Suboxone is a semi-synthetic opioid commonly used to treat chemical dependence on other, more powerful opioids, such as heroin. It was designed to be an alternative to methadone, which is also effective at treating opioid addiction but has a much higher potential for abuse and is, therefore, tightly regulated.
Suboxone contains two active ingredients: buprenorphine and naloxone. The latter acts as a very effective anti-overdose and abuse-deterrent agent. Buprenorphine is an opioid itself but doesn’t produce the same intense high as most other opioids. For this reason, this medication can effectively reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings, and it isn’t considered to have a high potential for abuse.
Still, because Suboxone is an opioid and may result in some pleasurable feelings and pain relief, it can be misused by individuals seeking more intense effects. That said, it might not have as much of an impact on individuals who are already dependent on more powerful opioids because they will have probably had already developed a substantial tolerance.
But those who are first-time users of opioids or have only occasionally may be more vulnerable to becoming addicted to Suboxone, especially if they obtain it on the black market and misuse it without a prescription.
How Suboxone Is Broken Down in the Body
Suboxone has a specially-designed long elimination half-life when compared to other opioids. It is formulated this way because long-lasting opioids serve as better replacements for those who are dependent on short-acting opioids as the effects last longer.
The half-life of a drug is the amount of time required for half of the dose to be excreted from the body. For buprenorphine, this can take up to 37 hours (about 1.5 days), meaning that it can take more than eight days for Suboxone to be completely cleared from a person’s system.
This period will not be the same for everyone, however. Several factors influence how rapidly Suboxone will be eliminated from the system. These include the following:
- Amount of body fat
- Metabolic rate
- Amount of the last dose taken
- Duration of time use persisted
- Liver health and function
- Overall health
- Individual biology
Suboxone an Drug Testing
The process of breaking down Suboxone in the liver produces metabolites that remain in the body for longer than the drug itself. Modern drug screens can identify these byproducts, as well, so even after eight days, a person might still test positive for buprenorphine.
Blood tests are more invasive but can identify the presence of substances shortly after ingestion. However, they also have a smaller window of detection for Suboxone. The ideal time for a blood test to be accurate is just over 2 hours after the last dose.
Saliva tests are used more for employment screening because they are non-invasive and easy to administer. These tests can detect substances for a few days or possibly over a week after the last dose of Suboxone.
Urine tests are the most common, primarily by employers seeking to identify illicit drug use in employees. Buprenorphine can be detected in the urine in a little over 40 minutes after ingestion. For long-term users or excessive users, the drug can be identified in one of these tests for up to two weeks after the last dose.
Suboxone and its metabolites can also accumulate in hair follicles and can be detected in hair tests for up to three months, but this is an expensive drug test, and it’s used often. It also cannot determine if a person used the drug very recently or not.
While Suboxone addiction is not as common and most other substance use disorders, it can and does occasionally occur in both people with legitimate prescriptions and those who obtain it illicitly.
While Suboxone is an abuse-resistant drug that is meant to help people recover from the abuse of much more powerful opioids, such as heroin, it does have some potential to be habit-forming. If you have been using Suboxone as medication-assisted treatment for a more severe addiction to other opioids, you have already taken the first step toward sobriety.
Usually, a person who is prescribed Suboxone will gradually be weaned off it by a doctor or addiction specialist. That said, some who do not feel they are ready, in theory, could obtain Suboxone on the black market and continue to use it beyond what is recommended by their doctor. Some may still require pain relief, and discontinuing the use of Suboxone may trigger more pain and, therefore, the desire to continue using.
It is critical, however, that people in this situation seek further help for their opioid abuse problem and consult doctor or pain specialists on other effective ways they can manage their pain without the use of opioid medication. Powerful non-opioid analgesics and anti-inflammatory remedies are available, as well as physical therapy, massage, TENS devices, and more.
Getting Help for Suboxone Abuse
If you are struggling to get off Suboxone, please contact us as soon as possible. Suboxone abuse may be a relatively mild problem compared to, say, full-blown heroin addiction, and it can be very effectively treated, often using less-intensive forms of treatment.
Recovery in Tune offers customized, state-of-the-art substance abuse treatment programs that feature a variety of therapies, services, and activities that people in recovery can benefit from significantly.
If you are ready to take the next step in your sobriety and wellness, Recovery in Tune can help you reclaim your life, one day at a time!