What Are The Differences Between Tramadol And Oxycodone?

Oxycodone is arguably one of the most abused prescription drugs in the United States. In 2014, the Drug Enforcement Administration released a report stating that Oxycodone became the most frequently encountered drug by drug enforcers since 2009. (1)

Tramadol originated from Germany way back in 1962 before it was introduced in the United States as a nonscheduled drug, meaning it is believed to have little abuse potential, thus, warranting fewer restrictions from the FDA.

Tramadol is widely preferred over Oxycodone because many believe that the former has lesser addictive properties than the latter.  When it was introduced, it was meant to counteract the surge of drug abuse of other psychoactive pain killers; however, some claim that the drug may have ended up as an alternative for drug addicts instead of a cure.

Uses Of Tramadol And Oxycodone

Tramadol and Oxycodone are quite similar for which they are made for. They are both prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain.

Researchers from Helsinki University Central Hospital, Finland compared the efficacy of both drugs in 1999. The research was done on patients who underwent maxillofacial surgery. The researchers were able to prove that Tramadol is actually 8 times more potent than Oxycodone when it comes to pain reduction.

Side Effects Of Tramadol And Oxycodone

Tramadol is believed to have lesser side effects than the semi-synthetic Oxycodone. However, further research yielded that this is only applicable to some types of side effects.

Listed below are the comparisons of the incidence of each side effect by each drug based on research: (2) (3)

  • Constipation: Research has shown that 24% of users get constipation due to Tramadol compared to a 16% incidence with Oxycodone.
  • Nausea: There is evidence to support that you are twice more likely to get Nausea from Tramadol than Oxycodone. (24% versus 12% respectively)
  • Dizziness: Tramadol significantly causes more dizziness than Oxycodone. Patients are 26% likely to experience dizziness with Tramadol compared to Oxycodone’s 4%.
  • Vomiting: the possibility of vomiting from either drug is considerably small. However, there is still twice as much possibility of vomiting with Tramadol. (9% vs. 5%)

As can be seen from the values above, you are more likely to experience these side effects by drinking Tramadol than Oxycodone. However, this is may be explained and compensated by Tramadol’s higher efficacy and lower abuse potential.

Effect On Pregnant Women

The FDA has given Tramadol a grade C when it comes to its effects on unborn babies. A grade C means that there is enough evidence that the drug could significantly harm fetuses. On the other hand, Oxycodone was given a safer grade B. This means that animal tests on the drug yielded no significant harm on unborn babies, but further research on humans is needed.

Price Of Tramadol And Oxycodone

When bought through registered pharmacies, Tramadol is said to be two to three times cheaper than its counterpart Oxycodone. Tramadol can be purchased for an average of $50 per 30 50 mg tablets, while Oxycodone sells for $56 for 30 5 mg tablets. Both drugs are covered by most Medicare and other insurance plans. (4)

However, a study of illicit sales of the drug found out that a person can buy a single milligram of Oxycodone for $0.96, while Tramadol has a street price of $0.05 for the same amount. This may have been due to the stiffer restrictions the DFA has imposed on Oxycodone. (5)

Risk Of Addiction From Tramadol And Oxycodone

Research on Tramadol has concluded that it is less addictive than other opioids like Oxycodone. However, there were also other researchers that were able to show that higher doses of Tramadol could still have the same addictive properties as Oxycodone (6)

Tramadol and Oxycodone are both powerful drugs. Choosing between either one of them must be made by a licensed doctor. Never try to self-diagnose as it can lead to severe consequences.


Zacny, J. P. (2005). Profiling the subjective, psychomotor, and physiological effects of tramadol in recreational drug users. Drug Alcohol Depend, 80(2), 273-278. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2005.05.007

Dasgupta, N., Freifeld, C., Brownstein, J. S., Menone, C. M., Surratt, H. L., Poppish, L., Dart, R. C. (2013). Crowdsourcing black market prices for prescription opioids. J Med Internet Res, 15(8), e178. doi:10.2196/jmir.2810

Dasgupta N., F. C. (2013). Crowdsourcing black market prices for prescription opioids. Journal of Medical Internet Research .

Drug Enforcement Administration. (2014). Oxycodone.

FDA package inserts for Oxycontin (oxycodone). (n.d.). Retrieved August 2, 2017, from Iodine: http://www.iodine.com/drug/oxycodone/fda-package-insert

FDA package inserts for Ultram (tramadol). (n.d.). Retrieved August 2, 2017, from Iodine: http://www.iodine.com/drug/tramadol/fda-package-insert

MacLaren, E. (n.d.). Is Tramadol the New OxyContin? Retrieved August 2, 2017, from DrugAbuse: http://drugabuse.com/library/is-tramadol-addictive/

Opioids. (n.d.). Retrieved August 2, 2017, from GoodRx: https://www.goodrx.com/opioids