What Is the Half-Life of Suboxone?

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“Half-life” of a drug refers to the time taken for the initial concentration of a medication in blood to reduce by half. Essentially, it is a way of describing how long a drug stays and acts in your body. Drugs with short half-lives last for less time than drugs with long half-lives. Buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) stays in your system for about 28-42 hours after sublingual administration (under the tongue), which is the most common route for Suboxone treatment. (Intramuscular, intravenous, and transdermal formulations have varying half-lives in your bloodstream.) This is a lot longer than other opioids, allowing it to prevent withdrawal symptoms in your body for a longer time. 

Remember: half-life calculations are but one facet of predicting the duration of stay of a drug in the system, which is more complicated. In general, it takes a week or less for Suboxone to get out of the system entirely.

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 of time. 

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 tend to be in good health. These two factors allow them to process substances quickly.
  • 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.[1] 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 the way they metabolize buprenorphine.[2] Certain individuals may therefore process Suboxone faster or slower than others. 

Suboxone in Drug Tests 

Most drug testers are searching for narcotic substances that change the way you look, act, or react. Buprenorphine is a narcotic, but it does not appear on a standard drug screen.[3] Someone must order a specific type of test to screen for buprenorphine. 

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

| Test Material | Time You'll Test Positive | |---------------|---------------------------| | Blood | Up to 4 days | | Hair | Up to 3 months | | Saliva | Up to 1 week | | Urine | Up to 1 week |

Sources

  1. LiverTox: Clinical and Research Information on Drug-Induced Liver Injury. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK548871/. 2012. Accessed June 2022.
  2. Pharmacogenomics-Guided Policy in Opioid Use Disorder Management: An Ethnically-Diverse Case-Based Approach. Addictive Behaviors Approach. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352853217300111. December 2017. Accessed June 2022. 
  3. Does Buprenorphine Show Up in an Employer Drug Screening? National Alliance of Advocates for Buprenorphine Treatment. https://www.naabt.org/faq_answers.cfm?ID=78. Accessed June 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 she works as a primary care physician as well as part time in pain management and integrated health. Her clinical interests include underserved health care, chronic pain and integrated/alternative health.

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