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Can Suboxone Cause Cancer?

Peter Manza, PhD profile image
Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD • Updated Aug 3, 2023

Suboxone and similar drugs have not been shown to cause cancer. 

While some online sources claim otherwise, they aren’t able to back these claims with credible medical evidence, such as medical data or relevant research. Be wary of any site that makes any claim they can’t support with data.

What Are the Side Effects of Taking Suboxone?

Suboxone, and buprenorphine-based medications like it, can potentially cause a number of side effects.[1] Some of the most common include the following:

  • Gastrointestinal issues, including constipation and stomach pain
  • Headache
  • Mouth numbness
  • Tongue pain
  • Back pain
  • Sleep problems
  • Blurry vision

More serious effects can include the following:

  • Allergic reaction
  • Respiratory depression (usually only dangerous when combined with other drugs)
  • Liver complications

Most often, these side effects wane in intensity as the body gets used to the medication.

Could Suboxone Cause Cancer?

There is no evidence to support any claim that Suboxone causes cancer.

While this issue hasn’t been thoroughly studied specifically, buprenorphine, and by extension buprenorphine-based medications like Suboxone, is itself considered highly evidence-based, and it is well vetted by modern medical science. 

It can be difficult to definitively prove a negative in science, including medical science, but again, there isn’t any evidence that Suboxone causes cancer. Simply put, there is no data illustrating any kind of increase in cancer rates among people using Suboxone or similar drugs, long-term or short-term, compared to the cancer rate among people who do not use these types of medications. 

Because these drugs are such a common focus of medical research and study, a significant increase in a person’s cancer risk as a result of using these medications would likely have been discovered at this point. Furthermore, any mild increase in cancer risk would also likely have been uncovered. While still a valid area of research, it seems unlikely that any significant findings will be discovered in this area. 

Note that Suboxone isn’t completely without side effects and risks, but cancer doesn’t appear to be one of these risks, as far as we know. Furthermore, the medication is generally considered safe and capable of significantly more benefit than harm when used appropriately and with the guidance of a medical professional.

Seeking Medical Advice Before Choosing Suboxone

You should always talk with a medical professional before taking Suboxone or similar types of medications, as these are still prescription drugs. While considered safe when used in the proper context, these medications should still only be used after you talk with a professional who can help you understand any risks and side effects of the medication, as well as the benefits and limitations of the drug. 

For instance, it’s important to understand that Suboxone doesn’t “cure” addiction. While it can help you to manage opioid use disorder, there is no cure for addiction. You must continue to manage the condition for the rest of your life, and plenty of people do this successfully. Suboxone works best as a long-term treatment combined with other types of addiction treatment, like cognitive behavioral therapy and other forms of ongoing support.

If you are concerned about your cancer risk, this is also worth discussing with a doctor, even though Suboxone hasn’t been linked to cancer. A doctor can help you reduce your overall risk of cancer and give you advice on how to regularly screen yourself. If you do develop cancer, it is more likely to be caught early with regular screenings. This ensures you can start treatment early, when it tends to be easier and have better outcomes.


1. Buprenorphine Sublingual and Buccal (opioid dependence). National Library of Medicine. January 2022. Accessed March 2023.

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

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