, risk of seizure and serotonin syndrome.
  • May cause dependence, addiction, slowed breathing, and withdrawal symptoms.
  • Do not take tramadol if you are also using alcohol, drugs with sedative properties, or other narcotic medications; dangerous or fatal side effects, such as slowed breathing, can occur.
  • Significant drug interactions are possible; always have a drug interaction screen done by your doctor or pharmacist when you start or stop any medication.
  • Dose adjustments may be needed if you are elderly or if you have kidney or liver disease.

Notes: In general, seniors or children, people with certain medical conditions (such as liver or kidney problems, heart disease, diabetes, seizures) or people who take other medications are more at risk of developing a wider range of side effects. For a complete list of all side effects, click here.

Bottom Line

Tramadol is a strong pain relief medicine effective for both general and nerve-related pain. Tramadol can cause dependence and use may be limited by side effects such as nausea and dizziness. Pain-relieving effects or side effects may be altered in some people due to genetic variation or drug interactions. Tramadol is not FDA-approved for use in children.


  • Can be taken at any time of the day, with or without food.
  • The long-acting formulation must be swallowed whole; do not crush or chew as you may receive a dangerous or fatal drug dose.
  • Can make you feel sick to your stomach - taking an antiemetic with tramadol can counteract this effect; starting treatment with low doses or taking with food may also help to lessen nausea.
  • Can make you feel sleepy and affect your ability to drive or operate machinery.
  • Do not use if pregnant or breastfeeding unless specifically recommended by your doctor.
  • Tell a doctor immediately if you experience excessive sweating, feel agitated or confused, develop a fever or diarrhea, find it difficult to control your limbs, or notice spasmodic jerky contractions of your muscles.
  • Keep out of reach of children and pets.

Response and Effectiveness

  • There is a lot of variability in the way people respond to tramadol - some people may require higher or lower dosages than others for the same level of pain relief.
  • Starting at the lowest possible dose and increasing the dose slowly may lessen side effects like nausea, dizziness, and headache.
  • When stopping treatment with tramadol, it's best to slowly discontinue the medicine to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Your doctor will give you a schedule.


Tramadol hydrochloride extended release capsules [package insert]. Revised 06/2015. Trigen Laboratories, LLC Accessed 02/2016. Ultram (tramadol) [package insert]. Revised 07/2014. Janssen Pharmaceuticals. Accessed 01/2016

  • Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use Tramadol only for the indication prescribed.

  • Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure that this information is accurate, up-to-date, and complete, but no guarantee is made to that effect. Drug information contained herein may be time sensitive. This drug information does not endorse drugs, diagnose patients or recommend therapy. It is an informational resource designed as a supplement to, and not a substitute for, the expertise, skill, knowledge and judgment of healthcare practitioners. The absence of a warning for a given drug or drug combination in no way should be construed to indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective or appropriate for any given patient. does not assume any responsibility for any aspect of healthcare administered with the aid of this information. The information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. If you have questions about the drugs you are taking, check with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

Copyright 1996-2017 Revision Date: 2015-12-16 23:05:18