Oxycodone vs. Tramadol for Pain

  • Medical Reviewer: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Oxycodone vs. tramadol review

  • Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic narcotic (opiate) pain medication. It is synthesized from thebaine, a part of the poppy plant.
  • Tramadol is a schedule IV, man-made (synthetic) pain reliever (analgesic). It is not a narcotic medication, and it is not a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDs).
  • Oxycodone is classified as a Schedule II drug by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which means it has a high potential for addition and abuse. In comparison, Tramadol is classified as a Schedule IV drug, which means it has a lower potential for abuse and a lower risk for dependence.
  • Both oxycodone and tramadol are prescribed for the management of acute and chronic moderate to severe pain.
  • Common side effects of oxycodone and tramadol include:
  • Some of the serious side effects and adverse events are different for oxycodone and tramadol. For example, oxycodone should be used cautiously in the elderly, debilitated patients, and in patients with serious lung disease because it can depress (slow) breathing. Some patients who received tramadol had seizures, and it may cause serotonin syndrome when combined with other drugs that increase serotonin.
  • Oxycodone has several drug interactions, and should not be taken with alcohol, barbiturates, muscle relaxants, or benzodiazepines, for example, alprazolam (Xanax). Several other drug interactions occur with oxycodone.
  • Tramadol also has several drug interactions, for example, with MAOIs or monoamine oxidase inhibitors, or SSRIs (selective serotonin inhibitors), for example fluoxetine (Prozac).
  • The safety of oxycodone and tramadol have not been established. Children born to mothers who were taking oxycodone for a prolonged period of time may suffer side effects.
  • Oxycodone is secreted in breast milk in small amounts, so it may cause side effects in the newborn. The safety of tramadol in breastfeeding women has not been established.

What are oxycodone and tramadol?

  • Oxycodone is a strong narcotic pain-reliever and cough suppressant similar to morphine, codeine, and hydrocodone. The precise mechanism of action is not known but may involve stimulation of opioid receptors in the brain. Oxycodone does not eliminate the sensation of pain but decreases discomfort by increasing the tolerance to pain. In addition to tolerance to pain, oxycodone also causes sedation and depression of respiration. The FDA approved oxycodone in 1976.
  • Tramadol is a man-made (synthetic) analgesic (pain reliever). Its exact mechanism of action is unknown, but it is similar to morphine. Like morphine, tramadol binds to receptors in the brain (narcotic or opioid receptors) that are important for transmitting the sensation of pain from throughout the body to the brain. Tramadol, like other narcotics used for the treatment of pain, may be abused. Tramadol is not a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) and does not have the increased risk of stomach ulceration and internal bleeding that can occur with NSAIDs. The FDA approved tramadol in March 1995.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/14/2016

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Chronic Pain: Causes and Solutions
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