Suboxone contains two chemicals; buprenorphine and naloxone. By most definitions, buprenorphine is a narcotic (including tablet or sublingual buprenorphine used for opioid dependence ). However, by some definitions buprenorphine is a ‘medication’ when used appropriately, and a ‘narcotic’ when diverted or used outside of appropriate medical care.
We explore the use and classification of Suboxone here. Then, we invite your questions about the signs of Suboxone addiction, or general questions about Suboxone, buprenorphine, or naloxone at the end.
What is a narcotic?
‘Narcotic’ is a term with different meanings in different contexts.
- DEA agents consider ‘narcotics’ to be drugs that are potentially abused.
- Early 20th century dictionaries define narcotic as any illegal drug.
- Physicians use ‘narcotic’ to refer to drugs with sedative properties, consistent with the Latin derivative of the word, narke (numbness) or narkoun (to render numb).
- Anesthesiologists use the word ‘narcotic’ to refer to the opioid, pain-relieving portion of an anesthetic, as opposed to amnestic or paralytic agents.
Is Suboxone seen as a narcotic?
Suboxone contains two chemicals; buprenorphine and naloxone. Naloxone has no significant role in the actions of Suboxone and can be disregarded for the most part (see Can Suboxone be injected for more). However, buprenorphine is a narcotic by most definitions. It is a synthetic chemical that mimics morphine in low doses. In higher doses, the effects reach a maximum and increase no further, no matter how high the dose.
Buprenorphine blocks receptors for opioids very tightly, preventing other opioid molecules (including heroin and oxycodone) from having clinical effects. Medications with effects like buprenorphine —a combination of activating and blocking actions – are referred to as ‘partial agonists’.
Buprenorphine is a narcotic
In sum by most definitions, buprenorphine is a narcotic. By some definitions buprenorphine is a ‘medication’ when used appropriately, and a ‘narcotic’ when diverted or used outside of appropriate medical care.