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How to Take Suboxone Strips

Peter Manza, PhD profile image
Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD • Updated Mar 3, 2024 • 6 cited sources

Suboxone strips (sometimes called Suboxone films) are designed to stick to the inside of your mouth, dissolving within a few minutes. 

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. Together, you can ensure you get all the benefits of your medication.

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What Are Suboxone Strips?

Suboxone strips are FDA-approved for the treatment of opioid use disorder (OUD).[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 opioid antagonist, naloxone.

Suboxone primarily comes in two forms:

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

Identifying Suboxone strips is relatively easy. They are orange and very thin. 

Ensure that you store them in a safe place, away from children and animals. Keep them in their original packaging, so you don’t confuse them with something else. 

How Do Suboxone Strips Work?

Suboxone films melt inside your mouth. Active ingredients move through your mucosal membranes and into your bloodstream. Once there, buprenorphine starts working to ease OUD symptoms.

Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, which means it binds to opioid receptors in the brain and blocks other opioids of misuse from attaching—this helps to reduce opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms while preventing you from getting high if you return to opioid misuse.[2]

Naloxone is contained inside each Suboxone strip. This ingredient is inactive if you use the drug as prescribed. But take too much or try to inject your strips, and the naloxone will work, causing precipitated withdrawal. This mechanism works to deter misuse of Suboxone.

How to Take Suboxone Strips in 10 Simple Steps 

Your doctor will explain how Suboxone strips work and how to use them. But we’ve also outlined what you need to know here. 

Follow these steps:

  1. Store: Keep your Suboxone strips in a cool, dry place. 
  2. Snack: Eat something 15 to 30 minutes before it’s time to use your Suboxone strips. This can help to alleviate any nausea you might experience when you first start using the medication.
  3. Check: Make sure you don’t have any food in your mouth before using the strip.
  4. Moisten: Take a quick sip of water and swish it around your mouth and teeth. The moisture will help the strip dissolve.
  5. Prepare: Wash your hands. Open the packet and grab the strip by its corners. 
  6. Place: Put the strip under your tongue. 
  7. Be still: Don’t move the strip, talk, eat or drink.
  8. Wait: Wait until the strip dissolves completely.
  9. Rinse: When the strip is dissolved, take a sip of water, swish it, and swallow. 
  10. Wait: Don’t eat or drink anything for 30 minutes.

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 appropriate amount. Multiple dosage amounts are available.

Suboxone films come in the following strengths:[3]

  • 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.[3] As your body adjusts to the medication, you may need more or less to keep symptoms at bay without feeling groggy or uncomfortable.

How Soon Can You Eat or Drink After Taking Your Suboxone Strip?

Wait at least 30 minutes before eating anything or drinking a large amount of liquid.[4] Allow the medication to fully enter your system before you add more to it.

But you can take in a small amount of liquid right after your dose. 

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.[5]

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. 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.[6]

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 has completely dissolved and swish it around your mouth.[5]

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.

Suboxone Tablets: An Alternative to Suboxone Strips 

Strips can take some getting used to. Some people never adjust to them. If you’re sure Suboxone films aren’t right for you, tablets can be a good alternative. 

Suboxone tablets contain the same ingredients as Suboxone films. They’re just as safe, just as effective, and just as appropriate for people with OUD. People who might use tablets include those who dislike the taste or feel of strips. 

You can learn how to take Suboxone tablets quickly and easily. The instructions are much the same as those you would use with strips. 

Why Does Suboxone Come in a Sublingual Film 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. Suboxone doctors use films and strips because it’s the best way to administer the medication.

How to Take Suboxone Film

Suboxone film is another term for Suboxone strips. The steps to take films are exactly the same as those for strips.

To recap, those steps include the following:

  1. Eat something 15 to 30 minutes before your Suboxone dose is due. 
  2. Take a sip of water, and swish the fluid around your mouth and teeth.
  3. Open the packet, and pick up the strip by the corners. 
  4. Place your Suboxone strip under your tongue. 
  5. Wait for the strip to dissolve completely, and don’t eat, talk or drink until it does. 
  6. Swish water around your mouth once more and swallow the fluid. 
  7. Don’t eat or drink anything for 30 minutes.

Suboxone Strip FAQs

We’ve compiled some of the most common questions about how to take Suboxone strips. 

Are there side effects of taking Suboxone film strips?

The side effects of Suboxone strips include headache, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness and more. They may fade as your body grows accustomed to your therapy. If not, contact your doctor and talk about adjusting your dose. 

How long does Suboxone stay in your system?

Most people take Suboxone once per day, but chemists may detect Suboxone in your system for much longer. In general, expect it to appear in urine tests for six days and in blood for several days.

Should I spit or swallow Suboxone?

If you have residue in your mouth after your Suboxone strip dissolves, you can either spit or swallow that substance. The choice is yours, and both are safe. 

How long does it take for Suboxone to dissolve?

Suboxone strips take between 2 and 10 minutes to dissolve. Moistening your mouth before you get started can help them fade away a little faster.

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. June 2022. Accessed May 2023.
  2. Buprenorphine. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. May 2023. Accessed May 2023.
  3. Suboxone Prescribing Information. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. June 2022. Accessed May 2023.
  4. Emergency Department Buprenorphine/Naloxone (Suboxone): Home Dosing Information. My Health Alberta. March 2021. Accessed May 2023.
  5. 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. January 2022. Accessed May 2023.
  6. Instructions for Starting Buprenorphine (Suboxone) at Home When You Are Not Currently Using Opiates. Network of Care for Behavioral Health. February 2017. Accessed May 2023.

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