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How to Take Suboxone Strips

Peter Manza, PhD profile image
Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD • Updated May 5, 2023 • 5 cited sources

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

Remember that your doctor can answer your questions about Suboxone. Before you skip your next dose because of confusion or misinformation, talk with your doctor. Together, you can work through discomfort and ensure you get all of the benefits of your medication. 

What Are Suboxone Strips?

Suboxone strips are FDA-approved for OUD treatment.[1] They help to limit cravings and symptoms of withdrawal in individuals dependent on opioids. In addition, Suboxone strips or films are sometimes used to manage chronic pain in certain patients.

Suboxone contains a combination of two medications: the opioid buprenorphine and the anti-misuse medication naloxone.

Suboxone primarily comes in two forms:

  • Strips (films): The strips/films rapidly dissolve when placed sublingually (under the tongue) or buccally (inside the cheek).
  • Tablets (pills): The tablets dissolve under the tongue.

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

Suboxone absorbs best under the tongue or sometimes inside the cheek because more of the medication can enter the system by dissolving through the mouth’s tissues than in acidic stomachs.

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

Suboxone Film vs. Tablet

Suboxone strips (films) and tablets work equally well to treat OUD. Often, 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 the strips or tablets have a less bitter taste and might prefer one over the other.

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

How Do I Take Suboxone Strips? 

suboxone tablets
Suboxone tablets

Suboxone strips come in packets. The strip itself is in the form of a yellow rectangle. Follow these steps to use your medication:

  1. Store the strips/films in a cool and dry place. They do not need to be refrigerated.
  2. Make sure you eat something 15 to 30 minutes before taking your film, particularly when you are 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 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 2 to 5 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 accumulated saliva in the mouth or swallow it. Some people prefer to spit out 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.

Suboxone Strip Dosage

Opioid use disorder alters brain chemistry, causing withdrawal and cravings. Your medication eases these symptoms, but it works best when you’re given an amount that’s appropriate. Multiple doses are available. 

Suboxone films come in the following strengths:[1]

  • Buprenorphine 2 mg/naloxone 0.5 mg 
  • Buprenorphine 4 mg/naloxone 1 mg
  • Buprenorphine 8 mg/naloxone 2 mg
  • Buprenorphine 12 mg/naloxone 3 mg

The drug’s manufacturers recommend giving people no more than 8 mg buprenorphine/2 mg naloxone on the first day of treatment.[1] As your body adjusts to the medication, you may need more or less to keep symptoms at bay without feeling groggy or uncomfortable. 

Side Effects of Suboxone Film Strips 

Suboxone is a powerful medication, and your doctor will look for a dose that keeps you comfortable with few side effects. But it’s not uncommon to feel mild discomfort as your body adjusts.

Common side effects include the following:

  • Gastrointestinal issues: One of the more common side effects of Suboxone is nausea.
  • Dizziness: This symptom can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. 
  • Euphoria: This side effect is uncommon in people already accustomed to opioids. 
  • Constipation: Most opioids cause this problem.

If you are experiencing any undesirable side effects with 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 persist, talk to your doctor. There are other medications and many tips and tricks for minimizing 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 melted, 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.[2]

Wait at least 30 minutes before eating anything or drinking a large amount of liquid.[3] 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.[4]

A Suboxone dose has a typical half-life of about 24 hours.[4] 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:

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.[5]

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

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.

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.[2]

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 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.

Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD

Peter Manza, PhD received his BA in Psychology and Biology from the University of Rochester and his PhD in Integrative Neuroscience at Stony Brook University. He is currently working as a research scientist in Washington, DC. His research focuses on the role ... Read More

  1. Suboxone Prescribing Information. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.suboxone.com/pdfs/prescribing-information.pdf. June 2022. Accessed January 2023.
  2. 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. https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-warns-about-dental-problems-buprenorphine-medicines-dissolved-mouth-treat-opioid-use-disorder. January 2022. Accessed January 2023.
  3. Emergency Department Buprenorphine/Naloxone (Suboxone): Home Dosing Information. My Health Alberta. https://myhealth.alberta.ca/health/AfterCareInformation/pages/conditions.aspx?hwid=custom.ab_suboxone_homedosing_ac_adult. March 2021. Accessed January 2023.
  4. Suboxone Prescribing Information. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2010/022410s000lbl.pdf. 2010. Accessed January 2023.
  5. Instructions for Starting Buprenorphine (Suboxone) at Home When You Are Not Currently Using Opiates. Network of Care for Behavioral Health. https://newmexico.networkofcare.org/content/client/1446/2.5_1(CT)_InstructionsforStartingBuprenorphineatHomeWhenNOTUsingOpiates.pdf. February 2017. Accessed January 2023.
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