Hydrocodone vs Tramadol: The Difference Between the Two Pain Relievers


Hydrocodone and Tramadol are two medicines used to heal pain which is not relieved easily with a non-opioid analgesic. These drugs can treat mild to severe pain or discomfort after medical surgery or in chronic diseases like cancer. However, for several cases of pain, usually non-opioid therapy is tried first. Both hydrocodone and tramadol (hydrocodone vs tramadol) operate by binding the mu-opioid receptors to alter how an individual reacts to pain.

As far as prescription opioids, they are considered stronger than the regular over-the-counter pain medications. Therefore, these medicines require a doctor visit to assess pain.

Main Differences Between Hydrocodone and Tramadol (hydrocodone vs tramadol)

Hydrocodone is the generic version for Hysingla ER and Zohydro ER. Hydrocodone is also consumed as a combination pill along with acetaminophen under brand names Lortab or Vicodin. Unlike tramadol, you need to remember that hydrocodone has been classified as a schedule II DEA drug that has a high risk of abuse. The medicine is available in extended-release tablets in the strengths of 20-120mg. Immediate-release form is only available in combination products, wherein hydrocodone is combined with other medications.

Tramadol is the generic version for Ultram ER, Ultram and ConZip. According to the DEA, it is a schedule 4 narcotic, which denotes that it has some possibility for abuse. Though it ties to mu-opioid receptors, it could also increase the activities of other brain neurotransmitters like serotonin and norepinephrine. The medication is available in immediate-release form, such as 50mg. It is also available in extended-release form, such as 100mg, 150mg, 200mg and 300mg. Some of the unique side effects of tramadol are seizures, weakness, itching, headache, sore throat, congestion and flushing.

Is Hydrocodone or Tramadol More Effective?

Hydrocodone and Tramadol are both productive prescription opioids recommended for pain relief. There are many researches comparing their effectiveness. As hydrocodone is a schedule II drug, it might be considered stronger, though it has a higher possibility for abuse. On the other hand, tramadol might have a low abuse potential along with milder side effects.

In one multicentre research, tramadol combined with acetaminophen was compared with hydrocodone combined with acetaminophen in people feeling pain and discomfort from ankle sprain. 400 patients were divided into 2 groups obtaining one medicine or the other. The results of the study found that both drugs provide comparable relief from pain within 4 hours versus placebo.

In another medical study,hydrocodone combined with acetaminophen was equated with tramadol in 67 patients. The patients had come for an emergency visit for musculoskeletal pain in their muscles, bones or joints. The results discovered that hydrocodone with acetaminophen provided more relief from pain when equated to tramadol based on pain scores with visual analog scale.

Whether a person is prescribed hydrocodone vs tramadol is dependent on the pain level. When evaluating the pain, the doctor will assess the complete medical history, any medicines that can cause drug interactions, and history of substance abuse. Therefore, pain drugs are highly individualized. A physician is the best person to assess whether tramadol or hydrocodone is more productive for you?

Who Should Consume Hydrocodone and Tramadol?

People may take hydrocodone or tramadol for severe health conditions or ailments that cause pain, following a serious accident, or after a medical surgery. A physician’s prescription is essential for both the medications, and due to the dangers of overdose and misuse, people should take the lowest possible dosages for a limited timeframe. Individuals suffering from specific coughs like those emerging from lung cancer might take hydrocodone dose for cough relief. But remember that hydrocodone does not work well for all the kinds of cough.

As tramadol is considered less potent, physicians may recommend it for milder pain. Generally, a medic will only prescribe hydrocodone if somebody is suffering from severe pain, which they can’t manage with tramadol or any other weaker opioid. Usually, hydrocodone and tramadol come in a pill form. You should always swallow the tablet whole and avoid crushing or breaking it. Bear in mind that crushing or breaking pills could cause too much of the dose to enter the body immediately, which in turn, leads to dangerous overdose.

Once an individual has finished taking hydrocodone or tramadol, they should discard any leftover pills appropriately. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended that individuals take these medicines to a sanctioned medication disposal site. You should not keep hydrocodone and tramadol at home once you have discontinued the dosages.

Who Should Not Consume Hydrocodone and Tramadol?

Children below the age of 18 should not be prescribed hydrocodone or any other opioids like codeine, according to the FDA guidelines. Moreover, FDA has also stated that children below the age of 12 should not be given tramadol. It has been found that tramadol could cause dangerous effects or reactions in children below the ages of 12 and 18 if they have been suffering from specific existing medical conditions. Children who take hydrocodone or tramadol are at danger of overdose, addiction, severe breathing problems and even death.

Ladies who are pregnant or who want to get pregnant must not take hydrocodone or tramadol. Consuming these drugs or other opioids in pregnancy period can cause very dangerous health issues in the baby after birth. Furthermore, ladies who are breastfeeding must also avoid consuming opioids, including hydrocodone and tramadol, as an infant can receive dangerous levels of these medications through breast milk.

Side Effects of Hydrocodone and Tramadol

The adverse effects of hydrocodone and tramadol vary from individual to individual but may include:

  • decreased sexual desire
  • changes in menstrual cycle
  • reduced appetite
  • nausea
  • heartburn
  • dry mouth
  • sudden changes in mood
  • shaking
  • nervousness
  • headaches
  • being very sleepy
  • constipation
  • light-headedness, dizziness or fainting
  • drowsiness

Occasionally, hydrocodone or tramadol could cause severe effects or reactions that require urgent medical attention, including:

  • diarrhoea
  • vomiting
  • loss of coordination
  • muscle stiffness
  • severe mood changes
  • agitation
  • twitching or shivering
  • confusion
  • hearing or seeing things that are actually not there
  • hoarse voice
  • swelling of the lips, tongue, throat, face or other parts of body
  • difficulty in breathing
  • difficulty in swallowing

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