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What Is the Half-Life of Suboxone?

Elena Hill, MD, MPH profile image
Medically Reviewed By Elena Hill, MD, MPH • Updated Sep 19, 2023

The buprenorphine inside Suboxone has an average half-life ranging from 12 to 42 hours. Naloxone has an average half-life of 2 to 12 hours.[1]

Half-life refers to the time needed for a drug’s blood concentration to reduce by 50%. Essentially, it is a way of describing how long a drug stays and acts in your body.

Half-life calculations are only one facet predicting the duration of stay of a drug in the system, which is more complicated. Your age, health, and other factors could make Suboxone persist much longer. 

What Factors Affect Suboxone’s Detection Time?

Your body must metabolize each dose of Suboxone you take. Some people work through the drug quickly and clear the medication from their systems faster. But sometimes, your body moves Suboxone slowly, allowing the drug to linger for longer periods.

Factors that could alter Suboxone metabolization include the following:

  • Age: Younger people tend to process drugs more quickly than their older counterparts. Young people are physically active, and their organs are often in good health. These two factors allow them to process substances rapidly.
  • Dose: The more Suboxone you take, the longer your body will need to remove all traces of your medication from your system.
  • Liver health: Your liver processes the buprenorphine within Suboxone.[2] If your liver is damaged by illness or disease, you may need longer to clear the doses from your body.
  • Genetics: Some people have gene variants that change how they metabolize buprenorphine.[3] They may process Suboxone faster or slower than others.
  • Size: Your body size can play a role in how quickly you break down ingredients inside your Suboxone dose. If you’re overweight, your body fat could slow your metabolism and allow your medication to linger.
  • Use patterns: Some people take massive doses of drugs for long periods during their addiction. They may harm their organs and slow their metabolism in the process, so they need more time to process Suboxone.

In general, it takes a week or less for Suboxone to get out of the system entirely. But your time can vary dramatically due to these factors. 

Suboxone in Drug Tests

Most drug testers search for narcotic substances that change how you look, act, or react. Buprenorphine is a narcotic but does not appear on a standard drug screen.[4] Someone must order a specific type of test to screen for buprenorphine. However, even if an employer tests for buprenorphine, the American Disabilities Act (ADA) protects people from discrimination, so it’s illegal for an employer to fire someone for treating their substance use disorder with a valid buprenorphine prescription.[5]

If you must go through a buprenorphine drug test, here’s how long you might deliver a positive result:


Technicians take a small sample of your blood and test it for drugs. You’ll test positive for at least 4 days when using this method. It’s an uncommon type of Suboxone test, as it’s expensive and takes a long time to complete. 


Your hair contains a detailed record of all the drugs you’ve taken, and the results can be remarkably persistent. Even washing your hair won’t help, as the drug remains embedded in the keratin. You’ll test positive for at least 3 months with this method. 


Technicians use swabs to gather saliva from your mouth. Your saliva holds traces of buprenorphine for about a week, even if you brush your teeth and use mouthwashes. 


Technicians ask you to give a sample of urine in a small, tamper proof cup. You’ll test positive for about 2 weeks with this method. It’s nearly impossible to cheat on this test, as technicians gather data about the urine’s temperature. If you bring in a sample and try to cheat, they’ll discover your deception.


  1. Suboxone Prescribing Information. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. March 2021. Accessed January 2023.
  2. LiverTox: Clinical and Research Information on Drug-Induced Liver Injury. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. 2012. Accessed January 2023.
  3. Pharmacogenomics-Guided Policy in Opioid Use Disorder Management: An Ethnically-Diverse Case-Based Approach. Addictive Behaviors Approach. December 2017. Accessed January 2023.
  4. Federal Laws and Regulations. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Accessed January 2023.

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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