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Is Suboxone an opiate / narcotic?

Medically reviewed by Leigh Ann Anderson, PharmD. Last updated on Feb 6, 2023.

Official answer


Key Points

  • Suboxone is a two-ingredient drug that contains an opioid (or narcotic) called buprenorphine and the opioid antagonist naloxone. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist added to buprenorphine to block the effects of the opioid to help prevent abuse of Suboxone.
  • Suboxone is only used to treat opioid dependence and is not approved for use as a pain medication.
  • Suboxone is available as a film that dissolves under your tongue (sublingual) or in your cheek-gum area (buccal).

Suboxone is approved by the FDA to treat opioid dependence, also called opioid use disorder, which is addiction to opioid drugs, including illegal drugs like heroin and prescription narcotic pain medicines. It is used in addition to a treatment program that also includes counseling and behavioral therapy.

Suboxone contains two medicines that work in different ways.

  • Buprenorphine is classified as a partial agonist and works at the mu-opioid receptor. A partial agonist activates the opioid receptor less than a full agonist (like oxycodone or morphine).
  • Naloxone is a pure opioid antagonist that competes with and displaces opioids at opioid receptor sites in the body. It is often added to drugs used for opioid dependence to help prevent abuse of the product.

Suboxone (buprenorphine and naloxone) comes as a film that dissolves under your tongue (sublingual) or in your cheek-gum area (buccal). The brand name Suboxone sublingual tablets have been discontinued by the manufacturer, but are still available as a generic option.

Other medicines used for opioid use disorder that contain both naloxone and buprenorphine are:

  • Zubsolv (a sublingual tablet)
  • generic forms of buprenorphine and naloxone (sublingual tablets, film)

The brand name products Bunavail, Cassipa and Suboxone tablets (not the film) have been discontinued from the U.S. market.

Both buprenorphine or naloxone can be used as single agents if they are prescribed by a healthcare provider in that manner. Buprenorphine as a single drug is used to treat moderate-to-severe pain or opioid addiction. Naloxone (Narcan) as a single drug is approved for the treatment of a known or suspected opioid overdose.

This is not all the information you need to know about Suboxone for safe and effective use and does not take the place of talking to your doctor about your treatment. Review the full Suboxone information here, and discuss this information and any questions you have with your health care provider.


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