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Is Trazodone A Narcotic Or A Controlled Substance?

Dr. Ted Bender, Ph.D., LCDC

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Ted Bender, Ph.D., LCDC

April 17, 2019

Trazodone is not a narcotic or a controlled substance, but it does have the potential to be abused. It is monitored by prescription to allow a doctor to safely regulate dosage and prevent complications.

Trazodone, formerly marketed as Desyrel, is an antidepressant drug that may also be used to treat insomnia, anxiety, and schizophrenia. As a serotonin antagonist and reuptake inhibitor (SARI), trazodone works by preventing serotonin from being reabsorbed in the brain.

Serotonin is a brain chemical (or neurotransmitter) that regulates mood, anxiety, and sleep. When the brain does not absorb serotonin properly, more of it is available to promote calm, relaxation, and positivity.

Because of these pleasant effects, trazodone is sometimes abused. Many abused substances in the U.S. are classified as narcotics or controlled substances, which implies that they are dangerous and come with criminal consequences if misused.

Is Trazodone A Narcotic?

There is some ambiguity about which drugs are considered “narcotics.” The term used to refer to any mood-altering drug that relieves pain, but now generally refers to opioids, at least in the United States.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) uses the words “narcotics” and “opioids” interchangeably.

The International Narcotics Control Board includes other substances under the term “narcotics,” including cocaine and cannabis, which do not produce the same sedative effects as opioids.

However, trazodone is not considered a narcotic by either of these organizations.

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Is Trazodone A Controlled Substance?

Trazodone is also not considered a controlled substance. A controlled substance is a drug that has the potential to be abused and may lead to dependence or addiction. While some people do abuse trazodone, it is uncommon and less likely to cause addiction than many other substances.

If a person is found with a controlled substance in their possession and no prescription (for those that are legal), they will face criminal charges.

The DEA classifies controlled substances in five schedules:

  • Schedule I: drugs with no medical use and high abuse potential (heroin)
  • Schedule II: medically approved drugs that are highly addictive (methamphetamine)
  • Schedule III: prescription drugs with moderate abuse potential (Tylenol with codeine)
  • Schedule IV: prescription drugs with low abuse potential (Xanax)
  • Schedule V: prescription or behind-the-counter drugs with minimal amounts of addictive substances added (cough syrup with codeine)

Trazodone does not fall into any of these categories, but it is monitored by prescription.

Why Is Trazodone A Prescription Drug?

Trazodone is a prescription drug because it may be abused, and also because a doctor is better able to monitor the appropriate dose and determine when it should be increased or decreased.

The full effect of trazodone is not immediate. It can take up to two weeks to produce significant results. A person’s doctor may start them on a low dose and slowly increase it as needed. Once they are stabilized and their condition improves, the dose may be gradually lowered.

It is essential that a doctor regulates this process to prevent someone from taking too much.

High doses of trazodone can cause serotonin levels to rise too high, a condition called serotonin syndrome. This may result in many adverse physical effects, such as an irregular heart rate, seizures, unconsciousness, and death.

Treatment For Trazodone Abuse

If someone is struggling with trazodone abuse, an inpatient rehab program can help them learn natural ways of dealing with anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

Some of these programs address co-occurring disorders and work with recovering individuals to manage their psychiatric medication if needed. They also teach people how to live healthier lives through exercise, nutrition, and other methods of safely increasing serotonin levels.

Reputable inpatient programs are tailored to individual need. This ensures that the most relevant issues are addressed, giving each person their best chance of lifelong recovery.

International Narcotics Control Board - List of Narcotic Drugs Under International Control

Mayo Clinic - Serotonin Syndrome

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration - Controlled Substances

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration - Drug Scheduling

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration - Narcotics (Opioids)

U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Trazodone

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