Tramadol vs. Lortab for Pain: What is the Difference?

There are many prescription pain medicines available, and frequently people want to compare them to determine how they are similar and how they are different, particularly when it comes to which is better for treating pain.

Two commonly prescribed prescription painkillers are tramadol and Lortab, so how do tramadol vs. Lortab compare to one another? What are the similarities and differences between these two drugs?

Tramadol vs. Lortab for Pain: What is the Difference?
Tramadol is a prescription drug that’s often sold under the brand name Ultram that remains relatively popular because it’s less expensive than many other opioids. Tramadol or Ultram is used for the treatment of pain ranging from moderate to severe, and there are extended-release tablet options available as well. Other potential brand names of tramadol include Ryzolt and Rybix ODT.

Tramadol is classified as an opioid analgesic, which means it impacts the central nervous system and relieves pain by changing how your brain and body perceive it. As with other opioids, tramadol does carry the risk of addiction or physical dependence.

When you take tramadol, as with other opioids, it binds to opioid receptors and increases certain neurotransmitters including norepinephrine and serotonin. With the brand name versions of tramadol such as Ultram, there is a combination of active ingredients, which is the tramadol and also acetaminophen.

Because of the opioid effects of tramadol, it is a controlled substance, and as mentioned, there is also the potential for abuse.

When looking at tramadol vs. Lortab, the two are incredibly similar. Lortab is a brand name drug that contains an opioid component, which is hydrocodone, and acetaminophen. As with tramadol, the opioid aspect of Lortab affects the central nervous system, creating pain relief, but also creating feelings of well-being that trigger the brain’s reward system to want to seek more of the drug.

It’s important that with both tramadol and Lortab people only take them exactly as directed by their physician, because of the risks associated with each of these pain relievers.

Both tramadol and Lortab are often given to people for short-term use, to mitigate the addiction and dependence risk, and they’re usually the next resort after over-the-counter pain medicines won’t work, or following something like surgery.

When comparing tramadol vs. Lortab, one of the biggest differences in the two opioids is the fact that tramadol also acts as an antidepressant. As mentioned, it influences the action of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain, which plays a role in mood and emotion.

One of the unique elements of Lortab as compared to tramadol is the fact that it’s a pain reliever but also can help with a cough and with reducing fever. The hydrocodone in Lortab helps coughs, while the acetaminophen is good for reducing fever.

Many of the side effects of tramadol vs. Lortab are also similar to one another.

Some of the side effects of tramadol can include dizziness, sore throat, itching, drowsiness, headache, constipation, nausea and vomiting, and weakness. Some of the more severe side effects of tramadol can include seizures, mood problems and the risk of suicidal thoughts, and allergic reactions.

The side effects of Lortab can include confusion, low blood pressure, respiratory depression, and gastric obstruction.

Another potential side effect was touched on above, and that’s the risk of abuse. According to the DEA, hydrocodone is one of the most abused opioids available, so this risk may be higher with Lortab than with tramadol, although either can become addictive and can create a physical dependence.

So what about how effective they are for the treatment of pain? Research has shown that generally Lortab is going to be more effective than tramadol. This is partially because of the acetaminophen component of Lortab, which combats pain in another way than an opioid. However, with the inclusion of acetaminophen comes additional risks because this medicine can cause liver damage or failure if too much is taken for a certain period of time.

To sum up the differences in tramadol vs. Lortab: both are similar in many ways, but for treating pain Lortab may be slightly more effective, but there’s also a higher risk of addiction with this drug. There are also additional risks associated with the inclusion of acetaminophen because of potential liver damage.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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