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How Long Does It Take For Suboxone to ‘Kick In’?

how long does it take for suboxone to kick in

Generally, it takes anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes for the first dose of Suboxone to start working.[1] The drug reaches its peak approximately 1.5 to 3 hours after it is administered. It then is pharmacologically active for the next 24 hours.

The actual time it can take for Suboxone to “kick in” depends on many different factors, such as your age, weight, metabolic system, history of substance misuse, and other lifestyle or environmental factors.

factors that affect how long it take suboxone to kick in

Suboxone Pills vs. Strips

There are two methods of administering Suboxone: in pill form and in dissolvable strips.[2] Suboxone pills tend to take longer to dissolve under the tongue than the strips. This can influence how long it takes for the Suboxone to start working and for you to feel the medication’s effects. 

For this reason, many patients on Suboxone therapy prefer to receive their medication in strip form. The strips (thinner than the pills) are absorbed quicker, so it takes less time for the Suboxone to kick in.

A lot of patients also find the Suboxone strips more comfortable to keep in their mouths for the 20 minutes it takes to dissolve compared to holding pills in place for the same length of time. That said, some doctors may prescribe the pill form of Suboxone if they feel that it is necessary to limit the degree of the patient’s exposure to naloxone. 

Regardless of the method of administration, both Suboxone pills and strips are equally effective in doing their respective parts in treating opioid use disorder, differing only in the exposure to naloxone. 

What to Do If You Don’t Feel Anything

It is important wait to initiate your Suboxone until you are in active withdrawal, and only after the opioids are out of your system .[3] Before you take your first dose, you should wait until you are actively in opioid withdrawal, or longer, for example at least 12 hours since you last took a short-acting opioid (like heroin, or crushed prescription OxyContin), 24 hours since you last took a long-acting opioid (like oral OxyContin), and 72 hours since you last took methadone. You should always consult your treating provider, though, before initiating Suboxone as these times will vary significantly from person to person.

If you don’t feel like the Suboxone is having any effect two hours after that first dose — that is, you still feel the opioid withdrawal — often your provider will advise you to take another dose during that initial initiation phase (which is often between 2 mg to 4 mg). 

If your experience initially is that the suboxone is not having any apparent effect this is not a cause for concern.[4] Simply inform your treating provider and they can help titrate the Suboxone dose to find one that’s right for you.

When taking Suboxone for maintenance treatment, like if you take it daily for months or years, it is absolutely normal, and in fact ideal, for you to not notice any effects. In this case it is helping to block craving and the impulse to use opioids, rather than treating withdrawal, and therefore you should hardly notice it.

How Long Does Suboxone Last?

When taken on schedule (once a day, at the same time every day), Suboxone works effectively to manage opioid withdrawal symptoms. [5] The amount of time it keeps working will again be subject to your weight, metabolism, past history of drug misuse, and other environmental or lifestyle factors. Each one, or a combination, can lengthen or shorten how long the Suboxone continues to control your opioid withdrawal symptoms.

Based on your medical profile and history, your doctor will give you a customized prescription of Suboxone to maximize its benefits and minimize its side effects for you, individually.

SOURCES

  1. Buprenorphine: New Treatment of Opioid Addiction in Primary Care. Canada Family Physician. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21402963/. 2011. Accessed February 2022.  
  2. Buprenorphine and Nor-Buprenorphine Levels in Head Hair Samples From Former Heroin Users Under Suboxone® Treatment. Drug Testing and Analysis. https://doi.org/10.1002/dta.1611. May 2014. Accessed February 2022.  
  3. Rapid Identification of Buprenorphine in Patient Saliva. Journal of Analytical and Bioanalytical Techniques. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28944090/. 2017. Accessed February 2022.  
  4. Trends in Buprenorphine Treatment in the United States, 2009-2018. Journal of the American Medical Association. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2758992. January 2021. Accessed February 2022.  
  5. Suboxone: Rationale, Science, Misconceptions. The Ochsner Journal. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5855417/. Spring 2018. Accessed February 2022.  

Medically Reviewed By Claire Wilcox, MD

Claire Wilcox, MD, is a general and addiction psychiatrist in private practice and an associate professor of translational neuroscience at the Mind Research Network in New Mexico; and has completed an addictions fellowship, psychiatry residency, and internal medicine residency. Having done extensive research in the area, she is an expert in the neuroscience of substance use disorders. Although she is interested in several topics in medicine and psychiatry, with a particular focus on substance use disorders, obesity, eating disorders, and chronic pain, her primary career goal is to help promote recovery and wellbeing for people with a range of mental health challenges.

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