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Tramadol vs. Oxycodone

Tramadol vs. Oxycodone (Immediate Release and Controlled Release)

Part 1 of 7: Introduction


If you’re in pain, you want a drug that’s going to help you feel better. Three prescription pain drugs you may have heard of are tramadol, oxycodone, and oxycodone CR (controlled release). These drugs are used to treat moderate to severe pain. They belong to a class of drugs called opioid analgesics, which work in your brain to change how your body feels and responds to pain.

If your doctor prescribes one of these drugs for you, they’ll tell you what to expect with your treatment. But if you’re curious about how these drugs compare to each other, this article looks at tramadol, oxycodone, and oxycodone CR side-by-side. It gives you detailed information you can discuss with your doctor. Together, you and your doctor can explore if one of these drugs is a good match for your pain treatment needs.


Part 2 of 7: Drug features

Tramadol vs. oxycodone IR and CR

The table below provides basic information about tramadol, oxycodone, and oxycodone CR. Oxycodone comes in two forms: an immediate-release (IR) tablet and a controlled-release (CR) tablet. The IR tablet releases the medication into your body right away. The CR tablet releases the medication over a 12-hour period. Oxycodone CR tablets are used when you need continuous pain medication for a long period of time.


Part 3 of 7: Dosage

Dosage notes

For each of these drugs, your doctor will check your pain control and side effects throughout your treatment. If your pain gets worse, your doctor may increase your dosage. If your pain gets better or goes away, your doctor will slowly lower your dosage. This helps prevent withdrawal symptoms.


Withdrawal symptoms

Stopping any of these drugs too quickly can cause withdrawal symptoms, such as restlessness, crying, runny nose, yawning, sweating, and chills. Symptoms can also include muscle pain, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Withdrawal can also increase blood pressure, breathing rate, and heart rate.



Your doctor will likely start you at the lowest possible dosage and increase it slowly. This helps reduce side effects.

Oxycodone IR

Your doctor may start you on the lowest dosage of oxycodone. They may increase your dosage slowly to help reduce side effects and to find the lowest dosage that works for you.

If you need to take oxycodone around-the-clock to manage chronic pain, your doctor may switch you to oxycodone CR twice a day instead. Breakthrough pain may be managed as needed with low-dose oxycodone or tramadol.

Oxycodone CR

Oxycodone CR can only be used for continuous, long-term pain management. You can’t use it as an as-needed pain medication. This is because taking doses too closely together can spike the amount of drug in your body. This can be fatal (cause death).

You must swallow oxycodone CR tablets whole. Do not break, chew, or crush the tablets. Taking broken, chewed, or crushed oxycodone CR tablets leads to a rapid release of the medication that your body absorbs quickly. This can cause a dangerous dose of oxycodone that can be fatal.

Part 4 of 7: Side effects

Side effects

Like other drugs, tramadol, oxycodone, and oxycodone CR can cause side effects. Some of these side effects are more common and may go away after a few days. Others are more serious and can require medical care. You and your doctor should consider all side effects when deciding if a drug is a good choice for you.

Part 5 of 7: Drug interactions

Interactions of tramadol, oxycodone, and oxycodone CR

An interaction is when a substance changes the way a drug works. This can be harmful or prevent the drug from working well. Be sure to tell your doctor about all medications, vitamins, or herbs you’re taking. This can help your doctor prevent possible interactions.


Part 6 of 7: Warnings

Use with other medical conditions

Your overall health is a factor when considering if a drug is a good choice for you. For instance, a particular drug may worsen a certain condition or disease you have. Below are medical conditions you should discuss with your doctor before taking tramadol, oxycodone, or oxycodone CR.



Part 7 of 7: Takeaway

Talk with your doctor

Tramadol, oxycodone, and oxycodone CR are powerful prescription pain medications. One of these drugs may be a good fit for you. Talk with your doctor about:

  • your pain needs
  • your health history
  • any medications and supplements you take
  • if you’ve taken opioid pain medications before or if you’re taking them now

Your doctor will consider all of these factors to assess your pain needs and choose the drug that’s best-suited for you.




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