Tramadol (Ultram) is now classified as a controlled substance due to its high potential for abuse. The drug has been shown to work in a similar manner to morphine. People with chronic pain, narcotic abusers, or healthcare professionals may be at a higher risk for abusing this drug.
Can Tramadol Be Abused?Tramadol hydrochloride (Ultram®) is a prescription pain medication. Now classified as a controlled substance in the United States, the drug does have the potential to be abused. However, it is important to distinguish between true tramadol abuse and a simple physical dependence on the drug, which will occur with any long-term use, legitimate or not.
Statistics on Tramadol AbuseFrom 1995 to 2004, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) received reports of 766 cases of tramadol abuse and 482 cases of tramadol withdrawal. The actual number is probably much higher, as not every case of addiction is discovered or reported. Interestingly, statistics indicate that tramadol is most likely to be abused by people with chronic pain, narcotics abusers, and healthcare professionals.
Abuse Potential of Tramadol
Originally, tramadol was marketed as a medication with weak narcotic effects and little potential for abuse. As a result, many healthcare providers came to view tramadol as a relatively safe medication for people who were at risk for drug abuse, such as people with previous problems with drug or alcohol abuse. However, research has since demonstrated that tramadol works primarily through morphine-like activity, and numerous cases of abuse and dependence have been reported. Now, the prescribing information for this medication contains several different warnings about the potential for tramadol abuse.
In addition, in July 2014, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration reclassified tramadol as a Schedule IV controlled substance (prior to that date, tramadol was not classified as a controlled substance), further acknowledging the significant potential for abuse for this drug.
You may find many Web sites and other sources of information stating that tramadol has little to no potential for abuse. These sources are likely outdated.
It should be noted that tramadol is thought to have less potential for abuse compared to morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, or other similar medications.