Tramadol: what is it and what is it used for?

Tramadol is a drug indicated to relieve pain. For it, it acts on the specific nerve cells of the spinal cord and the brain. However, the mechanism of action of this drug will be discussed later in more detail.

Specific, tramadol is an effective analgesic for pain suffered by a patient after an operation. A single dose of 100 mg of this drug is equivalent to 1 g of paracetamol, one of the most widely used drugs for pain.

It belongs to the pharmacological family of opioids. But nevertheless, tramadol presents a behavior different from the usual one of opioid drugs.

In addition to its usefulness in soothing pain, its use as an antidepressant and against obsessive compulsive disorder has also been investigated, because it works by increasing the release of serotonin. However, there are still no studies of its effects as a long-term antidepressant.

Learning about opioid drugs

The family of opioids is a set of active principles that They are characterized by having a highly analgesic effect. They act by interacting with receptors that are mainly found in the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal tract.

Although the term opioid is normally used to refer to all opiate-like drugs, it is more appropriate to limit its scope to the natural alkaloids of opium and its semi-synthetic derivatives.

In this sense, we can differentiate three large groups:

  • Opium alkaloids: morphine and codeine.
  • Semi-synthetic opioids: heroin and oxycodone.
  • Synthetic opioidsTramadol

How does tramadol exert its effect on the body?

The mechanism of action of this drug is dual, that is, it triggers its analgesic effect thanks to the combination of two simultaneous mechanisms. On the one hand, it has an agonist activity on the central opioid receptors of the μ type.

The receptors are protein structures of cell membranes that, when interacting with a molecule, trigger a series of chemical reactions in the body causing an effect.

In addition to its agonism with opiate receptors, the analgesic effect of tramadol is also due to the fact that is able to block the reuptake of synaptic amines. Hence, they have wanted to investigate other indications of this drug with depression.

It inhibits, therefore, the reuptake of norepinephrine and serotonin in the central nervous system and, thus, prevents transmission of the pain impulse through the bone marrow.

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What is tramadol indicated for?

Tramadol is a drug indicated for the treatment of pain of moderate to severe intensity, as we have mentioned at the beginning of the article.

When administering this medication, the dose should be adjusted to the intensity of the pain and the individual sensitivity of each patient. However, the minimum effective dose should always be administered, in order to avoid adverse effects.

There are certain population groups in which the dose adjustment must be more thorough because, due to their clinical situation, they are more prone to suffer complications. These are:

  • Adults and adolescents over 12 years old: you should never exceed a daily dose of 400 mg. In the event that the condition is very serious and requires prolonged treatment, a rigorous monitoring of the treatment by the specialist should be carried out.
  • Elderly people: dose adjustment is usually not necessary until age 75 if there is no renal or hepatic failure with symptoms. The older you are, the longer you usually extend the dosing intervals.
  • Patients with renal insufficiency and liver failure: the doctor usually prolongs the dosage intervals according to the clinical needs of each patient.

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Adverse reactions of tramadol

Tramadol, like other drugs, it is not free from adverse effects. Among the most frequent are nausea and vertigo.

However, also can trigger other symptoms like:

  • Psychiatric disorders: dependence
  • Problems of the gastrointestinal system.
  • Alterations of vision.
  • Affectation of the nervous system.


This drug is a prescription medication, so it should not be taken without medical authorization. A misuse of tramadol can lead to a dependency syndrome with serious consequences for health.