Tramadol: What Is it and What's it Used For?

Tramadol is a drug indicated for the treatment of moderate to severe pain. When it comes to administering this drug, the dose has to be adjusted to the intensity of the pain and each patient's individual sensitivity.
Tramadol: What Is it and What's it Used For?

Last update: 23 November, 2020

Tramadol is a drug medical professionals indicate to relieve pain. To do so, it acts on specific nerve cells of the spinal cord and the brain. This drug belongs to the family of opioids. However, tramadol behaves differently than other opioid drugs. However, we’ll discuss the mechanism of action of this drug later on in more detail.

Specifically, tramadol is an effective painkiller for the pain a patient suffers after an operation. A single dose of 100 mg of this drug is equivalent to 1 g of paracetamol, one of the most-used drugs analgesics around the world.

In addition to its analgesic properties, it has also been investigated for use as an antidepressant and to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder. This is because it boosts the release of serotonin. However, there’s still no scientific studies on its effects as an antidepressant in the long term.

Tramadol: an opioid drug

Opiod drugs.

Opioids have active ingredients that are characterized by their highly analgesic effects. Overall, they act by interacting with some receptors that are mainly found in the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal tract.

The term “opioid” is usually used to refer to all drugs similar to opium. However, it’s more appropriate to limit its scope to natural opium alkaloids and its semi-synthetic derivatives.

In this sense, we can distinguish three main groups:

  • Opium alkaloids. Morphine and codeine.
  • Semi-synthetic opioids. Heroin and oxycodone.
  • Synthetic opioids. Tramadol.

How does Tramadol word?

This drug has a dual mechanism of action. This means that it triggers its analgesic effect through a combination of two simultaneous mechanisms. On one hand, it binds to μ-opioid receptors on neurons. These receptors are protein structures of cell membranes. When they interact with the molecule, it triggers a series of chemical reactions in the body, thus causing an effect.

Also, the analgesic effect of tramadol is because it’s a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. This is why experts have wanted to investigate if this drug could be used to treat depression.

This drug inhibits the reuptake of norepinephrine and serotonin in the central nervous system. Thus, it prevents the transmission of pain.

You should also read: What Are Opioid Medications Used For?

Uses of Tramadol

A person with a headache.

Overall, Tramadol is a drug indicated for the treatment of moderate to severe pain.

When it comes to administering this drug, the medical professional has to adjust the dose to the intensity of the pain and each patient’s sensitivity. However, doctors should always indicate the lowest effective dose possible to avoid side effects.

Also, certain populations have to take the lowest possible doses. This is because, due to their clinical situation, they’re more likely to suffer complications. Overall, here are some of the basic guidelines doctors use:

  • Adults and teens over the age of 12 should never exceed a daily dose of 400 mg. If the patient’s condition is very serious and they require long-term treatment, they should only follow it with rigorous specialist monitoring.
  • The elderly. A dose adjustment isn’t usually necessary up to age 75 if the patient doesn’t suffer from kidney or liver failure. However, the older a person is, the more the dosing intervals have to be stretched out.
  • Patients with kidney or liver failure. Finally, doctors usually extend the dosing intervals according to each patient’s clinical needs.

The side effects of Tramadol

Tramadol pills.

Tramadol, like all other drugs, has possible side effects. The most common ones are nausea and dizziness. However, it may also trigger other symptoms, such as:

  • Psychiatric disorders.
  • Dependence.
  • Gastrointestinal system problems.
  • Impaired vision.
  • Nervous system involvement.


Finally, this drug is a prescription medication. This means that you shouldn’t take it without medical authorization. Misusing Tramadol may lead to dependence, which can have serious health consequences.

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