Is Suboxone (Buprenorphine) A Controlled Substance?

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D. on September 2, 2022

The buprenorphine in Suboxone is a narcotic (opioid), and all narcotics are controlled substances. As a Schedule III controlled substance, Suboxone is deemed to have medical value while also posing a moderate risk of addiction.

Is Suboxone A Controlled Substance?

Suboxone, brand name for a prescription medication containing buprenorphine, has been shown to lower the risk of fatal opioid overdoses by half and increase likelihood of long-term addiction recovery by twofold.

According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), in 2002, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved two products that both contain buprenorphine: Suboxone, at a dose of 2 mg, and Subutex, at a dose of 8 mg.

They work in similar ways, but Subutex is a single drug while Suboxone is a combination drug.

Although Suboxone is a medication used to treat substance use issues related to the effects of opioids (i.e. addiction), it is a controlled substance due to potential for misuse.

Why Is Suboxone A Schedule III Controlled Substance?

The FDA states that all buprenorphine products are scheduled under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), group III.

Medication-Assisted Treatment Uses

The primary use of buprenorphine is as maintenance treatment for addiction to opiates, such as heroin and prescription painkillers, in medication-assisted treatment programs. It’s also used to help people stop smoking.

It helps in treatment of opioid dependence by reducing withdrawal symptoms, cravings, and other problems caused by stopping drug use.

People who have been on Suboxone for a long time may have difficulty quitting due to physical dependence on the medication.

Because of this, the FDA has mandated that people who use the drug obtain a prescription rather than purchase it over the counter.

Potential For Addiction

The primary reason that Suboxone is a Schedule III controlled substance is because it contains buprenorphine, which has a high potential for abuse.

In fact, the potential for addiction is high with any opioid-based medication, since they work similar to sedatives by producing calming effects on the central nervous system.

To avoid Suboxone addiction, it’s important to only take Suboxone under supervision of certified clinicians and to never share your medication with anyone else.

Drug Classification Of Suboxone

Suboxone is either a tablet or a sublingual film that combines buprenorphine/naloxone to treat drug addiction.

The drug and other forms of buprenorphine are classified as opioid partial agonist-antagonists, or simply opioid antagonists.

Cassipa, Bunavail, Zubsolv, Probuphine, Sublocade injection, and buprenorphine sublingual tablets are other Schedule III narcotics with a single indication.

When Did Suboxone Become A Controlled Substance?

In 2002, the DEA deputy administrator, who is responsible for the regulation of the Controlled Substances Act, announced the official rescheduling of buprenorphine from a Schedule V narcotic to a Schedule III narcotic.

Buprenorphine met the criteria of a Schedule III narcotic, as determined by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

DEA proposed rescheduling buprenorphine on March 21, 2002, in a proposed rule (67 FR 13114). For an additional 30 days, the public comment period was extended until May 22, 2002 (67 FR 20072).

On October 7, 2002, the rule went into effect, and Suboxone was designated as a Schedule III controlled substance. This ruling affects Suboxone prescribing guidelines.

Is Suboxone The Same As Methadone?

Methadone and Suboxone are opioids classified as Schedule II and III controlled substances, respectively.

Methadone is approved for treating chronic pain and opioid addiction, while Suboxone is only used to treat opioid dependence. Both drugs have the potential for abuse and withdrawal.

Signs Of Suboxone Abuse

There are a variety of signs that someone is abusing or addicted to Suboxone. If you are looking for signs of drug abuse in a loved one’s home, look for syringes, powdery residue, or tourniquets.

One of the most common ways Suboxone is abused is through injection. To make an injectable solution, people may crush Suboxone and combine it with water or another liquid.

People may also snort Suboxone in an attempt to get a quicker onset of effects, or use Suboxone rectally (commonly known as ‘plugging’).

Other evidence of abuse includes:

  • weight loss
  • excess prescriptions
  • disinterest in hobbies
  • change in demeanor and appearance
  • mood changes
  • multiple prescription bottles in the bathroom cabinet

Can Suboxone Have Dangerous Side Effects?

Suboxone has undesirable effects both in the short term and long term.

Short-term side effects of Suboxone misuse may include:

  • nausea
  • constipation
  • insomnia
  • difficulty breathing
  • blurred vision
  • muscle pain
  • fever
  • fatigue
  • depression

Long-term side effects of Suboxone include:

  • loss of libido
  • low blood pressure
  • hair loss
  • poor stress management
  • poor financial management
  • addiction

How Suboxone Addiction Is Treated

Healthcare providers and addiction treatment centers provide ways to ease detox from Suboxone.

A combination of medications and therapeutic techniques can assist people addicted to heroin or other opioids in overcoming their addictions.

Some treatment plans also involve switching from Suboxone to Vivitrol, another opioid use disorder medication.

Many healthcare professionals also encourage family involvement, as loved ones may play a major role in addiction recovery.

In addition, one of the most important components of any opioid withdrawal treatment plan is addressing pain management, which is a key factor in most prescription opioid addictions.

Find A Rehabilitation Center For Drug Abuse

Are you addicted to prescription painkillers, heroin, or other prescription drugs? Addiction can cause serious issues in your personal and professional life.

Fortunately, there are a number of treatment options available to help you recover from addiction.

Contact to obtain a referral for medical advice and to find a rehabilitation center for drug abuse.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D. on September 2, 2022


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