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Is Xyrem a controlled substance / narcotic drug of abuse?

Medically reviewed by Carmen Pope, BPharm. Last updated on June 5, 2023.

Official answer

  • Yes, Xyrem is a controlled substance.
  • When used legitimately to treat narcolepsy, Xyrem is a class III controlled substance.
  • When misused, either by people who have legitimately obtained it or those who have obtained it illegally, it is considered a class I controlled substance, and penalties are severe.
  • Xyrem has a high potential for abuse and is also known as the street name of GHB.
  • Xyrem is available only from a certified doctor and pharmacy under a special program called the Xyrem REMS Program.
  • Xyrem is not a narcotic.

Xyrem (sodium oxybate) is a CNS depressant that may be used to treat narcolepsy.

When Xyrem is used for medicinal purposes, such as narcolepsy, it is classified as a Schedule III controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act. However, even if you obtain Xyrem for medicinal use, but then misuse it or offer it to anybody else to use, then it is considered a Schedule I controlled substance and illicit use is subject to Schedule I penalties.

Xyrem is also known as GHB, which is a known street drug of abuse. However, there are differences in purity between GHB which is sold on the street, and GHB that is manufactured as Xyrem.

Xyrem has a high potential for abuse because it can cause changes in the activity of the brain and can also cause changes in your breathing, even at regular dosages or if you are taking other interacting medicines. Fatal side effects, such as breathing problems, seizures, loss of consciousness, or death can occur if you misuse this medicine, take it with alcohol, or take it with other drugs that cause drowsiness or slow your breathing.

Because of the potential for abuse and the risk of serious side effects that may occur, Xyrem is available only from a certified pharmacy under a special program called the Xyrem REMS Program. Your doctor must be registered in the program to prescribe this medicine for you.

Xyrem is not a narcotic. Narcotics bind to opioid receptors in your brain and include substances such as codeine, oxycodone, and morphine.

Related Questions

  • Carter LP, Pardi D, Gorsline J, Griffiths RR. Illicit gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) and pharmaceutical sodium oxybate (Xyrem): differences in characteristics and misuse. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2009;104(1-2):1‐10. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2009.04.012
  • Xyrem (sodium oxybate)
  • "How would you treat their cataplexy and EDS in narcolepsy?" Xyrem (sodium oxybate)

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