10 Shocking Tramadol Side Effects in Elderly

The pain that the elderly feel can be mitigated by medications like Tramadol. However, it has some side effects. Learn about those side effrcts in this article.

It is common knowledge that old age comes with its fair share of medical complications. From hearing loss to depression and dementia, the golden age comes with quite a bit of issues.

And pain seems to be a commonly occurring issue with the most notorious condition being osteoarthritis or arthritis in short.

Pain relievers have been there for a while now and they are easily accessible in pretty much all chemist shops under the sun.

These off-the-counter painkillers work pretty well for the most part…until they don’t.

When the efficacy of common painkillers like aspirin and ibuprofen falls off in some patients, tramadol becomes a feasible option.

Think of tramadol as a painkiller you do not want to use until you really have to, especially for the elderly.


So what exactly is tramadol?

Tramadol is a strong painkiller that belongs to a group of medicines called opiates or narcotics. It is sold under several brand names with the most common one being Ultram.

It is used to treat moderate to severe pain for instance, after a serious injury or a major operation. Generally, acetaminophen is accepted as the first-line agent for mild to moderate pain in the elderly due to its favourable safety profile.

Tramadol should thus only be used after acetaminophen is not effective.

Tramadol is only sold under prescription since it can be habit-forming and addictive, especially if used over long periods of time.

Do note that tramadol side effects in elderly people may manifest if you do not take the necessary precautionary measures.

Quick note, we will be focusing on its effects on the elderly for the purposes of this article. This does not mean that is not effective for young adults; it is.


How is it Taken?

It is usually sold in tablet form to be taken orally. The dosage entirely depends on the prescription by your GP.

When taken orally, pain relief can be experienced as early as an hour.

An injection option also exists with similar efficacy. This is however used more in hospitals.

Benefits of Tramadol

Here are the benefits to be experienced by taking tramadol in the elderly people;

It Relieves Chronic Pain

This is pretty much its main benefit; as you would expect from a painkiller.

Tramadol acts as one of the last walls against mild to severe pain.

It works where more conventional painkillers cannot. Be sure to use it strictly according to the prescription or you could experience tramadol side effects in elderly people.

Who Should Not Take Tramadol

Generally, tramadol is pretty safe to use when taken under prescription. However, tramadol side effects in elderly people may be experienced if misused.

These side effects increase in gravity if taken by certain groups of people that we will herein mention. Do not take tramadol if you have;

  • Mild to severe asthma or breathing complications.
  • A bowel obstruction.
  • If you have taken alcohol, sedatives or narcotic medication in the recent past. (Including other medication containing tramadol)
  • If you have used an MAO inhibitor such as isocarboxazid (Marplan®), phenelzine (Nardil®), selegiline (Eldepryl®),  tranylcypromine (Parnate®) or linezolid (Zyvox®) within the past two weeks.

Which Drugs Should Not Be Taken With Tramadol?

Quite a number of drugs can be dangerous when taken alongside tramadol.

In order to avoid tramadol side effects in elderly people, ensure you inform your doctor of any and all medication you are on prior to the prescription.

Here are the drugs that are known to react negatively with tramadol;

  • Other opioid medicines and narcotics.
  • A certain benzodiazepine sedative like Valium or Xanax;
  • Any sleep medicine that has a drowsy effect.
  • Drugs that directly affect serotonin levels such as antidepressants or stimulants.
  • Medication for irritable bowel, blood pressure or asthma.

Side Effects of Tramadol

Tramadol when prescribed correctly, may have little to no side effects. However, due to the vague nature of pain measurement, tramadol side effects in elderly people have been reported.

Here are some general side effects after intake;

  1. May Cause Headaches

    It is quite counter-intuitive but it has been reported.

    These are known as rebound headaches and they are caused by the continuous use of a particular pain relief medicine for a prolonged period of time.

    It is unlikely that you will experience this in the first few months of use.

  2. It Could Cause Constipation

    Try getting more fibre into your diet while you are taking the drug. This can be gotten from fruits and vegetables.

    A few extra glasses of water could also go a long way in alleviating this. If this persists, be sure to consult your doctor.

  3. It Could Cause Dizziness

    Tramadol could cause dizziness and drowsiness after intake. This is a rather common side effect with up to 1 in 10 people reporting to have experienced it.

    It could also prove to be dangerous. Be sure to steer clear of machines, tools and driving when you experience this.

    This effect should fade within a week or two though as your body gets used to it. As always, if it persists, be sure to talk to your GP.

  4. May Cause Nausea

    A feeling of sickness or nausea is another one of the tramadol side effects in elderly people. Be sure to stick to simple meals and do not take spicy foods.

    It might help if you take tramadol after a meal. If it continues to make you feel sick consult your doctor.

  5. May Cause Sweating

    This is a less common one of the tramadol side effects in elderly people. If it occurs, however, try wearing light and loose clothing.

    Use a fan as well if possible. If you find it unbearable, consult your practitioner to see if you can get another painkiller.

  6. It Could Cause a Reduction in Energy Levels

    Yet another one of the potential tramadol side effects in elderly people is lower energy levels. This could also be described as fatigue.

    If the fatigue is too much and is almost impairing all activity, you may consider getting another painkiller prescribed to you.

  7. You May Have A Dry Mouth

    Dry mouth or xerostomia is a condition where your salivary glands do not make enough saliva to keep your mouth wet.

    It is often a side effect of medication such as tramadol in this case. Try sugar free chewing gum to stimulate your salivary glands.

    Your doctor may prescribe a saliva substitute in the form of a lozenge or gel in more severe cases.

Side Effects on Discontinuation

  1. It May Be Addictive

    Tramadol can be habit-forming and addictive due to its narcotic properties. This is possibly the main reason why it needs to be prescribed.

    This is usually experienced on discontinuation of using the drug after prolonged use. However, this should not bar you from using narcotics to relieve your pain.


Side Effects of Misuse/Overdose

These are tramadol side effects in elderly people that may be experienced if you use the drug when you are in no pain or if you overdose.

  1. It Could Cause Serious Breathing Problems

    Impaired breathing is a side effect linked to tramadol overdose.

    If this occurs, seek immediate medical attention.

  2. Death May Occur

    Tramadol overdose or tramadol poisoning has been shown to go as far as causing death.

    With 240 deaths related to tramadol poisoning recorded in 2014 in England and Wales alone, this drug has serious consequences when misused.

    Not to worry though, stick to the stipulated dose and you should be fine.


Remember, this drug falls under the opioids and narcotics category, an indicator that it is not a drug you want to be taking haphazardly.

This drug is available on prescription only and for good reason too; it is quite potent.

Your GP should guide you on how and when to stop taking the medication to curb the notorious addictive effect it could have.

Tramadol should be one of the last options for pain relief.

Be sure to try the more conventional painkillers before considering this one.

And for the love of all things good in this world, do not use this as a sedative alternative, especially in high doses. You may find yourself relaxing … permanently.

[related_posts_by_tax posts_per_page="4"]