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Is Suboxone an opiate?

No, Suboxone is NOT an “opiate” but it IS an “opioid.”

“Opioid” is an umbrella term, and opiates fall under this umbrella: Opiates are natural opioids, meaning that they come from opium, an ingredient in poppy plants. Opiates include morphine and codeine. So, for example, if you take tylenol-3 (tylenol with codeine), you are taking in a natural opiate.

Opioids, on the other hand, are alterations of these natural opiates, in which the opiate has been modified in the lab to create a semi-synthetic version. These include things like heroin, oxycodone (in Percocet), hydrocodone (in Vicodin), and hydromorphone (also known as Dilaudid).

Then there are other opioids, which are completely man-made in a lab. They are NOT derived from natural opiates. These include things like buprenorphine (Suboxone), methadone, and tramadol.

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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