Generally speaking, it takes one to three days to find a maintenance Suboxone dose that keeps you stable without cravings or withdrawal symptoms. Other people may take a little longer, and say it takes one to two weeks before they feel totally stable/normal.
Some people may be able to return to work immediately but others may require some time off while their body adjusts. It all depends on how you feel, and the timeline should be set by you and your treatment team.
Your First Week Back: What to Expect
Suboxone may make you feel dizzy or groggy at first. It therefore might be a good idea to take at least a few days off upon starting this medication to make sure you are adjusted before returning to work. This can take anywhere from a day or two to a week or two. Once stable on your Suboxone dose, you should be able to perform all of your typical work duties without any restrictions or limitations. But it pays to plan ahead and take the time off that you need.
Be Mindful of Side Effects
A maintenance dose of Suboxone should leave you with well controlled drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms. But you may experience intermittent side effects such as nausea and headaches or dizziness or grogginess, at least at first.
It’s best to delay your return to work until you feel healthy on Suboxone. You may want to plan on taking at least a few days off while you adjust.
Ask for Time Off In Advance
If your boss requests an explanation for your absence, you’re not obligated to disclose why you are taking the time off. Your health information is protected under a healthcare law called HIPAA, meaning that you are not obligated to disclose what medications you are taking to an employer.
If your employer requires a letter, your Suboxone prescriber can write one for you, being as vague as you would like (For example, “this patient was seen in my office on ___ date. He/She requires medical leave for ___ days”.)
Keep Your Appointments
It’s easy to get sucked back into the rhythm of work and forget about your sobriety and taking care of yourself. Remember that you’re still actively working on recovery and need to remain focused. Keep all of your therapy appointments and check-ins. Your doctor can help get you time off work as needed so you can attend your medical appointments.
Should You Disclose Your Suboxone Use?
People using medications for addiction recovery are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). If you took Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) time for your treatment, your employer may already know that you’re working on your substance use disorder. You can’t lose your job because of that work.
While you’re not legally required to tell your employer about your Suboxone use, you may want to disclose this to them. They may be more understanding if they know you are dealing with a chronic medical condition like addiction. If and when you decide to disclose this information to your employer is always up to you.
- Suboxone Prescribing Information. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2018/020733s022lbl.pdf. February 2018. Accessed July 2022.
- Workers Taking Suboxone, Methadone Protected by ADA, Feds Caution. HR Dive. https://www.hrdive.com/news/workers-taking-suboxone-methadone-protected-by-ada-feds-caution/589660/. November 2020. Accessed July 2022.
Medically Reviewed By: Elena Hill, MD, MPH
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