Is Tramadol Stronger Than Codeine?

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Codeine is an opiate pain medication, also referred to as a narcotic, used to treat mild to moderate pain. Opiates are substances that are derived from the opium poppy plant. They elicit a pain-relieving effect by binding to the opioid receptors in one’s brain and depressing the central nervous system. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has scheduled codeine as a Schedule II Substance, which are “drugs, substances, or chemicals [that] are defined as drugs with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence.” When used as exactly as directed, codeine can be a highly effective medication. Depending on the dose, codeine can have a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence. Individuals that abuse codeine most commonly do so for its calming effects. Codeine is not as innately addictive as other opiates (e.g., heroin, fentanyl, oxycodone, etc.), but when abused it can be both dangerous and habit-forming. 

Tramadol

Tramadol is the generic form of the brand-named medication known as Ultram. It is a prescription narcotic-like medication used to relieve moderate to moderately severe pain in adults. It belongs to the group of medications called opioid analgesics. As an opioid analgesic, Tramadol works by binding to the opioid receptors in one’s body, intentionally interfering with the communication of certain neurotransmitters that would otherwise deliver pain messages to one’s brain. The way Tramadol interacts with one’s natural chemicals, in turn, results in diminishing one’s perception of pain. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies Tramadol as a Schedule IV Substance, which are defined as “drugs with a low potential for abuse and low risk of dependence.” It is a synthesized opioid, meaning it has a similar chemical structure to codeine, but it is made in a lab. When used exactly as directed, Tramadol can be a highly effective medication, however, akin to codeine, when abused can lead to severe adverse consequences. Although Tramadol is manufactured in a lab, it is not necessarily stronger than codeine. 

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If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one regarding substance abuse and/ or addiction, we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. If left untreated, substance abuse can result in long lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. Keep in mind: you are not alone! There is an entire network of professionals that are available to help and support you and your loved one throughout the recovery process. The earlier you seek support, the sooner your loved one can return to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.

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