How Long Does Tramadol Stay in Your System?

May 4, 2022

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The metabolites of Tramadol stay in your body for about two days. You may only feel the effects of a dose for a few hours, but after that time the body metabolizes the drug into non “active” metabolites. These metabolites stay in the body for several days. 

If you've taken tramadol illicitly and have an important drug screening coming up, know that you could test positive for hours, days, or even a week  depending on the testing method used.

How Long Does Tramadol Last?

Tramadol is a prescription medication designed to ease pain. Tramadol is an opioid like morphine, but it's among the weakest in its class. You may not feel overwhelming changes like you would with a Vicodin pill. But it can and will alter how you feel.

Tramadol typically makes users feel:[1]

  • Calm 
  • Relaxed 
  • Drowsy 
  • Soothed 
  • Comfortable 

Take Tramadol orally, and those changes will appear slowly over a half hour to several hours, as the drug first has to move through the digestive tract before it is absorbed and begins to act in the body. Snort or shoot the drug, and you’ll feel the changes much faster. 

People using tramadol by prescription can  take it just as needed or as frequently as every four to six hours.[2] Recreational users may feel their changes wear off within the same timeframe. But if you use tramadol regularly and develop a tolerance, you may feel sober much faster. 

Tramadol is a controversial drug amongst prescribers because it is an opioid medication, but unlike full opioids, different people metabolize it very differently and therefore some people get a lot of pain relief while others get very little. Because of this unpredictability, it should be started slowly and cautiously.

How Long Will Tramadol Appear in a Drug Test?

If you have a prescription for tramadol, bring it with you to your drug screening. The laboratory can confirm that you are using the drug via your doctor's orders, and you will not “fail” your drug test. But if you're using tramadol illicitly, your test may be positive.  

Your drug test could be any of the following types:

  • Blood: Tramadol has a plasma half-life of about six hours.[3] Your body must go through many half-lives to completely eliminate all traces. Tramadol can appear in a blood test for several days after you take it. 
  • Saliva: Spit tests typically measure drugs you've taken very recently. Within a day or two, it's not detectable. 
  • Urine: Processed tramadol leaves your body in urine. Narcotics like tramadol cause failed tests for one to three days.[4]
  • Hair: Particles of tramadol could stay in strands of your hair for months, even if you wash it. 

Note that these are estimates. How much tramadol you take, how you take it, your health and how quickly you metabolize substances can all alter the results.[5]

In general, if you've been using tramadol, expect it to appear on your drug test. 

Elena Hill, MD, MPH

Elena Hill, MD; MPH received her MD and Masters of Public Health degrees at Tufts Medical School and completed her family medicine residency at Boston Medical Center. She is currently an attending physician at Bronxcare Health Systems in the Bronx, NY where she works as a primary care physician as well as part time in pain management and integrated health. Her clinical interests include underserved health care, chronic pain and integrated/alternative health.

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Citations

  1. Tramadol. Frank. https://www.talktofrank.com/drug/tramadol#duration. Accessed April 2022. 
  2. Tramadol. National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a695011.html. January 2022. Accessed April 2022. 
  3. An Overview of Tramadol and Its Usage in Pain Management and Future Perspectives. Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0753332218373694. March 2019. Accessed April 2022. 
  4. Urine Drug Screening: A Valuable Office Procedure. American Family Physician. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2010/0301/p635.html. March 2010. Accessed April 2022. 
  5. Tramadol Half-Life Is Dose Dependent in Overdose. Daru Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4348403/. 2015. Accessed April 2022.

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