Trends in Tramadol: Pharmacology, Metabolism, and Misuse

Karen Miotto, Arthur K. Cho, Mohamed A. Khalil, Kirsten Blanco, Jun D. Sasaki, Richard Rawson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

90 Scopus citations

Abstract

Tramadol is a unique analgesic medication, available in variety of formulations, with both monoaminergic reuptake inhibitory and opioid receptor agonist activity increasingly prescribed worldwide as an alternative for high-affinity opioid medication in the treatment of acute and chronic pain. It is a prodrug that is metabolized by cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes CYP2D6 and CYP3A4 to its more potent opioid analgesic metabolites, particularly the O-demethylation product M1. The opioid analgesic potency of a given dose of tramadol is influenced by an individual's CYP genetics, with poor metabolizers experiencing little conversion to the active M1 opioid metabolite and individuals with a high metabolic profile, or ultra-metabolizers, experiencing the greatest opioid analgesic effects. The importance of the CYP metabolism has led to the adoption of computer clinical decision support with pharmacogenomics tools guiding tramadol treatment in major medical centers. Tramadol's simultaneous opioid agonist action and serotonin (5-HT) and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitory effects result in a unique side effect profile and important drug interactions that must be considered. Abrupt cessation of tramadol increases the risk for both opioid and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor withdrawal syndromes. This review provides updated important information on the pharmacology, pharmacokinetics, CYP genetic polymorphisms, drug interactions, toxicity, withdrawal, and illicit use of tramadol.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)44-51
Number of pages8
JournalAnesthesia and analgesia
Volume124
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine

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