Tramadol is an opioid painkiller that is recommended to be considered as a controlled substance. Addiction and mortality associated with its use have pressurized Health Canada to take this decision. Still, have doubts? Here are answers to some common questions on this topic.

What is a controlled substance?

By Definition, a controlled substance is a drug that the government of any country strictly controls as it may cause addiction or be abused. The control applies to making, handling, using, distributing, and storing the substance.

Some common controlled substances include stimulants, opioids, hallucinogens, depressants, and anabolic steroids.

Controlled substances having medical applications such as Valium, morphine, and Ritalin are available only through a prescription from a licensed healthcare professional.  Tramadol will soon be included in this list. This means there will be a limit to the number of refills a doctor can prescribe.

Those controlled substances with no medical use, such as LSD and heroin, are illegal in Canada.

Is Tramadol a Controlled Substance?

Yes, tramadol is included in Schedule I drugs under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) and Narcotic Control Regulations (NCR). This means it will be subjected to the same regulatory requirements applicable for other opioid analgesics.

Tramadol is a synthetic opioid analgesic previously regulated under the Food and Drugs Act (FDA). While tramadol can provide pain relief, its long-term use can cause dependence and tolerance. It may also cause harmful effects, including death.

When first approved in 1995, tramadol was not considered an opiate. Till now, it was not included under CDSA or NCR, unlike other opioids. But increasing mortality and other problems related to Tramadol’s use have forced Canadian law enforcement agencies to take this action. 

When is Tramadol going to be a controlled substance? 

Health Canada has published Tramadol under schedule I drugs, which means it will be a controlled substance. This addition will take effect in a year, on March 31, 2022.

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Will Tramadol Be a Controlled Substance Everywhere in Canada? 

Yes, Tramadol will be considered a controlled substance throughout Canada.

What To Do Before This change?

The change is to strengthen the surveillance prescribing practices. However, it will be available for legitimate scientific and medical use. So, there is nothing to worry about if you have a condition that needs you to take Tramadol. The amendment will not affect the way a patient can use the medication.

What are the side effects of using Tramadol?

Some common side effects include:

  • Vertigo or dizziness
  • Constipation
  • Headache
  • Itching
  • Dryness of mouth
  • Drowsiness

Adverse effects may include:

  • Heartburn or stomach pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety and nervousness
  • Weakness
  • Decreased appetite

Severe side effects include:

  • Attempted suicide or suicide
  • Central sleep apnea
  • Severely low blood pressure
  • Seizures
  • Imapired consciousness
  • Severe allergic reaction
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