If you have moderate to moderately severe pain, your healthcare provider may prescribe Ultram. This medication works by affecting certain brain chemicals and by working in the central nervous system. It comes in tablet form and is typically taken every four to six hours as needed for pain. Possible side effects may include nausea, headaches, and drowsiness.
What Is Ultram?
Ultram® (tramadol hydrochloride) is a prescription medication approved to treat moderate to moderately severe pain in adults. Although not originally considered a controlled substance or a narcotic by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Ultram was later reclassified as a Schedule IV Controlled Substance. Ultram has significant potential for abuse.
Brand-name Ultram is made by Janssen Ortho, LLC, and is marketed by Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical, Inc. Generic versions are made by various manufacturers.
How Does Ultram Work?
Ultram is classified as a "centrally acting opioid analgesic." This means that it works in the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord), acts much like morphine in the body, and relieves pain. Much like morphine, Ultram binds to certain opioid receptors in the body known as μ ("mu") receptors.
Ultram also works in a similar manner as some antidepressant medications, by inhibiting the reuptake of certain brain chemicals (serotonin and norepinephrine). Serotonin and norepinephrine are two of several chemicals used to send messages from one nerve cell to another. As a message travels down a nerve, it causes the end of the cell to release serotonin or norepinephrine. The serotonin or norepinephrine enters the gap between the first nerve cell and the one next to it. When enough reaches the second nerve cell, it activates receptors on the cell and the message continues on its way. The first cell then quickly absorbs any serotonin or norepinephrine that remains in the gap between cells. This is called "reuptake."
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U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, Office of Diversion Control. Drugs and chemicals of concern: tramadol (9/2008). DEA Web site. Available at: http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drugs_concern/tramadol.htm. Accessed December 16, 2008.
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