In recent years, narcotic pain relievers have come under increased regulations from state governments and the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prevent abuse. One medication in this class, tramadol, has gotten around these rules, and as a result, more people are becoming addicted to it. According to a Milwaâ€‹ukee Journal Sentinel investigation, the FDA may have failed to acknowledge key research indicating tramadol has the potential for abuse. As such, it was not placed under the Controlled Substances Act when it was released in 1995.
The Controlled Substances Act classifies medications into five categories based on their likelihood for abuse. At the top of the list are Schedule I drugs like heroin and cocaine, and at the other end of the spectrum is cough medication with codeine. The FDA decided not to add tramadol to the list based on research from Europe. There, the medication is given intravenously and showed very little abuse. The federal agency, however, ignored several reports that suggested that when taken orally, the drug produces highs similar to those produced from oxycodone.
According to the source, tramadol use has increased significantly over the past several years. In 2011, the medication was linked to over 20,000 emergency room visits across the country. In Florida, the number of overdose deaths caused by the substance tripled between 2003 and 2011.
Currently, there are 10 states that have already restricted the use of tramadol, and now the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration along with the FDA are reconsidering how the drug should be classified.