Suboxone contains buprenorphine, which has a half-life of 25 to 70 hours, depending on your metabolism. Half-life affects how long Suboxone stays in your system. The average is about 38 hours, which means it takes well over a day for the levels in your blood to be reduced to 50%. Most people experience buprenorphine’s effects for almost the whole day, so sublingual Suboxone is taken about once per day.
However, your medical provider may have you take it every other day, divide your dose up to smaller twice or three times daily doses, or otherwise adjust your treatment plan, depending on your individual needs.
How Long Until Suboxone Wears Off?
Suboxone’s effects typically last up to three days, but doctors recommend that patients take the medication daily. The exact amount of time Suboxone lasts will vary from person to person, so it’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions closely.
Buprenorphine is a long-acting partial opioid agonist, meaning it weakly activates the opioid receptors and does not cause significant intoxication in people with a tolerance to opioids.
While many people experience relief from cravings on Suboxone for 10 hours, others feel relief for days, since buprenorphine’s half-life ranges between 25 and 70 hours.
Pullquote: While many people experience relief from cravings on Suboxone for 10 hours, others feel relief for days, since buprenorphine’s half-life ranges between 25 and 70 hours. >>
How Long Does Suboxone Last in Each Phase of Treatment?
Suboxone treatment is effective and safe for use no matter how long you continue on it.
While there is a basic template for beginning and maintaining Suboxone treatment, it is important to know that your physician will work with you as an individual to manage how much Suboxone you take and when.
For example, while many people take Suboxone once per day, some people are better off taking smaller doses twice or three times per day.
Here are the average doses for each phase of Suboxone MAT and how long they are effective:
You will take your first dose of Suboxone after the last dose of opioids is metabolized out of the body, and you begin to experience withdrawal symptoms. This can take between 12 hours and 3 days, depending on the opioid you were using.
Once you begin to feel withdrawal, your provider will measure your withdrawal experience using a scale like the Clinical Opiate Withdrawal Scale (COWS) and determine the size of your Suboxone dose.
Typically, this dose will be small. For example, 2 mg buprenorphine/0.5 mg naloxone is common. Your symptoms will then be monitored for about an hour after this initial dose.
If you develop withdrawal symptoms, your provider will give you another 2 to 4 mg of Suboxone and monitor you for another two hours. If you do not develop withdrawal, your doctor may prescribe another small dose and then provide a prescription for the next day. This is the beginning of maintenance treatment.
Starting on day two, you will receive one baseline Suboxone dose which is likely around 8 mg and an additional “booster” dose. Your total Suboxone doses for the day may be up to 16 mg.
If you experience any withdrawal symptoms, notify your doctor so they can provide more Suboxone to ease the symptoms. Your body has not fully metabolized the original dose of buprenorphine, but feeling withdrawal indicates that you do not have a high enough dose.
Most people benefit from 8 to 16 mg of buprenorphine per day. Once you feel normal and do not have withdrawal symptoms, this dose will be continued through the rest of your treatment as a maintenance approach.
You and your doctor will regularly review how you feel on your dose of Suboxone. As long as you feel normal and it supports your recovery, you will continue to take it.
However, you may begin to feel some side effects that you do not like, or you may feel like you no longer need to take Suboxone. Your doctor can adjust your dose if you experience side effects, but let them know if you develop any withdrawal symptoms or cravings.
If you feel you no longer need Suboxone, you can discuss a tapering plan with your physician.
Tapering is a very individual process. Your doctor will monitor you for signs of withdrawal or craving as they slowly decrease your dose. You may take Suboxone every other day, for example, or you may take half a dose every day.
If there are signs of withdrawal, you may increase your dose again until you stabilize. This is simply part of the process of recovering from an opioid use disorder.
Your Doctor’s Guidance Is Important
It is essential not to quit Suboxone suddenly. Remember that Suboxone is safe and effective for OUD treatment. If you want to stop taking it, talk to your medical provider first, as they are a licensed buprenorphine provider and understand when and how to safely taper you off the medication.
According to medical research, acute withdrawal from buprenorphine can last as long as a month. Compare this to heroin’s acute withdrawal symptoms, which last for about a week. Precipitated withdrawal can last even longer.
On the other hand, the severity of the withdrawal when coming off Suboxone can be minimized significantly if you work with your provider to taper slowly off the medication over weeks to months. In addition, ask your provider about “comfort medications” to ease any withdrawal symptoms that do emerge.
You do not have to taper off Suboxone if it is effective for you. This medicine supports your health as you go through counseling and other parts of your rehabilitation program, so you can focus on returning to a normal life. Many people remain on Suboxone indefinitely.
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
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