Tramadol is an opioid-like pain reliever. It is sold under the brand name Ultram. The 50 mg version of Tramadol is also known as the 377 Pill. This article will contain general information on Tramadol.
The reason we say it is ‘opioid-like‘ is that Tramadol is not derived from Opium per se. You may say that it is a synthetic opioid. That’s why Tramadol is one of the pain killers that can withstand moderate to severe pain without the addiction issues.
Before we try to understand how Tramadol works, we should have a general idea of pain and pain relievers.
What Causes Pain?
Pain is the function of a hormone called Prostaglandin. If a body part is bruised, cut, or damaged, Prostaglandin flows to that area. It signals the brain that something is wrong and it needs attention. This created the sensation of pain. It’s important to remember that pain, although it feels bad, is a necessary thing. If the brain doesn’t feel it, it doesn’t attempt to repair the damage.
Prostaglandin has several other functions as well. First, it thickens the blood in that area to stop the flow. Therefore, if it is a small cut, you can see that blood is forming clots. This is an important function. Otherwise, we’d bleed out from a minor cut.
Additionally, Prostaglandin constricts the blood vessels around the area to stop further bleed outs. However, this action causes the area to swell. This also causes fever- the rise of temperature to prevent infection.
Now to the pain killers. There are two major types of pain killers out there:
- Non-Opioid Pain Relievers
- Opioid Pain Relievers
1. Non-Opioid Pain Relievers
These are the common pain relievers that you can just buy at a pharmacy. Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, and Aspirin are some examples of them. Non-opioids generally block the production of Prostaglandin.
Once the production of Prostaglandin is blocked, the pain somewhat goes away. The blood flow is also restored in the painful area. The non-opioids also reduce fever and swelling since there isn’t much Prostaglandin there.
Non-opioid pain relievers are, therefore, good for mild to moderate pains and as much as possible non-cut-related pains such as headaches, toothaches, and menstrual pains. They are not good with severe pains or major cuts such as surgeries.
First of all, you cannot stop the flow of Prostaglandin for long. If the pain is severe and a lot of Prostaglandin is produced, non-opioids can’t do much.
Secondly, if there is a major cut and Prostaglandin is stopped, the patient will simply bleed out. The non-opioids don’t allow clots to form, and they release the constricted blood vessels.
Thirdly, if no Prostaglandin, the brain won’t get the signal and will not attempt to repair the damage, which is okay for menstrual pains, but not okay for a major cut.
Those are the situations where Opioid Pain Relievers come into play.
2. Opioid Pain Relievers
Generally derived from the Opium flower, opioid pain relievers are the powerful ones. They can be used to treat moderate to severe pains. Opioids don’t stop the production or flow of Prostaglandin. Rather, they change the pain perception of the brain.
Simply put, opioids tell the brain, “It doesn’t hurt“. This way, prostaglandin does its job and swells the pain area, and forms clots to stop any bleeding. The brain also gets the signal and gets to do the repairs while the patient feels no pain.
However, this altered state of the brain causes the patient to lose general consciousness. They feel heavily sedated, fall deeply asleep, and lose track of time.
Those are the reasons why opioids are ideal for major cuts and during the recovery period after major surgery. However, they are also pretty addictive. If not administered very carefully by a professional, the patient may overdose on opioid pain relievers.
The overdose may cause the heart to stop or put the patient into a coma where the brain doesn’t return from the altered state.
Oxycodone and Hydrocodone are the examples of two primary pain relievers.
How Does Tramadol Work?
Tramadol is different. It is in-between an opioid and a non-opioid. It is not derived from opium so it is a non-opioid, but it works like an opioid. That means that it changes the perception of the brain.
Yet, the patient may not totally lose consciousness. It can be used for moderate to severe pains just like an opioid. People on Tramadol stay awake while the brain repairs the damage.
A low dosage of Tramadol can also allow people to do everyday things. They don’t fall asleep. You shouldn’t be prescribed Tramadol right after surgery as the patient still needs to rest and sleep during recovery. But you can have Tramadol 2-3 days after surgery until you fully recover.
Tramadol (377 Pill) Schedule
In the USA, Tramadol or 377 pills are considered Schedule IV controlled substance. Unlike Oxycodone, which is Schedule II, Tramadol has a very low potential for abuse and addiction.
Nevertheless, since it is a controlled substance, you will need a prescription to buy Tramadol. On the other hand, due to the spread of the internet, people can now buy Tramadol online without prescriptions.
It is risky, but if you can find a good online pharmacy, you may do so safely. We have a completely separate article for that.
What Are Tramadol Uses?
Because it is in the middle of opioids and non-opioids, the use of Tramadol (Ultram) is wide. From minor pains to major, you can use 377 pills for almost anything.
- Headaches and Migraines
- Menstrual pains
- Sports-related injuries and pains
- Small cuts and bruises
- Pain from stiff muscles (Like from sleeping in the wrong position)
Severe (Major) Pains
- Surgical pains
- Surgical recovery
- Major Cuts and Injuries
- Ulcer pains
- Back pain
- Bone fractures
- Joint pain and sprains
One important thing to remember about Tramadol is that it is not an anti-inflammatory. That is it won’t reduce fever or swelling. If there is too much fever or swelling, Tramadol can be taken together with Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen.
Is Tramadol Narcotic?
Yes, it is. Tramadol may not be a real opioid, but as long as the medication changes the perception of the brain, it is considered a ‘Narcotic‘. Although people generally have a bad feeling about narcotics, the 377 pill is probably not the thing you should worry about.
Why do we call it 377 Pill?
It is only a marking or a pill identifier number. Tramadol 50mg can be both tablets or capsules. One particular company in the USA (Sun Pharmaceuticals) marks its pills ‘377‘ on one side. It got very popular so people started to call it the 377 pill.
What are the available doses of Tramadol?
There are 3 available doses of Tramadol on the market- 50mg, 100mg, and 150mg. They can be both in tablet or capsule forms. It makes no difference. Different companies produce differently. However, the capsules are more popular.
What is the maximum dosage I can take?
Tramadol has a unique feature. A normal adult can take up to 400mg in a day. Do not exceed this. This is the safest way to take Tramadol without overdosing. If the pain is so severe that it doesn’t go away, you should probably switch to a real opioid, but do consult a doctor before that.
Can Tramadol be used as a step-down medication?
It sure can. Step-down medications are recovery medications. For example, after major surgery, the doctor will generally prescribe a strong opioid for a few days to relieve pain a speed up recovery.
After that, there are the step-down medications that have some opioids and some non-opioids like Percocet (Oxycodone-Acetaminophen) or Watson 853 (Hydrocodone-Acetaminophen). Tramadol can replace those and can be in combination with Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen.
In fact, Tramadol is a lot safer as opioids can be very addictive.
Tramadol is the less addictive way to relieve moderate to severe pains. It is a good medication but has some restrictions so you might as well consult a doctor to find out whether it is the right medication for you.
It also may have some side effects, which we will discuss in a separate article. There are also some reports of Tramadol addictions so we shall have another article on how to recover from it fast.
If you have any questions, please leave a comment below and we’ll answer as soon as we can.