Is Suboxone treatment a fit for you?
Find out now

How Long Does Suboxone Last? Timelines by Dosage

Table of Contents

Suboxone contains buprenorphine, which has a half-life of up 25 to 72 hours or up to three days, depending on your metabolism. 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.

You will take your first dose of Suboxone as soon as you start to experience withdrawal from opioid drugs. You’ll then spend two to three days adjusting the dose to get to one that works best for you, in collaboration with your medical provider. You will be able to stay on this maintenance dose as long as you need.

Suboxone Treatment Is Safe & Effective

Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT) is one of the most important approaches to helping people overcome opioid use disorder (OUD), preventing relapse, overdose, and death. Suboxone, a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, is one of the most prescribed and widely available medicines used for MAT.

Naloxone prevents the substance from being tampered with and buprenorphine is the active ingredient. When Suboxone is taken as directed (dissolved under the tongue or in the cheek), the buprenorphine in Suboxone enters the bloodstream and reduces cravings and withdrawal symptoms for as long as two days, depending on your individual metabolism.

During the maintenance phase of OUD treatment, which may last as long as you choose, you will take Suboxone once per day. It is possible that you may begin to decrease your dose and take Suboxone every other day or take half the dose you took initially over time.

It is important to know that there is no specific timeline for how long you can safely take Suboxone. Many people overcoming opioid addiction take this medicine for months or years. Many take it indefinitely. Suboxone treatment lasts as long as you need it to.

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 treatment and how long they are effective:[1] 

  • Induction: 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.[2] This can take between 12 hours and 3 days, depending on the opioid.

    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 will be smaller — 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 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.

  • Maintenance: Starting on day two, you will receive one baseline Suboxone dose that 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 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.[3]

  • Tapering: You and your doctor will regularly review how you feel on your dose of Suboxone. As long as you feel normal, 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 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 withdrawing from opioid dependence. 

Your Doctor’s Guidance Is Important

Buprenorphine is a long-acting partial opioid agonist, meaning it weakly activates the opioid receptors and does not cause significant intoxication in people who have developed a tolerance to opioids. While many people experience relief from cravings on Suboxone for 10 hours, others feel relief for days buprenorphine’s half-life ranges between 25 and 72 hours.[4]

It is very important not to suddenly quit Suboxone. 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.

Acute withdrawal from buprenorphine can, according to medical research, last as long as a month.[5] 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 of 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.

SOURCES

  1. Buprenorphine Quick Start Guide. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). https://www.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/quick-start-guide.pdf. Accessed February 2022.
  2. Clinical Induction Protocol – Sample. American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). https://www.asam.org/docs/default-source/education-docs/clinic-induction-protocol-example_it-matttrs_8-28-2017.pdf?sfvrsn=a30640c2_2. August 2017. Accessed February 2022.
  3. Highlights of Prescribing Information. Suboxone.com. https://www.suboxone.com/pdfs/prescribing-information.pdf. March 2021. Accessed February 2022.
  4. Buprenorphine. StatPearls. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459126/. August 2021. Accessed February 2022.
  5. How Long and Discontinuation Strategies for Buprenorphine. Project Echo. https://oudecho.iu.edu/resources/downloads/Strategies%20to%20Wean%20from%20MAT.pdf. Accessed February 2022.

Medically Reviewed By Claire Wilcox, MD

Claire Wilcox, MD, is a general and addiction psychiatrist in private practice and an associate professor of translational neuroscience at the Mind Research Network in New Mexico; and has completed an addictions fellowship, psychiatry residency, and internal medicine residency. Having done extensive research in the area, she is an expert in the neuroscience of substance use disorders. Although she is interested in several topics in medicine and psychiatry, with a particular focus on substance use disorders, obesity, eating disorders, and chronic pain, her primary career goal is to help promote recovery and wellbeing for people with a range of mental health challenges.

Is Suboxone treatment a fit for you?

Contact us directly to speak with a specialist.

Imagine what’s possible on the other side of opioid use disorder.

Our science-backed approach boasts 95% of patients reporting no withdrawal symptoms at 7 days. We can help you achieve easier days and a happier future.

Get Startedor book an enrollment call