Neurontin vs Tramadol

Listen to the article instead of reading through it.


For patients with chronic pain or nerve damage, certain medications can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. Neurontin and Tramadol are two such drugs that are often prescribed for these conditions. They each function by interacting differently with the central nervous system but both aim to alleviate discomfort in patients experiencing chronic pain or neuropathic ailments.

Neurontin, also known as Gabapentin, is classified as an anticonvulsant which was initially developed to treat epilepsy but has been found effective in treating nerve pain caused by shingles. It works by reducing abnormal brain excitement.

On the other hand, Tramadol is a synthetic opioid analgesic that affects levels of norepinephrine and serotonin in your body — neurotransmitters that transmit signals associated with pain — thus dulling the sensation of discomfort.

What is Neurontin?

Gabapentin (the generic name for Neurontin) is a drug initially developed to treat seizures in individuals with epilepsy and is now commonly used as an analgesic to alleviate pain, particularly neuropathic pain. Gabapentin was first approved by the FDA in 1993. Unlike traditional painkillers, Gabapentin operates by inhibiting certain signals from the nervous system that lead to feelings of discomfort or distress in order to provide relief. It's often prescribed for various types of nerve-related pains.

Tramadol, on the other hand, is an opioid analgesic that works primarily through its action on mu-opioid receptors and slightly on serotonergic and noradrenergic pathways, which are known to modulate our perception towards pain. Tramadol has wide-ranging effects across many neurotransmitters compared to gabapentin that mainly affects GABA receptors; this results in tramadol having more potential side effects but also wider applications for different types of pains.

What conditions is Neurontin approved to treat?

Neurontin is approved for the treatment of various types of conditions:

  • Postherpetic neuralgia, a type of nerve pain following shingles
  • Epilepsy as adjunctive therapy in patients over three years old
  • Partial seizures (with and without secondary generalization) in adults with epilepsy

On the other hand, Tramadol is used to treat moderate to severe pain. It can be used either for acute pain following surgery or for chronic conditions such as cancer or joint pains.

How does Neurontin help with these illnesses?

Neurontin, also known as gabapentin, is primarily used to manage seizures and nerve pain by increasing the concentration of GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid) in the brain. This neurotransmitter inhibits nerve activity in the brain, meaning that it can help to calm hyperactive nervous systems and provide relief from conditions like epilepsy or neuropathic pain. Consequently, by boosting GABA levels, Neurontin helps limit excessive neural firing that can cause seizures or chronic pain.

On the other hand, Tramadol works differently. It's an opioid analgesic often prescribed for moderate to severe pain management. Its mechanism of action involves altering how your body senses pain — it binds to mu-opioid receptors in the brain which are responsible for transmitting sensations of pain throughout your body. Additionally, Tramadol inhibits serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake which further contributes to its analgesic effect.

So while both drugs have a role in managing certain types of chronic discomforts they work via different mechanisms - Neurontin through enhancing inhibition via GABA system and Tramadol primarily acting on opioid receptors and modulating serotonin/norepinephrine balance.

What is Tramadol?

Tramadol, marketed under many brand names such as Ultram and ConZip, is a drug that belongs to the opioid analgesic class. It functions by modifying how your body senses pain—more specifically, it works in the brain to change how your body feels and responds to pain. Tramadol achieves this by partially activating mu-opioid receptors (similarly to other opioids), while also inhibiting the reuptake of norepinephrine and serotonin neurotransmitters.

This dual mechanism makes its side-effect profile slightly different from typical opioids; for example, it can cause serotonin syndrome when combined with certain medications like SSRIs or MAO inhibitors. However, tramadol's activation of opioid receptors means it does retain some common opioid side effects such as constipation.

First approved by the FDA in 1995, its use has grown due to its lower potential for addiction compared to traditional full-agonist opioids like morphine or oxycodone. Nevertheless, long-term usage may still lead to dependence and withdrawal symptoms upon cessation.

For treating nerve-related pain issues — conditions where Neurontin might typically be considered — tramadol offers an alternative option which could potentially offer more robust pain relief due its additional action on opioid receptors.

What conditions is Tramadol approved to treat?

Tramadol is a potent prescription medication that has been approved for the treatment of moderate to severe pain. Some of the conditions that Tramadol can be used for include:

  • Post-operative pain, such as after dental or orthopedic surgeries
  • Chronic conditions like osteoarthritis or cancer-related pain
  • Acute conditions, such as injuries or burns

How does Tramadol help with these illnesses?

Tramadol is an opioid painkiller that plays a significant role in managing moderate to severe pain. Like norepinephrine, it also impacts several processes within the body, particularly those related to pain sensation and reaction. Tramadol works by binding to the mu-opioid receptors in the brain, thereby blocking the transmission of pain signals sent from various parts of the body towards the brain. This process helps alleviate pain symptoms significantly. In addition to its primary action as an opioid analgesic, tramadol inhibits reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine - much like certain antidepressants do - which further contributes to its overall analgesic effect. While Neurontin (Gabapentin) is primarily used for nerve-related conditions such as neuropathic pains or seizures, tramadol might be chosen for its broader range of application including non-neuropathic pains.

How effective are both Neurontin and Tramadol?

Both gabapentin (Neurontin) and tramadol have well-established histories in managing pain, particularly neuropathic pain. Gabapentin was first approved by the FDA in 1993, while tramadol followed two years later. Since they act on different systems - gabapentin primarily affecting calcium channels and neurotransmitters like GABA while tramadol works as an opioid agonist and affects serotonin reuptake – their use may be indicated under differing circumstances.

In a double-blind clinical trial conducted in 2002 to compare the effectiveness of gabapentin and tramadol for neuropathic pain relief, it was found that both drugs had similar efficacy levels. None of the metrics used to measure treatment success varied significantly between patients who received either drug.

A review carried out in 2016 based on meta-analysis reports about gabapentin showed that it is effective at relieving chronic neuropathic pain from the initial stages of treatment. Its side-effect profile is considered favorable when compared with many other anticonvulsants or analgesics, plus it has good tolerance even among elderly populations.

Meanwhile, a recent meta-analysis performed in 2019 indicated that although there's substantial evidence supporting its effectiveness against acute postoperative pain, long-term use of Tramadol might lead to dependency issues due to its opioid activity. Consequently, Tramadols' consideration often comes after non-opioid options such as NSAIDs or drugs like Gabapentin have been exhausted. However, owing to its unique pharmacology - combining opioid receptor activity with inhibition of serotonin/norepinephrine re-uptake- Tramadol can be optimal for certain patient groups where standard opioids are contraindicated or ineffective.

abstract image of a researcher studying a bottle of drug.

At what dose is Neurontin typically prescribed?

Oral dosages of Neurontin usually begin at 300 mg/day, but studies have shown that a dose of 900-1800 mg/day is effective for most patients in managing nerve pain. For children aged 3 to 12 years, the dosage should be calculated based on their body weight and typically starts at about 10-15 mg/kg/day. In either population, dosage can be increased after a week or so if there is no response. The maximum daily amount that should not exceed under any circumstances is around 3600 mg/day.

On the other hand, Tramadol's initial oral dose generally begins at around 25–50mg every four to six hours as needed for relief of pain, with a typical effective daily dose ranging between 50–100mg every four to six hours (not exceeding a total of around 400mg per day). Dosage adjustments are often done gradually over time according to patient responses and tolerability. Always consult your healthcare provider before adjusting medication dosages.

Find Top Clinical Trials

Choose from over 30,000 active clinical trials.

At what dose is Tramadol typically prescribed?

Tramadol therapy is usually initiated at a dose of 25 mg/day and can then be increased by 25-50 mg every three days up to 50-100 mg/day, divided into two or four doses. The maximum daily dose for adults is typically set at 400 mg, which may be distributed as either four doses of 100 mg each or eight doses of 50 mg each, spaced evenly throughout the day. If there's no substantial response to treatment after a few weeks with this regimen, your doctor might suggest an adjustment in dosage or consider alternative pain relief options.

What are the most common side effects for Neurontin?

Common side effects of Neurontin (gabapentin) include:

  • Dizziness and drowsiness
  • Unsteadiness or loss of balance
  • Tremors, shakiness, or involuntary eye movements
  • Nervousness and anxiety
  • Memory problems and difficulty concentrating
  • Weight gain
  • Dry mouth and throat
  • Swelling in the hands or feet
  • Fever

On the other hand, Tramadol may cause:

  • Insomnia due to nervousness
  • Constipation and nausea; these are quite common.
  • Sweating more than usual.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Decreased libido (sex drive)
  • Vasodilation which can result in headaches.

abstract image of a patient experiencing side effect

Are there any potential serious side effects for Neurontin?

For both Neurontin and Tramadol, it is very important to be aware of the potential side effects that can occur. In some instances, these might include:

  • Thoughts about suicide or self-harm
  • Allergic reactions such as hives, difficulty in breathing, swelling in your face or throat
  • Severe skin reaction: fever, sore throat, burning eyes, skin pain or a red/purple skin rash with blistering and peeling
  • Visual disturbances like blurred vision, eye pain or swelling
  • Rapid heart rate/heartbeat anomalies including fluttering chest sensations
  • Shortness of breath along with sudden dizziness (as if you are about to pass out)
  • Signs of low sodium levels - confusion due to headache; slurred speech; severe weakness; vomiting; lack of coordination leading to unsteadiness
  • Symptoms indicating severe nervous system reaction – rigid muscles; high fever; sweating excessively; fast or uneven heartbeat patterns causing tremors and feelings akin to fainting.

In rare cases where serotonin syndrome occurs after consuming tramadol alone or with other drugs that increase serotonin levels in the body: agitation/hallucinations/fever/excessive sweating/shivering/fast heart rate/muscle stiffness/twitching/lack of coordination alongside nausea/vomiting/diarrhea could surface.

Remember always consult your healthcare provider before making any changes regarding medication.

What are the most common side effects for Tramadol?

When comparing Neurontin to Tramadol, some of the side effects you may experience with Tramadol include:

  • Dry mouth and indigestion
  • Nausea or vomiting, constipation
  • Headache and dizziness
  • Insomnia or sleep disturbances
  • Sweating and flushing
  • Itching, rash or hives
  • Muscle weakness or joint pain -Anxiety, nervousness or agitation. It is also important to note that tramadol can potentially cause a rapid heartbeat in some users. Like all medications, it's essential to monitor your response closely and report any unusual symptoms immediately to your healthcare provider.

Are there any potential serious side effects for Tramadol?

Tramadol, while known for its analgesic properties, can potentially lead to serious side effects. If you experience any of the following symptoms while on Tramadol, seek immediate medical attention:

  • Signs of an allergic reaction such as hives, difficulty breathing, or swelling in your face, lips or throat
  • Symptoms indicating serotonin syndrome: agitated behavior, hallucinations, rapid heartbeat and high body temperature
  • Skin reactions like rash and itching which could turn severe leading to blistering and peeling off
  • Indications of possible suicide ideation including thoughts about self-harm
  • Unusual mood swings accompanied by confusion
  • Visual disturbances like blurry vision or seeing halos around lights
  • Experiencing seizures (convulsions)
  • Increased heart rate causing palpitations; and,
  • Abnormal behavioral changes such as feeling overly excited or restless with trouble sleeping.

Contraindications for Neurontin and Tramadol?

Both Neurontin (Gabapentin) and Tramadol, similar to other pain relievers, may cause addiction or dependence in some people. If you notice signs of withdrawal symptoms like restlessness, mood swings, trouble sleeping or increased heart rate when trying to stop the medication, please seek immediate medical attention.

Neither Neurontin nor Tramadol should be taken if you are taking certain medications such as opioids or sedatives due to potential serious interactions. It is crucial that your physician knows which medications you're currently on; these drugs may require a period of about 2 weeks clear from the system before starting either Gabapentin or Tramadol treatment.

Additionally, both Neurontin and Tramadol can potentially increase suicidal thoughts in individuals with current mental health conditions. Be sure to notify your healthcare provider immediately if there are any changes in behaviour or new/worsening symptoms.

How much do Neurontin and Tramadol cost?

For the brand name versions of these drugs:

  • The price of 60 tablets of Neurontin (300 mg) averages around $400, which works out to about $13–27/day, depending on your dose.
  • The price for 30 capsules of Tramadol (50 mg) is about $120, working out to approximately $4/day.

Thus, if you are in the higher dosage range for Neurontin (i.e., 900 mg/day or higher), then brand-name Tramadol tends to be less expensive on a per-day treatment basis. Please note that cost should not be a primary consideration in determining which drug is right for you.

As far as generic versions are concerned:

  • Gabapentin (the generic form of Neurontin) comes in packs ranging from 15 up to 500 capsules with costs starting from as low as $0.14/day and potentially rising up to about $2.80/day.
  • Generic tramadol can be purchased in packs from 5 up to hundreds at a time with prices typically hovering between $.10 and $.70 per day.

Popularity of Neurontin and Tramadol

Gabapentin, in generic form as well as brand names like Neurontin, was estimated to have been prescribed to about 64 million people in the US in 2020. Gabapentin accounted for over 27% of prescriptions for nerve pain medications in the US. It's an anti-epileptic drug that is also used to treat certain types of nerve pain and has seen a significant increase in usage since early 2000s due to its wide range of applications.

Tramadol, on the other hand, which includes brand versions such as Ultram or ConZip, was prescribed to approximately 40 million individuals across America during the same year. Tramadol makes up just under 10% of overall opioid analgesic prescriptions within United States territory. This synthetic opioid-like drug is primarily utilized for moderate-to-severe pain relief and has maintained a fairly steady prevalence since it first emerged on the market.


Both Neurontin (gabapentin) and Tramadol have reliable records of usage in managing chronic pain, particularly neuropathic pain. They are supported by multiple clinical studies indicating their efficacy over placebo treatments. At times, these drugs might be prescribed together for synergistic effects on pain relief, but this is subject to careful evaluation by a physician as both can enhance the central nervous system depressant effects when combined.

The difference between them lies mainly in their mechanisms of action: Neurontin works primarily on calcium channels to reduce neuronal excitability, whereas Tramadol acts predominantly on opioid receptors and also inhibits reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine. Thus, they tend to be used under different circumstances. For instance, Neurontin could be considered a first-line option for nerve-related conditions like post-herpetic neuralgia or diabetic neuropathy; Tramadol may be considered as an add-on therapy or for patients who do not respond well to first-line analgesics.

Generic alternatives are available for both drugs which offer substantial cost savings especially for those paying out-of-pocket. Both medications may necessitate an adjustment period implying that full analgesic benefits might not manifest immediately.

The side effect profiles are somewhat similar between the two drugs with common adverse reactions such as dizziness and nausea being reported with each drug. However, Tramadol carries a higher risk of dependency due to its opioid-like activity compared with Neurontin's non-opioid mechanism of action. Patients must closely monitor themselves when initiating treatment and seek medical assistance promptly if they experience worsening symptoms or unusual side-effects.