Tramadol

Sounds like 'tra-ma-doll'

Easy-to-read medicine information about tramadol – what it is, how to take tramadol safely and possible side effects.

Type of medicine

Also called

  • Belongs to a group of medicines known as analgesics (pain killers)
  • Opioid pain reliever
  • Tramal®
  • Arrow-Tramadol®
  • Durotram XR®

What is tramadol?

  • Tramadol is an opioid painkiller used for the relief of moderately severe pain such as after an injury, or operation.
  • Tramadol works on your brain and nervous system to lessen the way your feel pain.
  • It works best if you use it when the first signs of pain occur. If you wait until the pain has worsened, tramadol may not work as well.
  • Other pain relievers (such as paracetamol, ibuprofen) may also be prescribed with tramadol.

Dose

  • The dose of tramadol will be different for different people.
  • Always take your tramadol exactly as your doctor has told you. The pharmacy label on your medicine will tell you how much tramadol to take, how often to take it, and any special instructions.

How to take tramadol

  • Tramadol is not affected by food so you can take it with or without food.
  • Tramadol is available in a range of formulations such as tablets, capsules, liquid, and injection. Some formulations are short-acting or immediate release and others are long-acting or slow release. Ask your pharmacist if you are not sure about the formulation you are taking.
  • The long-acting formulation must be swallowed whole. Do not crush or chew. This will release all the medication at once and cause side effects.
  • Limit or avoid drinking alcohol while your are taking tramadol. Combining tramadol with alcohol can make you more sleepy, drowsy or dizzy.
  • If you forget to take your dose, take it as soon as you remember that day. But, if it is nearly time for your next dose, just take the next dose at the right time. Do not take double the amount.

Possible side effects

Like all medicines, tramadol can cause unwanted side effects, although not everyone gets them. Often unwanted side effects improve as your body gets used to the new medicine.

Side effects What should I do?
  • Feeling sleepy, dizzy or tired
  • Reduced concentration
  • This is common when starting tramadol or after increasing the dose
  • Be careful when driving or using tools until you know how this medicine affects you
  • Do not drink alcohol
  • Feeling sick (nausea) or vomiting
  • This common in the first week to ten days of treatment
  • Mostly this settles and goes away
  • Tell your doctor if this is troublesome. You may need an anti-sickness tablet at times
  • Constipation
  • Ask your doctor to prescribe a suitable laxative, which you need to take on a regular basis 
  • You also need to eat more fruit, vegetables, brown bread, bran based breakfast cereals and drink plenty of water
  • Headache, dry mouth, altered vision
  • These are quite common when you first start taking tramadol, and usually go away with time.
  • Tell your doctor if troublesome.
  • Frequent mood changes, anxiety, depression, thoughts of suicide, abnormal behaviours
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealhLine 0800 611 116
  • Signs of an allergic reaction such as skin rashes, itches, swelling of the face, lips, mouth, or difficulty breathing  
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealhLine 0800 611 116
  • Signs of serotonin syndrome such as feeling agitated and restless, heavy sweating, shivering, fast heart rate or irregular heart beat, headache, diarrhoea and rigid or twitching muscles
  • You are at increased risk of serotonin syndrome if you recently started
    taking tramadol or recently increased the dose
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealhLine 0800 611 116

Interactions

Tramadol may interact with a few medications and herbal supplements, so check with your doctor or pharmacist before starting tramadol or before starting any new medicines. 

Learn more

The following links provide further information on tramadol.

Medsafe Consumer Information sheets:

Arrow-Tramadol
Tramal
Tramal SR

New Zealand Formulary Patient Information: tramadol

Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Dr J Bycroft. Health Navigator NZ