Suboxone is a prescription medication doctors use to treat opioid use disorder (OUD). The right dose will block cravings and limit withdrawal symptoms. A too-strong dose might make you feel sick or sedated. Therefore, finding the right dose is critical to success.
Suboxone typically blocks opioid cravings for about 24-48 hours. However, everybody is different, and some people may requires more frequent dosing, sometimes up to 2 or 3 times a day.
Suboxone is a prescription medication containing the following:
Buprenorphine can be provided in doctors’ offices. Before it was part of a doctor's toolkit, people had to go to clinics every day to get methadone, which was the only treatment available. Now, Suboxone makes it a lot easier to get treatment for OUD without having to attend a methadone clinic.
Patients on Suboxone are less likely to use opioids. And if they do slip and use, the medication could keep them from overdosing.
Suboxone comes in multiple doses ranging from 1 mg to 16 mg. Doctors search for a dose that keeps people from feeling sick from withdrawal but alert enough to focus on recovery.
To understand how long Suboxone lasts, understanding the concept of “half-life” is critical. A half-life is a measurement of how long the body needs to remove half of the drug from the body.
In general, a medication is considered processed and ineffective after four half-lives, when about 6.25% of the original dose is still in the body.[3-6] However, this varies greatly depending on the medication.
Suboxone has a half life of 12-24 hours. This varies by individual. In general, this means that it can control withdrawal cravings for as short as a few hours to as long as a few days, depending on the individual.
While a drug's half life is a good place to start to get a sense of how long it will work, it is only one factor. Other factors also affect how long Suboxone works in the body, including:
Buprenorphine (the active ingredient in Suboxone) is a partial opioid agonist. This means it fills up opioid receptors the same way that full opioids like heroin or fentanyl do, preventing the withdrawal that would otherwise occur. At the same time, it is only a “partial” agonist, meaning it doesn't turn on those receptors as strongly as a full opioid agonist. It therefore has a much lower likelihood of getting the patient “high” or putting them at risk of an overdose. Instead, they simply function normally.
Suboxone misuse is relatively rare. When people do take their prescription more often than they are supposed to, it is usually a well meaning attempt to control their withdrawal symptoms and to function, and not as an attempt to “get high”.
But some people do relapse to opioids while using Suboxone. Relapse is a part of recovery, and it's not a sign of weakness.
If you use opioids while taking Suboxone, the Suboxone will partially block those opioid receptors and partially prevent you from getting high. This will help protect against an overdose to a certain extent.
Bear in mind, this protective effect is partial and not at all fool-proof. If you continue to take very high doses of opioids, the protective effect of Suboxone can be overcome, and you can overdose and even die. Do not make the mistake of thinking that you cannot overdose on opioids just because you have Suboxone in your system.
If you are tempted to use additional opioids while taking Suboxone, call your doctor immediately before you do. They can adjust your Suboxone dose and otherwise help you to control cravings before you relapse and potentially put yourself at risk of an overdose.