A Guide to Tramadol Drug Testing

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Our ongoing DNA series explores the legal implications of drug use and drug testing in legal scenarios. Articles with insights about ketamine, cocaine, cannabis, and amphetamines are already live. 

Now, the series will explore the legal consequences of unprescribed tramadol use. 

Tramadol is a type of opioid prescribed for pain. It's only available by prescription or illegally. It's a class C drug, making possession without a prescription, supply, and production illegal under the UK Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. A class C drug carries the legal consequences of 2 years in prison and an unlimited fine for possession. For supply and production, the consequences are the same as for class B drugs - up to 14 and an unlimited fine.

This article will answer the following questions relating to tramadol drug testing:

  • Will tramadol show in a drug test?
  • How long does tramadol stay in your system?
  • What types of methods are available for tramadol testing?
  • What factors influence tramadol detection?
  • Why might a court-ordered tramadol test be necessary?
  • What happens if a tramadol test comes back positive?
  • How we can help

Will Tramadol Show in a Drug Test?

Tramadol isn't screened for on all standard drug tests, unlike cocaine and cannabis - they're detectable with 5 and 10-panel drug tests. Traces will show on advanced screening panels. In a court-ordered proceeding like a child custody case where tramadol use is suspected, the court will select the advanced screening panel to ensure tramadol is detected.

How Long Does Tramadol Stay in Your System?

A tramadol high is associated with similar feelings to heroin, although it isn't as strong. Users describe the high as calm, happy, and relaxing. 

The duration of the effects of tramadol varies. It's typically 4–6 hours after consumption for immediate-release tablets and 12-24 hours for extended-release tablets.

Traces of tramadol will stay in your system for longer than the maximum 24-hour feeling. Detection times vary depending on the type of test.

We've created a table for the tests and their detection times:

Body System Time in System
Blood 12-24 hours
Urine 1-2 days
Saliva up to 48 hours
Fingernails up to 3-6 months
Hair up to 12 months

What Types of Methods are Available for Tramadol Testing?

There are five different methods of drug testing available to detect tramadol:

Blood Test: Within 12-24 Hours

Blood tests are one of the most efficient ways to detect traces of tramadol if consumed within 12 to 24 hours. Blood tests typically happen when an offence is suspected and as close to it as possible. They're often used alongside urine tests to provide law enforcement professionals and healthcare providers with accurate information. 

Blood tests used in conjunction with urine tests are incredibly accurate.

Urine Test: Within 1-4 Days

A urine test will detect tramadol in a urine sample for up to 4 days. The detection window will vary depending on numerous factors, like the quantity of tramadol taken. The less taken, the shorter the detection window is likely to be.

That said, urine tests are one of the most accurate ways of detecting recent tramadol use, especially when combined with a court-ordered blood test.

Rapid Saliva Test: Within 48 Hours

The rapid saliva test yields the quickest results and will reveal tramadol use up to 48 hours after consumption. Wait times for results vary depending on the type of rapid saliva test, but positive traces typically begin to show within 30 minutes. 

For tramadol detection, a rapid saliva test isn't typically the test of choice. Not all test kits will test for tramadol.

Hair Test: Within 12 Months

A hair drug test is the most long-term accurate test for detecting traces of tramadol for an extended period. After taking tramadol, traces will remain in the keratin fibres, giving law enforcement workers and healthcare professionals a longer window for detection. 

The detection window depends on the length of the hair. The hair grows, on average, 1cm a month. Detection works by segmenting the hair into months by centimetres - then there's an accurate picture of when tramadol was consumed.

One of the limitations of this test is there's a wait time of 3 weeks after consumption before results will show.

Fingernail Test: Within 3 to 6 Months

The fingernail drug test is another test with a long detection window. The hair and fingernail tests work similarly. Once a user takes tramadol, it enters the bloodstream and passes through the blood vessels into the keratin fibres. The traces become trapped until enough regrowth occurs.

Law enforcement workers and healthcare professionals sometimes use hair and fingernail tests under court-directed testing.

What Factors Influence Tramadol Detection?

Tramadol detection varies depending on the test. Other factors that influence detection times include:

  • Frequency of use
  • Time of tramadol consumption
  • Metabolism rate
  • Overall health
  • Hydration levels
  • Age

Other factors include the strength of the tramadol and how much a user consumes.

Why Might a Court-Ordered Tramadol Test be Necessary?

A court will issue a court-ordered tramadol test when it's necessary to support a case. One of the most common reasons for a court-ordered tramadol test is to provide evidence for an ongoing child custody dispute case where they suspect tramadol consumption could harm the well-being of a child.

A court can also order a tramadol test because there's reason to believe an offence was committed whilst under the influence.

What Happens if a Tramadol Test Comes Back Positive?

A positive tramadol test can have serious legal and life implications for individuals. Consequences depend on the reason for the test - but a positive result will strengthen legal proceedings. The legal consequences are listed above.

In the case of child custody disputes, a positive tramadol test can result in visiting limitations or the inability to have any visiting rights with the child.

Despite this, there are rehabilitation opportunities. Individuals who show they are willing to attend a rehab scheme and yield future false drug tests can request a petition to the court for reconsideration.

How We Can Help

At DNA Legal, we can help you through the entire drug testing process, whether you need a tramadol drug test for personal or legal reasons. 

The DNA team is professionally trained to support and guide you. We've worked with individuals, legal professionals, and healthcare workers for almost 20 years to offer a service that's tailored to each drug test.

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