Is Tramadol an Opioid?

Before taking tramadol, it’s important to ask “is tramadol an opioid?” The question can be confusing. This is because tramadol was originally not classified as an opioid. However, it is chemically similar to morphine and codeine. Both of these are opioids. Tramadol has also been associated with abuse. This is the same as with other opioid painkillers. The simplest answer to “is tramadol an opioid?” comes from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). That organization does consider Tramadol an opioid. This classification is due to tramadol acting on the opioid receptor system in the brain. However, it is a unique type of opioid.

History of Tramadol

In 1995, tramadol reached the market. Doctors immediately began prescribing it as a painkiller. At first, the FDA claimed tramadol was a “non-controlled substance.” This means it is not a narcotic. By 2014, the FDA changed its mind. From 1995 to 2014 there were increasing incidents of tramadol abuse. Likewise, there were hospitalizations associated with overuse of tramadol. Therefore, the FDA reclassified it as a Schedule IV controlled substance.
Most opioids are classified as Schedule II narcotics. Some are Schedule I. Since tramadol is not as severe as most opioids – such as morphine and heroin – the FDA gave it a lower ranking. Though not as commonly abused as other opioids, state organizations which monitor prescription drugs still track the use of Tramadol.

Woman holding a tray of pills

Uses for Tramadol

Doctors most commonly prescribe tramadol to ease pain. It is most effective against moderate pain. This is similar to other opioids, including those with a higher drug classification.
Researchers have also found that tramadol can be used to help treat Opioid Use Disorder (OUD). This makes it comparable to methadone. Doctors sometimes prescribe tramadol for those who are addicted to more severe opioids. Since tramadol can provide some of the benefits of stronger, more addictive opioids, it can assist patients in quitting opioids entirely. Typically, this is part of a Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) program.

What Makes Tramadol Different from Other Opioids?

The first key to understanding how tramadol is different from other opioids is in understanding opioids themselves. To do this, it is necessary to explain the difference between “opioids” vs. “opiates.”

Opioids vs. Opiates

Many opioids are also opiates. They are slightly different in that opiates come from poppy plants. Some of the most well known opiates include drugs like opium, heroin, morphine, and codeine.

Each of these drugs is made directly from parts of poppies. The name “opiate” means that a drug is chemically close to opium. It can also mean it is actually opium. These drugs are both opioids and opiates. But not all opioids come directly from poppy plants.

Most opioids are made in laboratories. They are synthetic. However, some opioids are partially made from some of the chemical parts of opium. This means they don’t come from poppy plants, but have many similarities to opiates. Drugs of this type include hydrocodone, oxycodone, oxymorphone, and buprenorphine.

Opioid Treatment

Now that you know the answer to “is tramadol an opioid” you know whether or not it can lead to an opioid use disorder, or OUD. Anyone battling with tramadol addiction should seek help. Reach out to us and we can begin a treatment program to help you quit. We pride ourselves on caring for each patient individually. We build our programs around serving every need of our patients. By treating the body, mind and spirit, we can help ensure complete recovery. Our staff is trained to address opioid use disorder in all its forms. We have a program to fit every lifestyle. Whether you need partial hospitalization, or merely outpatient care, we can assist you. Don’t wait to get your life back. Call today and let us help you start your recovery journey.