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How to Take Suboxone Strips

August 12, 2022

Table of Contents

What Are Suboxone Strips?

Suboxone strips are used for the FDA-approved indication of opioid use disorder (OUD). They help limit cravings and symptoms of withdrawal in individuals dependent on opioids. In addition, Suboxone strips or films are used off-label for the management of chronic pain in certain patients. 

Suboxone primarily comes in two forms: strips (films) and tablets (pills). Suboxone strips are dissolvable strips that contain a combination of two medications: the opioids “buprenorphine” and “naloxone”. The strips/films can be administered sublingually (under the tongue) or buccally (inside the cheek) where they rapidly dissolve. 

Buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) can also be taken in tablet/pill form, which you can learn more about here: How to Take Suboxone Tablets. 

Why Does Suboxone Come in a Sublingual Film/Tablet Form Instead of as a Pill That Is Swallowed?

Buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) is best absorbed under the tongue or sometimes inside the cheek because it is more “bioavailable”. This means that more of the medication can enter the system by dissolving through the tissues of the mouth than it can by being digested in our acidic stomachs. 

Because most patients are used to swallowing pills, starting to take a sublingual film or tablet can take some getting used to. This article will walk you through exactly how to administer a Suboxone strip.

Suboxone Film vs. Tablet

The two forms of buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone), strips (films) and tablets, both work equally well to treat opioid use disorder. Oftentimes, a patient will receive either the strip or the tablet depending on what their local pharmacy has available or what their insurance plan will cover. The strips are probably the most common form available and are usually what patients start with. 

There are some subtle differences between the two formulations. Some patients feel that either the strips or tablets have a less bitter taste and might prefer one over the other for that reason. 

On average, the tablets take slightly longer to dissolve than the strips. However, both formulations work equally well when administered properly. If you have tried one or the other and prefer to try a different formulation, talk to your doctor. 

How Do I Take Suboxone Strips? 

suboxone tablets
Suboxone tablets

Buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) strips come in packets. The strip itself is in the form of a yellow rectangle. 

  1. Store the strips/films in a cool and dry place. They do not need to be refrigerated.
  2. Make sure you have eaten something fifteen minutes to a half an hour before taking your film, particularly when you are first starting buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone). This is to avoid any stomach upset or nausea. 
  3. Before taking your dose make sure your mouth is empty of food.
  4. It can be helpful to moisten your mouth with some water before using the strip to help it dissolve. 
  5. When you are ready to take your dose, open the packet, and grab the strip by the corners as much as possible to avoid tearing or dissolving the strip. 
  6. Place the tablet under the tongue and keep it there. 
  7. Try not to talk or move the strip in your mouth until it is fully dissolved. This takes anywhere from two to five minutes on average. 
  8. Do not chew, suck or swallow the strip, as it will not get maximally absorbed this way. 
  9. Once the strip is fully dissolved, you can either spit out any saliva that has accumulated in the mouth or swallow it. Some people prefer to spit out the saliva because they dislike the taste. However, if you are going to do this, make sure you do so after the strip itself is fully dissolved and only saliva remains. 
  10. Buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) can have a minty/sour taste that can be bothersome, at least at first. Most people quickly get used to the taste. 
  11. When the strip has fully dissolved, take a large sip of water, swish it around your teeth and gums, and swallow. Wait 30 minutes before eating anything.
  12. The effects of buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) usually start within 10 to 30 minutes of taking the strip.

Click here for more guidance on taking buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone).

Suboxone Strips Dosage

Buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) strips come in different doses. The smallest strips are usually 2 mg and the largest is usually 12 mg. The actual size of the film is the same, but the higher dose strips contain more medicine.

Side Effects of Suboxone Film Strips

One of the more common side effects of buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) is nausea, particularly at first. This side effect tends to go away with continued administration of the medication as the body gets used to it. 

Buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) can also cause some dizziness or euphoria. However, this is less common in patients who are used to opioids already. If these symptoms do occur, they may last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours until the medication wears off. 

Opioids in general, including buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone), can cause constipation. 

If you are experiencing any undesirable side effects with buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone), particularly at first -- don’t panic! Many of these side effects go away quite quickly as your body gets used to the medicine over the first couple of days. If any side effects you experience are persisting, talk to your doctor. There are other medications and many tips/tricks for minimizing any undesirable side effects. 

How Soon Can You Eat or Drink After Taking Your Suboxone Strip?

Suboxone strips dissolve under your tongue and should melt away into nothing in a few minutes. Don't eat or drink anything until the strip is completely dissolved. 

Once the strip has faded away, take a big sip of water, swish it around your teeth, and swallow it. This simple step could help you avoid tooth decay caused by Suboxone strips.[1]

Wait at least an hour before eating anything or drinking a large amount of liquid.[2] Allow the medication to fully enter your system before you add more to it.

How Long Does Suboxone Stay in Your System? 

Suboxone is a long-lasting medication, made to keep your cravings at bay for hours at a time. Typically, you'll use Suboxone strips just once a day, and you won't feel the medication wear off between doses.[3] 

A Suboxone dose has a typical half-life of about 24 hours.[3] That means your one dose could show up in drug tests for four days or longer. 

The persistence of Suboxone is one of its core benefits. If your doses wore off too quickly, your drug cravings would reappear, and you'd be tempted to relapse. Since it stays in your body for so long, you're provided with significant protection. 

Tips to Help You Get Used to Suboxone Strips 

Your doctor will show you how to use your Suboxone strips, and in time, you'll use them like a pro. But these tips can help you get used to your therapy: 

1. Wet Your Mouth

Suboxone strips rely on saliva. The wetter your mouth, the quicker the strip will dissolve.

Before you put strips in your mouth, take a big sip of water and swish it around to wet your mouth and tongue.[4]

2. Try Not to Fuss

Don't chew, suck on, or swallow your strips. You won't make your therapy work better, and you could make yourself sick. Instead, apply your medication below your tongue and wait for it to dissolve. 

If waiting makes you feel anxious, listen to a favorite song on headphones or do something you enjoy, like reading. 

3. Keep Your Head Elevated

Lying down can make your saliva pool in the back of your throat, and some people find the taste of the strips unpleasant.

Stay upright while you take your strips. Sit or stand, and keep your mouth closed. 

4. Care for Your Teeth

Some people experience tooth decay while using Suboxone strips. To reduce your risk, take a big sip of water after the medication dissolves and swish it around your mouth.[1]

Tell your dentist you're using Suboxone too. They may have some advice for you. A treatment adjustment could help you protect your teeth even more. 

Is Suboxone Treatment Right for You?

If you think buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) might be right for you, please reach out to our Bicycle Health online Suboxone doctors. We are standing by to answer all your questions. Call us at (844) 943-2514 or schedule an appointment here.

Medically Reviewed By Elena Hill, MD, MPH

Elena Hill, MD; MPH received her MD and Masters of Public Health degrees at Tufts Medical School and completed her family medicine residency at Boston Medical Center. She is currently an attending physician at Bronxcare Health Systems in the Bronx, NY where she works as a primary care physician as well as part time in pain management and integrated health. Her clinical interests include underserved health care, chronic pain and integrated/alternative health.

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  1. FDA Warns About Dental Problems With Buprenorphine Medicines Dissolved in the Mouth to Treat Opioid Use Disorder and Pain. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. January 2022. Accessed June 2022. 
  2. Emergency Department Buprenorphine/Naloxone (Suboxone): Home Dosing Information. My Health Alberta. March 2021. Accessed June 2022. 
  3. Suboxone Prescribing Information. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 2010. Accessed June 2022. 
  4. Instructions for Starting Buprenorphine (Suboxone) at Home When You Are Not Currently Using Opiates. Network of Care for Behavioral Health. February 2017. Accessed June 2022.

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