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Is Tramadol an Opiate?

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Tramadol is commonly prescribed for moderate to moderately severe pain. For people with chronic pain conditions, extended-release tablets and capsules work particularly well because they provide relief round-the-clock. Tramadol alters the way that the brain and body experience pain.

Although doctors remain uncertain of the exact reasons Tramadol is so successful, they do know that is inhibits serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake, which changes brain chemistry and communication in the brain nerve cell circuitry that works to regulate mood and process pain. Further, it attaches to opiate receptors in the central nervous system and enhances the inhibition of pain communication in the spinal cord.

Though many people take Tramadol, whether or not it is an opiate remains something people disagree about. Ideally the following discussion will make the various positions clearer. If you are currently abusing Tramadol and you need assistance abstaining from further use, there is help available. Call 800-662-8079 and speak to an expert who can answer all of your questions.

Tramadol is a Schedule IV Drug

Is Tramadol an Opiate

Tramadol is often prescribed for chronic pain.

Under the Controlled Substances Act, drugs and other substances are split into five schedules by the Drug Enforcement Administration. The category a drug is placed I is determined by:

  • Whether it has a current medical use in the US
  • Their abuse potential
  • Their likelihood of creating dependence is abused

Tramadol falls into schedule IV, which means it has a “low potential for abuse and low risk of dependence.” In a letter penned by the Food and Drug Administration, prescribers were warned about Tramadol’s misuse, abuse, and diversion. Though the FDA notes incidences of abuse are low, they also acknowledge they lack the data to forward a true representation of Tramadol addiction among patients. However, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports 3.2 million people in America used Tramadol for nonmedical purposes in 2012.

Other drugs in the schedule IV category include Xanax, Ambien, and Valium. Clearly, given the other drugs in this category, there is abuse potential, the DEA has simply determined it is less than the risks posed by other drugs.

This is one reason people feel Tramadol cannot be an opiate. Other opiate medications—like fentanyl and oxycodone—fall primarily into schedule II. However, as Tramadol works on some opiate receptors, but not on the ones that cause euphoria, it remains lowly scheduled because it is less likely to be abused.

Tramadol Is in the Opiate Analgesic Class of Medication

There is a class of medication called narcotic analgesics. Other names for this class include narcotics, opiates, and opioid analgesics. These are all medications used to treat chronic, severe pain by attaching to opiate receptors (which Tramadol does). There are at least four opiate receptors and they impact the opiate system, which is in charge of reward, pain, and addictive behaviors.

Tramadol Is Synthetic

Unlike codeine, a natural derivative of the opium poppy, Tramadol is synthetic. That means it is the result of chemical reactions created by scientists in laboratories. It is very similar in structure to codeine and is essentially a non-opiate-derived analogue of codeine.

For some people, being synthetic differentiates Tramadol from naturally occurring opiates and makes it a lesser opiate. However, Dilaudid and Demerol, and Fentanyl are all synthetic opiates and no one is considering them any less of an opiate because of that.

Coping with Tramadol Withdrawal

Whether or Not It Shows Up on Drug Screens Remains in Debate

Some people argue that Tramadol can’t be an opiate because it doesn’t show up on drug tests for opiates. As such, these people reason, it can’t be an opiate. However, there are just as many people who are willing to stand behind their experience of having it show up on a drug test.

The difference seems to be based on what is being screened. If the test is looking for naturally occurring opiates, Tramadol certainly won’t show up because it isn’t one. But, it is definitely a synthetic opiate and is quite likely to trigger a positive result on a thorough drug screening that includes synthetics.

As you can see, Tramadol is an opiate, but its synthetic nature, its drug schedule and the debate about drug screening results makes it seem like it might not be. The fact remains that it is and it is perfectly possible to become addicted to it. If you are abusing Tramadol and you are ready to stop, get the help you need. Call 800-662-8079 and speak to someone immediately who knows exactly what you are going through and is willing and ready to assist you.

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