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Is Suboxone a narcotic?

Narcotics refer to substances that relieve pain and dull the senses, and this term is often used to describe opioid drugs. In everyday language, the term “narcotic” often carries a negative association, meaning the drug is being taken illegally or not as prescribed. When taken as prescribed by a medical provider, buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) does not have narcotic properties. When used illicitly, buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) may have narcotic properties.

Buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) IS an opioid, so it is a medication that works similarly to other opioids by binding to the opioid receptors in the brain. However, Buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) is considered to be a scientifically proven, evidence-based TREATMENT for the chronic disease of opioid addiction. Patients who struggle with addiction to opioids who are not taking medications--like Buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone), methadone, or naltrexone-- are over three times more likely to die of an opioid overdose. Thus, when taken as prescribed, Buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) is a life saving medication and does not carry narcotic properties.

Rebekah L. Rollston, MD, MPH

Dr. Rollston is a Family Medicine Physician at Cambridge Health Alliance, Affiliate Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Primary Care Blog, and Founder of Doctors For A Healthy US, LLC. She earned her Medical Degree from East Tennessee State University Quillen College of Medicine and her Master of Public Health from The George Washington University. Her professional interests focus on social influencers of health & health disparities, addiction medicine, sexual & reproductive health, homelessness & supportive housing, and rural health.

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