Rooney bill puts tramadol in same category as other addictive opioids

TRENTON, NJ – To help combat New Jersey’s opioid crisis, Assemblyman Kevin J. Rooney has introduced legislation reclassifying tramadol as a drug with the same addictive qualities as oxycodone and fentanyl. The upgrade limits initial prescriptions to a five-day supply.

The federal government classifies prescription drugs and narcotics based on their acceptable medical use and potential for dependency. Schedule I drugs are considered the most dangerous; schedule V the least. Rooney’s bill (A4300) makes tramadol, a schedule IV synthetic opioid pain killer, a schedule II drug, the same as oxycodone and fentanyl.

Fentanyl is fueling the opioid epidemic right now in New Jersey and the nation, but studies show tramadol may be as addictive and its use is increasing,” said Rooney (R-Bergen). “High doses have similar effects to oxycodone, making it a very dangerous drug. The opioid crisis is the result of overprescribing pain medications. This is an effort to prevent that from happening with tramadol. Placing it in the same category as similar pain killers is common sense.”

Studies show tramadol can produce a euphoric high similar to oxycodone and heroin. The number of prescriptions written doubled from 22 million to 44 million from 2008 to 2014.

“Like similar opioids, tramadol can be lethal if abused,” continued Rooney. “What makes it even more alarming is antidotes such as naloxone don’t completely reverse tramadol overdoses. We need to stop this drug from being overprescribed now before it becomes the next opioid of choice.”

Legislation signed into law last year restricts initial opioid prescriptions to a 5-day supply, making New Jersey’s limit one of the strictest in the country.

There were 2,284 overdose deaths in New Jersey from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017, a 34.7 percent increase from the previous year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Officials attribute the rise to increased fentanyl use.