Tramadol (Ultram) is a synthetic opioid drug designed for the treatment of moderate to severe pain. It was developed as a safer alternative to other narcotic drugs in terms of its potential for abuse and the development of physical dependence. However, the drug can be abused and is classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance by the DEA. Thus, tramadol does have the potential for the development of physical dependence and abuse.
The development of physical dependence is one potential side effect of taking the drug for a period of several weeks. The drug is commonly prescribed for the short-term management of pain and can only be legally obtained with a prescription.
Specific Side Effects of Tramadol
Nearly every medication has a side effect profile associated with its use. This is because medications alter the functioning of an individual’s system, and often, there are number of different ramifications that are associated with this alteration. Just because an individual experiences some of the milder and more common side effects associated with the medication does not mean that the individual should discontinue it.
Physicians will often discuss the more common side effects of taking the medication with the individual and specify under what conditions the person should contact them if they experience side effects. Nonetheless, whenever someone experiences side effects that are distressing, they should contact their physician.
The FDA lists the common side effects of using tramadol as:
- Nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, constipation, or diarrhea
- Feeling flushed, sweating, or itching
- Lethargy and/or drowsiness
- Headache, dizziness, and mild nervousness or anxiety
Rare side effects are listed as:
- Fullness in the stomach or indigestion
- Severe stomach cramps, severe nausea, or severe indigestion
- Increased blood pressure
- Dizziness when rising from a sitting or lying position
- Blurred vision
- Blood in the urine, dark urine, difficulty urinating, or frequent urination
- Chest pain
- Blisters under the skin
- Decreased sensation to touch
- Weakness, tingling, or numbness in the face, fingers, or toes
- Pain in the arms, legs, or lower back, or in the calves or heels when undergoing strenuous activity
- Discomfort or pain in the jaw, back, neck, or arms
- Pain or discomfort in the stomach or side that radiates to the back
- Difficulty walking or with balance
- Increased or irregular heartbeat
- Chills or recurrent fever
- Fainting spells
- Paleness or cold hands or feet
- A yellow tinge to the skin or eyes
- Mild confusion or difficulty performing routine tasks
- Tremors or shakiness in the hands and feet
- A loss of memory
According to the FDA, people who experience the common side effects should talk to their physician. In many cases, the side effects will eventually subside. Individuals experiencing any of the rare side effects listed above should immediately contact their physician. This is particularly true for individuals who begin to experience cognitive issues or seizure-like side effects, such as trembling, shaking, etc.
Tramadol may also have a number of untoward interactions with other medications. Anyone prescribed tramadol should provide their physician with a complete list of the medications they are taking.