Is trazodone a dangerous drug? Trazodone is neither a narcotic nor classified as a controlled substance in the U.S., but it does require a prescription and carry risks.

Trazodone is a prescription antidepressant medication, and many wonder if it is considered a controlled substance or narcotic in the United States. Learn more about trazodone’s classification, legality, and variety of uses.

Article at a Glance:

  • Trazodone is neither a narcotic nor classified as a controlled substance in the United States.
  • It does require a prescription for its use.
  • It also has some potential for abuse, although the risk is not as high as many other drugs that help with sleep.

Is Trazodone a Narcotic?

Narcotics are a category of drugs that include legal prescription drugs and illicit drugs sold on the streets. Narcotics, such as opioid painkillers, are classified this way because they are addictive. Some of the most commonly used and abused narcotics include codeine, fentanyl, methadone and tramadol.

Trazodone is not typically seen as an addictive substance, and it is not classified as a narcotic. The drug is most commonly known as a generic antidepressant, but it’s also hypnotic (sleep-inducing). It can be prescribed to patients to treat insomnia and anxiety disorder, though it’s primarily used to treat major depressive disorder. If you plan to use trazodone for sleep, make sure you consult with your doctor first.

Trazodone affects the brain’s neurotransmitters, including histamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. It’s believed that an imbalance in these neurotransmitters is one of the primary causes of depression. Trazodone is believed to prevent the uptake of serotonin by brain cells, allowing for more serotonin to become available.

Along with treating depression, trazodone has general effects of improving mood, energy levels and appetite. It does this by restoring the balance of serotonin levels in the brain. Additionally, there are other off-label uses of trazodone that are not officially approved by the FDA. These include treatment of agitation, insomnia and aggressive behavior associated with dementia.

Is Trazodone a Controlled Substance?

A controlled substance is a prescription drug that has the potential for addiction and abuse. Controlled substances have the potential to negatively affect the person using them, so they’re regulated by the federal government. If someone is caught with a controlled substance without a prescription, they can face consequences from state and federal law enforcement.

Under the Controlled Substances Act, drugs can belong to varying categories. For example, Schedule I controlled substances have no accepted medical use, have a high potential for abuse and are considered unsafe. An example of a Schedule I drug is heroin. Schedule II drugs have a high potential for abuse but may be used for medical purposes, and the schedule categories that follow decrease gradually in risk. If you are prescribed these substances and purchase them legally, you haven’t broken the law.

Trazodone is not classified as a controlled substance in the U.S., but there are still risks involved. Patients should always be cautious with its use and follow the instructions provided by their doctor.

Trazodone’s Drug Class

Trazodone belongs to the antidepressant drug class — more specifically, it is classified as an atypical antidepressant and a serotonin modulator.

This means that it’s not chemically related to other commonly prescribed classes of antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), or monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAO inhibitors). However, trazodone is chemically related to nefazodone and acts the same in many ways.

A serotonin modulator is a type of drug that acts on the serotonin neurotransmitter system in several different ways. These types of drugs were developed to address the fact that there are various serotonin receptor subtypes, and not all receptors are involved in the effects of SSRIs.

While trazodone has the potential to help with insomnia, it doesn’t affect brain functionality or thinking. This is unlike other drugs that can induce sleep, such as benzodiazepines.

Anecdotal reports have linked high doses of trazodone to hallucinations, but there are very severe risks associated with taking too much of the drug. It is dangerous to try using it recreationally.

Jonathan Strum
Editor – Jonathan Strum
Jonathan Strum graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha with a Bachelor's in Communication in 2017 and has been writing professionally ever since. Read more
Conor Sheehy
Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Conor Sheehy, PharmD, BCPS, CACP
Dr. Sheehy completed his BS in Molecular Biology at the University of Idaho and went on to complete his Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) at the University of Washington in Seattle. Read more

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “Highlights of Prescribing Information.” June 2017. Accessed May 28, 2020.

RxList. “Trazodone.” (n.d.). Accessed May 28, 2020.

United States Drug Enforcement Administration. “Drug Scheduling.” (n.d.). Accessed May 28, 2020.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.