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What Happens When You Swallow Suboxone?

Elena Hill, MD, MPH profile image
Medically Reviewed By Elena Hill, MD, MPH • Updated Mar 3, 2024

If you swallow Suboxone, it won’t work correctly. Suboxone contains two active ingredients, and neither work well when swallowed. 

If you’re using Suboxone for an opioid use disorder (OUD), swallowing your dose will not allow it to be properly absorbed by the body, and the medication will not work.

Suboxone is designed for sublingual (underneath your tongue) administration. Always follow your doctor’s instructions when using this medication. 

What Happens When You Swallow Suboxone?

The medication will not work as intended when you swallow Suboxone instead of dissolving it under your tongue.[1] 

For a regular Suboxone user, swallowing the medication will not work. It won’t lessen withdrawal symptoms and certainly won’t result in a high.

How Is Suboxone Supposed to Be Taken?

Suboxone is designed for sublingual (underneath the tongue) administration. Buprenorphine accesses the brain and binds to opioid receptors, easing withdrawal symptoms and preventing cravings for other opioids. 

To use your medication, do the following:

  • Open your dose. The medication comes in film strips carefully wrapped for individual use.
  • Place your medication in your mouth. Strips dissolve into the bloodstream when taken appropriately. You’ll place them under your tongue or in your cheek, depending on your doctor’s instructions.
  • Wait. Suboxone typically takes between 15 and 30 minutes to become fully bioavailable (entering the circulatory system so it can produce effects) and active in the brain. Your prescribing physician will tell you how often to take Suboxone, and it is important to generally wait at least one hour between doses.

You shouldn’t experience Suboxone side effects, such as these:

  • Feeling sick
  • Exhaustion
  • Sedation

If you do, your buprenorphine dose may be either too high or too low. Talk to your doctor to adjust it.

Why Is Suboxone Taken Under the Tongue?

Suboxone is taken under the tongue (sublingually) due to its unique pharmacology. 

Unlike many other pill medications, buprenorphine (the main active ingredient in Suboxone) does not get well absorbed if it is digested in the stomach. Instead, it is absorbed much better through the mucosa of the mouth. For this reason, it is produced in a tablet or film form that easily dissolves sublingually. [2]

What Happens if You Accidentally Swallow Suboxone?

Because Suboxone is designed to work when dissolved under the tongue, swallowing it means most of it will not get absorbed. You will therefore not experience the effects of the medications, or at least not the extent to which you would were you to properly ingest it under the tongue. 

In addition, Suboxone may bother the stomach so swallowing it may result in nausea, vomiting, or abdominal upset. 

Tips for Taking Suboxone for Opioid Use Disorder

When taken as prescribed, Suboxone has a very low potential for overdose and effectively treats opioid use disorder. It will not cause addiction when used for this purpose. It is an incredibly effective medication for the long-term treatment of OUD.

To use your medication, take these steps:

  • Follow instructions. Always take Suboxone as prescribed.
  • Don’t buy it from dealers. Do not take this medication if you have not received a prescription for it.
  • Wait for your dose to work. When taking Suboxone, wait at least 10 minutes once the medication has completely dissolved before eating or drinking anything. 
  • Pay attention to your health. Limit or stop drinking alcohol while taking Suboxone and follow your doctor’s instructions to improve your overall health.

Swallowing Suboxone FAQs

Will Suboxone work if you swallow it?

Suboxone will not work as intended if you swallow it since it is designed to be dissolved either under the tongue or in the cheek. Be sure to take medications like Suboxone as prescribed by your doctor.

What happens when you swallow buprenorphine?

If you swallow buprenorphine, a limited amount of the medication may be absorbed into your bloodstream through your stomach lining, but it won’t bring the desired effects. You will not get high from swallowing buprenorphine. You may also experience nausea, vomiting or stomach upset. 

What happens if you swallow Subutex?

Subutex contains buprenorphine, just like Suboxone does. This medication doesn’t work well when it is swallowed. Swallowing Subutex will not result in effective absorption of the medication, and may result in nausea, vomiting or stomach upset.


  1. Emergency Department Buprenorphine/Naloxone (Suboxone): Home Dosing Information. MyHealth Alberta. March 2021. Accessed November 2022.
  2. Highlights of Prescribing Information. Access FDA. 2002. Accessed November 2022. 
  3. Buprenorphine / Naloxone Buccal Film (BUNAVAIL)C-III. Pharmacy Benefits Management Services, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. September 2014. Accessed November 2022.

Medically Reviewed By Elena Hill, MD, MPH

Elena Hill, MD; MPH received her MD and Masters of Public Health degrees at Tufts Medical School and completed her family medicine residency at Boston Medical Center. She is currently an attending physician at Bronxcare Health Systems in the Bronx, NY where ... Read More

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