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Should You Use Suboxone Calculators?

Peter Manza, PhD profile image
Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD • Updated Feb 25, 2024 • 6 cited sources

Tested, proven “Suboxone calculators” that can tell anyone how much medication to take simply don’t exist. Instead, doctors assess their patients very carefully to determine how much medication to use.

Doctors do have access to calculators that help them convert patients from one medication to another. However, these aren’t true “Suboxone calculators,” as they often don’t work with buprenorphine—the active ingredient in Suboxone.

If you’re not sure how much Suboxone to take, ask your doctor. And if you don’t think your Suboxone dose is working, talk to your doctor again. Calculators can’t replace the value of clear communication.

What Are Drug Calculators?

True Suboxone calculators don’t exist. However, doctors do have access to tools called opioid conversion calculators.

These tools help doctors prescribe pain medications or switch patients from one drug to another.

Opioid conversion calculators like this one involve a few different fields. Doctors can specify these things:

  • What type of opioid the person used before
  • How much the person used each day
  • What other opioids the person used before
  • How much of these other opioids were used each day
  • How much of a different opioid the person should use now

Note that the example we’re using doesn’t allow doctors to convert from illicit opioids to buprenorphine.

Because the buprenorphine in Suboxone is a partial opioid agonist, it doesn’t always work well within an opioid calculator.[1] Some calculators don’t include buprenorphine at all because the results aren’t accurate.

Never use a calculator like this to guesstimate how much Suboxone or any other medication you should use. Work with your doctor to find a dose that’s right for you.

What Can Doctors Use Instead?

The recommended average dose of Suboxone is 16 mg buprenorphine/4 mg naloxone given in divided doses.[2] However, some patients are on doses as low as 2 mg buprenorphine/0.5 mg naloxone or sometimes as high as 24 mg buprenorphine/6 mg naloxone.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asks doctors to ask the following questions before giving patients Suboxone:[3]

  1. What type of opioid did you take?
  2. When did you take it last?
  3. How long have you been using opioids? How much do you take every day?

These questions can help doctors determine how much should be used when Suboxone treatment begins. For example, people taking long-acting medications for 10 years might need bigger doses than someone who took short-acting opioids for six months only.

After the first dose, doctors monitor their patients carefully and look for withdrawal symptoms (like sweating, nausea, muscle aches or goosebumps).[3] If they appear, doctors might give a bigger dose next time.

It generally takes a few days to determine the best dose for a patient. Physicians and patients are in close contact during this initial induction period to ensure that the best dosing level is achieved and maintained.

Be honest with your doctor about how you feel, so you can work together on the right Suboxone amount. Never adjust your dose without asking your doctor first.

Who Uses Suboxone?

Suboxone is an FDA-approved treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD).[3] OUD is defined as the chronic use of opioids that causes significant distress or impairment.[4]

More than 2.1 million people in the United States have OUD. While all of them are different, they struggle with many of the same symptoms, including the following:[4]

  • Continued drug use despite negative consequences
  • Decreased participation in social or recreational activities
  • Difficulty performing at work or school
  • Spending excessive time buying, using or recovering from drugs
  • Taking more than intended
  • Craving drugs
  • Unable to quit or decrease the dose
  • Tolerance, or the need to take more to get the same effect
  • Use in dangerous settings
  • Withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit

The buprenorphine in Suboxone is a partial opioid agonist that weakly activates opioid receptors. When it’s active, people feel fewer uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. With ongoing use, they may also have fewer drug cravings.[5]

The National Institute on Drug Abuse says people who use buprenorphine medications are 1.82 times more likely to stay in drug treatment when compared to people who don’t get medications.[6] However, buprenorphine must be given at the right dose to be effective.[6]

Never lean on an online calculator to help you determine how much Suboxone to take. Work with your doctor to craft a plan that’s right for you and your body.

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. Buprenorphine Conversions. Practical Pain Management. December 2018. Accessed July 2022.
  2. Prescribing Information: Suboxone (Buprenorphine and Naloxone) Sublingual Film. June 2022. Accessed July 2022. 
  3. Suboxone Prescribing Information. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. March 2021. Accessed January 2024.
  4. Opioid Use Disorder. StatPearls. July 2023. Accessed January 2024.
  5. How Do Medications to Treat Opioid Use Disorder Work? National Institute on Drug Abuse. December 2021. Accessed January 2024.
  6. How Effective Are Medications to Treat Opioid Use Disorder? National Institute on Drug Abuse. December 2021. Accessed January 2024.

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