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How Long Does Suboxone Stay in Your System?

Suboxone is a prescription medication doctors use to help patients overcome opioid addiction. The drug’s composition allows for the relief of cravings without intense intoxication. 

Some people in drug recovery forget to take their medications. That’s why Suboxone is made to stay active for an extended period.

A dose stays active in the body for 24 hours or longer, so you won’t have to remember to retake it during the day.

You may not feel Suboxone after about 24 hours, but it will linger in your body and appear on a standard drug test for nearly a week. Drug tests using hair samples are even more sensitive and they can show Suboxone use months after you’ve quit. 

What Is Suboxone? 

Overcoming an addiction to opioids isn’t easy, as long-time drug users feel intense cravings that are hard to ignore. That need for drugs can steal focus from recovery, and in some cases, it can make behavioral changes impossible.

Suboxone helps to block cravings, so people can focus on getting better. It works by latching to the same receptors used by opioids. 

Every dose of Suboxone contains two active ingredients.

  • Buprenorphine: This partial opioid agonist loosely connects to receptors, so it blocks cravings without delivering a high.
  • Naloxone: This full opioid agonist works as an overdose buffer. If you take the prescribed dosage of Suboxone, it will keep you from overdosing. This ingredient can also block the high from heroin.

This combination of ingredients can help to reduce the improper use of Suboxone, experts say. People who steal or buy this drug to get high may be disappointed, as the naloxone ingredient will block euphoric sensations.

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How Long Will I Feel Suboxone?

You shouldn’t feel overwhelmed by Suboxone when you take the prescribed dose. People who take this medication for addiction say they feel normal or as though they never took drugs while using this medication. You may notice when it begins to wear off.

Suboxone is typically sold in a small strip that you place beneath your tongue. You won’t swallow or drink anything until the substance has melted away. You take it this once per day. 

Given that dosing is set on a 24-hour schedule, it’s reasonable to think Suboxone stays active within the body for about a day. If you skip a dose, you may realize how much you’ve come to depend on the medication. 

Without your dose, your body will move into opioid withdrawal. You may:

  • Vomit or experience an upset stomach
  • Have diarrhea
  • Feel sore and achy 
  • Tremble or shiver
  • Sweat excessively
  • Feel desperate for drugs

While a hit of opioids can make your symptoms fade, so can your proper dose of Suboxone. Your prescription isn’t likely to set back your addiction recovery.

Given that you feel such intense discomfort about 24 hours after your last Suboxone dose, it’s reasonable to think the drug has left your body. Fortunately, molecules remain until your body has time to process them.

How Buprenorphine Metabolizes

Hooded man holding suboxone pills in a small plastic bag

Chemists use the concept of half-life to determine how long a drug stays in your system. This is the point at which the body has processed half of the drug, so it is the peak point of intoxication.

According to the Pharmacy Times, buprenorphine has a half-life of 24 to 42 hours. That means the drug is no longer active within the body after about 48 to 84 hours. The time in which the drug stays in your system can vary based on your weight,  health, and nutrition. Half-life estimates aren’t precise estimates of risk because there are so many variables. 

The way you take your medication can also influence half-life. Researchers say an injected dose has a half-life of about 3 hours, while a sublingual administration has a measurement of 28 to 37 hours. Researchers aren’t sure why this variability exists, but it’s something to take into account. 

Understanding the chemistry is critical if you hope to pass a drug test. This is the substance that most tests will detect. The method of screening used can determine whether your substance use is caught or ignored.

Drug Tests and Suboxone 

Employers use drug tests to identify workers or potential employees who use drugs in an unsafe manner. Some will accept Suboxone use with a valid prescription, but others will not.

The majority of drug treatment programs require periodic drug testing to ensure you’re complying with the recovery plan. If you have something to hide, the method of analysis should be important for you to understand. 

To detect Suboxone, someone might test your:

  • Urine. This is the most common drug testing method employers often use. Many drug treatment centers use this method too.
  • Blood. This measures the actual amount of Suboxone in your body at the time of the test.
  • Hair. This method of testing can detect drugs you took up to three months ago.

In general, buprenorphine shows up in drug tests for 7 to 10 days. But if you take a high dose or you have a slow metabolism, the molecules could linger longer. 

If your hair is tested, Suboxone will show up in the results, experts say. That means months after you stop taking the drug, it could still appear in your test results.

How to Make Sense of Test Results

If you have a prescription and you are using your Suboxone correctly, a failed test shouldn’t concern you. The medication is part of your recovery program that was developed by your treatment team. It’s both expected and appropriate for the drug to show up in your results. 

If you’re abusing the drug or you’re taking it without a prescription, this could alarm you. The tests results will help others understand that you’re making risky decisions that come with consequences. 
Don’t take chances with your long-term health, freedom, and happiness. If you’re abusing drugs and you’re looking for help, don’t buy more drugs. Work with a qualified team on a personalized recovery plan.

Medication might be part of that treatment, but counseling and support will also play a role. You can stop using drugs for good with help. 

Sources

(November 2018). Buprenorphine/Naloxone (Suboxone). National Alliance on Mental Illness. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Treatment/Mental-Health-Medications/Types-of-Medication/Buprenorphine/Buprenorphine-Naloxone-(Suboxone)

(May 2016). Buprenorphine. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/treatment/buprenorphine

What is Buprenorphine Treatment Like? The National Alliance of Advocates for Buprenorphine Treatment. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.naabt.org/education/what_bt_like.cfm

(July 2018). What a Medication's Half-Life Can Mean for You. Verywell Mind. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.verywellmind.com/medication-half-life-380031

(March 2016). A Brief Review of Buprenorphine Products. Pharmacy Times. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.pharmacytimes.com/contributor/jeffrey-fudin/2016/03/a-brief-review-of-buprenorphine-products

(December 2005). Buprenorphine: A Relatively New Treatment for Opioid Dependence. Psychiatry. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2994593/

Workplace Drug Testing. Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association. Retrieved February 2019 from http://www.datia.org/datia-resources/27-credentialing/cpc-and-cpct/931-workplace-drug-testing.html

Does Buprenorphine Show Up in an Employer Drug Screening? National Alliance of Advocates for Buprenorphine Treatment. Retrieved February 2019 from http://www.naabt.org/faq_answers.cfm?ID=78

Hair Drug Testing. United States Drug Testing Laboratories. Retrieved February 2019 from http://www.usdtl.com/testing/hair-drug-test-labs

(June 2014). Buprenorphine and Nor-Buprenorphine Levels in Head Hair Samples from Former Heroin Users Under Suboxone Treatment. Drug Testing and Analysis. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24817054

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