Skip to main content

How and Why Tramadol Became a Controlled Substance

Author Cheryl has been in healthcare for over 30 years. Her knowledge coupled with experience allows her to give advice on some subjects.

Opioid addiction is a major problem today. Learn about Tramadol, a drug that went from being an uncontrolled substance to a controlled one.

Opioid addiction is a major problem today. Learn about Tramadol, a drug that went from being an uncontrolled substance to a controlled one.

The History of Tramadol

In 1946, a German family opened one of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the nation. After the Second World War, the Wirtz family wanted to produce quality drugs for the penniless German inhabitants.

In 1962, Tramadol was invented, and over the next 15 years, it was given to patients in clinical trials for the relief of moderate to severe pain. In 1977, Tramadol was introduced to the market. After its release, many other pharmaceutical companies spent the next 20 years modifying it and making it even more efficient at controlling pain. Korea and Australia were the first regions to start marketing Tramadol after other manufacturers developed it. It was approved for the U.S. market in 1995.

Tramadol became a controlled substance due to its addictive properties.

Tramadol became a controlled substance due to its addictive properties.

Why the DEA Reclassified Tramadol as a Controlled Substance

Because Tramadol has opioid properties, the DEA determined in 2010 that there was an increase in drug abuse with Tramadol. As of August 18, 2014, the drug was reclassified as a schedule IV controlled substance and could no longer be written with refills.

The three factors used to reclassify this drug were as follows:

  • Tramadol has a low potential for abuse relative to the drugs or substances in schedule III. The abuse potential of tramadol is comparable to the schedule IV controlled substance propoxyphene;
  • Tramadol has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the U.S. Tramadol and other tramadol-containing products are approved for marketing by the FDA to manage moderate to moderately severe pain; and,
  • Abuse of tramadol may lead to limited physical dependence or psychological dependence relative to the drugs or other substances in schedule III.


The DEA decided to make this drug a controlled substance because many people were known to be using this medication as a recreational drug instead of for pain. More overdoses were being presented to emergency rooms for Tramadol.

Addiction hurts everyone.

Addiction hurts everyone.

What Is Tramadol Used For?

Tramadol is used for moderate to severe pain in patients that have fibromyalgia, arthritis, and other painful conditions. It is a synthetic opiate that, when used improperly, could become habit-forming. This medication has been a controlled substance in other countries from the time it was introduced. It was uncontrolled in the United States for almost 20 years before the DEA cracked down on drug companies for the abuse of this drug.

Harmful Effects of Tramadol

High doses can be life-threatening. There is also a chance of having a seizure when coming off this medication. It can also deteriorate a user's health due to progressive organ dysfunction and multi-system damage as a result of progressive toxin buildup.

Substance Abuse and Addiction

So why did this drug become popular among recreational drug users? Because it was much easier to get than any of the other narcotics. It's very sad, but true.

Tramadol addiction in recreational drug users is not always a result of bad social influence and peer pressure. Reports published by the National Center for PTSD suggest that natural catastrophes and stressful events can increase anxiety and vulnerability to developing addiction and substance abuse issues.

The American Psychological Association suggests that prompt management of stressful events by a non-pharmacological mechanism helps in preventing substance abuse issues, especially of tramadol. Stressful events produce anxiety, agitation, and physical symptoms like headaches and body aches requiring persistent tramadol ingestion. If these stressful events become routine, most people don’t realize they are growing addicted to tramadol.

Most people start off on tramadol as a temporary pain relief until the wound heals or the injury is treated. However, the added benefits like euphoria, deep sleep, less anxiety, and other pleasurable feelings induce a sense of psychological dependence. It influences individuals to consume a higher dosage to achieve more of the positive effects. Tramadol also decreases the signs of depression by masking the chronic pain that interferes with normal day-to-day activities. (


How Much Is Tramadol Worth to an Addict?

The street value of pain medications is high. In 2020, Tramadol was reported to have a street value of $2 per pill. Drug addicts are willing to pay the price for someone's prescription.

Tramadol over the last four years has steadily grown as a favorite drug of drug addicts. It takes more than the usual dose to feel any euphoric effect. That is why so many people are overdosing on this drug. The more it takes to make you high, the more chance it is to ruin your organs faster.

Mixing this drug with alcohol is a dangerous cocktail but many drug addicts are doing this to achieve a different kind of high.

A few bucks and a six-pack can give you a long-lasting high. Tramadol is time released over an 8-hour period, so the high lasts longer than the traditional Percocet, which has a 4-hour time release.

My Thoughts on Controlled Substances

Any medication that is classified as a narcotic, benzodiazepine, or opiate leaves a good chance of addiction. Doctors prescribing these medications so easily in the past have made it harder for those who really need them. Drug addicts have made other people's lives miserable because every prescription you get here in Florida is put into a database that can be pulled up by any physician.

People are complaining about legalizing medical marijuana, but no one can control the population of people who are addicted to other medications. Working in healthcare, I have seen severe addiction and doctors who allow their patients to become drug addicts. They won't try to wean them off the drugs and allow them to be on a cocktail of medications that are addicting.

I understand addictive medications need to be controlled, but these pill mills that keep dishing out drugs to patients who claim to have pain are just legal drug suppliers. Pain became the fifth vital sign and the people who complained so loudly that their pain was not controlled just got permission to be drug addicts.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.