Tramadol Now a Schedule IV Drug
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has officially designated tramadol as a Schedule IV substance under the Controlled Substance Act, effective August 18, 2014. On the federal level, until this action, tramadol was an unscheduled prescription medication. However, a number of states had already proactively reclassified it as a controlled substance due to its potential for abuse.
Tramadol, initially released under the brand name Ultram, is a pain reliever used to treat moderate to moderately severe pain. It is a centrally acting synthetic opioid analgesic that works in two ways:
Primarily by binding to the mu-opioid receptors to block pain.
In a weaker way, by inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine – similar to the way antidepressants work to help reduce pain.
According to the DEA description, Schedule IV drugs have low potential for abuse and lead only to limited physical or psychological dependence. The following restrictions/limitations apply to Schedule IV drugs:
Oral prescription orders are allowed.
Prescription orders are valid for 6 months.
Five refills are allowed in a 6 month period.
Examples of some other Schedule IV drugs include Ambien, Ativan, Klonopin, Lunesta, Provigil, Soma, Valium and Xanax.
How Will This Change Affect You?
If you are currently taking tramadol, you shouldn't notice much difference in your ability to get your prescriptions. The biggest change is that doctors can no longer write a prescription for tramadol that covers a year's worth of refills – six months worth is the maximum. And depending on the laws in your state, you may now have to show identification in order to pick up your tramadol prescription.
“Schedules of Controlled Substances: Placement of Tramadol Into Schedule IV.” Federal Register 79 (02 July 2014) 37623-37630.
“Drug Scheduling.” U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Retrieved 18 August 2014.