Suboxone is the trade name for a combination drug that is used to treat opioid use disorders (OUD). This medication contains both the opioid buprenorphine and the opioid reversal agent naloxone and is taken under the tongue. Since Suboxone was approved in 2002 for the treatment of OUD, the number of prescribers has increased over 10-fold. A 2011 review found that 76 percent of surveyed Americans who use opioids had obtained Suboxone without a prescription.
Due to its ability to treat opioid withdrawal symptoms, non-prescribed use of Suboxone is common. Such use prompts several frequently asked questions: How does Suboxone work? How long does Suboxone stay in your system? Does Suboxone show up on a urine test? These questions can be answered with an understanding of how Suboxone works, what the half-life of Suboxone is and how Suboxone gets distributed and cleared in the body.
How Does Suboxone Work?
Suboxone treats the symptoms of opioid withdrawal by replacing the opioid the body has grown used to with buprenorphine, a moderately potent opioid that bonds tightly and completely to the body’s opioid access sites. Those bonding properties make buprenorphine highly effective as an opioid while keeping its overall abuse potential relatively low, though it can still be used in unintended ways. The presence of naloxone, which quickly reverses the effects of opioids, helps dissuade users of Suboxone from crushing it into powder and injecting or snorting the drug for a high. Since naloxone is not easily available to the body when taken under the tongue, it does not reduce the effectiveness of buprenorphine when Suboxone is used as intended.
What Is the Half-Life of Suboxone?
Half-life refers to the time it takes for 50 percent of a substance entering the body to be cleared and eliminated from the body. After two half-lives, all but 25 percent of a substance is cleared; after three half-lives, all but 12.5 percent is cleared, and so on. After four to five half-lives, a single dose of a substance has usually been cleared from the body below detectable levels. Since Suboxone has two component chemicals, each has its own half-life. The elimination half-life of buprenorphine (the opioid in Suboxone), is 37 hours, which is longer than most other opioids. The body converts buprenorphine to the metabolite norbuprenorphine, which has an even longer half-life of 57 hours. Naloxone, the reversal agent, has a very short elimination half-life of 30-60 minutes.
How Long Does Suboxone Stay in Your Urine?
Buprenorphine and its metabolite norbuprenorphine are the determining factors for how long Suboxone stays in your urine. The 57-hour half-life of norbuprenorphine means that Suboxone can be detected in the urine for up to 11 days.
Each of the body compartments in which a substance is distributed — blood, saliva, hair and skin, for example — has a different half-life, depending on the substance’s chemical makeup. That half-life determines how long Suboxone stays in these compartments. The elimination half-life of the buprenorphine in Suboxone from blood plasma is 3 hours, so that it can be detected for 15 hours in the bloodstream. In saliva, the elimination half-life of buprenorphine is about 4 hours, and thus buprenorphine can be detected for about 20 hours. These numbers are averages for a large population; half-lives and detection times for Suboxone in any one person may vary.
Find Help with Suboxone Addiction
Suboxone can be a profoundly helpful medication in the right setting, but it can also be dangerous if used in a way other than prescribed. If you have lost control over your use of Suboxone or have been using Suboxone in a medically unintended way, there is immediate help available at The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake. Our team of dedicated and experienced professionals can help you establish a path away from addiction and toward a healthy, sustainable recovery. Contact The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake for more information.