Suboxone is used to treat opioid addiction, including for addiction to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, opioid medications such as codeine, hydrocodone, morphine, and illicit opioids such as heroin. Suboxone contains buprenorphine and naloxone, and is highly effective in treating addiction. Suboxone blocks opiate stimulation for approximately 24 hours. Nevertheless, the duration for which the drug is effective differs in each patient and is related to the prescribed dosage of each individual patient.

See Suboxone Dosage Guide for more information on Suboxone doses.

Dosing is based on how the patient feels as they are inducted on and maintain their course of Suboxone treatment. There are some complexities to finding the right dose. Confidant staff will work with you to ascertain the right dose for you.

How to use Suboxone to get off opiates

Buprenorphine was used in pain management before it was used in the treatment of opioid addiction. See Can suboxone be used for pain? for more on this. Sublingual buprenorphine was approved for use by qualified practitioners in a sanctioned medical setting in 2002. While it does have some opioid effects, it is a partial opioid agonist, which means it reduces cravings. It also blocks other opioids from having an effect, though it should not be used in conjunction with other opioids. Its partial opioid formulation creates a ‘ceiling effect’ while its attraction to the mu receptor creates a long-acting effect with an elimination half-life of approximately 36 hours. This is enough medication to activate opiate stimulation for one day in most patients.

Buprenorphine, the active ingredient in Suboxone, is one of three FDA-approved drugs in the medication assisted treatment (MAT) of addiction; methadone and naltrexone are the others. Methadone is only available in special treatment programs that usually require daily visits, but buprenorphine and naltrexone are available through pharmacies and digital health services like Confidant. 

Buprenorphine’s pharmacological properties are unlike any other opioid. Generally, the dosage tends to stay the same or decrease over time as opposed to the formation of escalated tolerance seen with the ingestion of heroin and other full opioid agonists.

When you ingest Suboxone, the buprenorphine in the drug attaches to the brain’s opioid receptors. Suboxone does not activate the receptors as powerfully as heroin or methadone. No matter how much Suboxone you ingest, it can only provide a certain amount of opioid stimulation, but it is enough to keep the patient out of withdrawal.

The use of the medication combined with psychosocial treatments is the most effective treatment modality. Recovery from drug addiction is not just about eliminating the drug. It is about repairing and rebuilding all aspects of life. When drug ingestion is stabilized, there are a lot of other things to tend to, such as mending relationships, seeking gainful employment, organizing finances, sourcing accommodation, attending counseling sessions, and more. The long-lasting effect and ‘ceiling effect’ the drug possesses allow the patient to function better and focus on other aspects of their recovery. It is for this reason that Suboxone is frequently prescribed in the medically assisted treatment of addiction. 


How long does Suboxone last?

Suboxone lasts for approximately 24 hours and is dependent on dosage. A patient might take a singular dose or multiple smaller doses throughout the day. This should be decided and agreed upon with your healthcare provider. How long the patient takes the medication is determined on a case-by-case basis. Usually, the longer a patient stays on Suboxone, the more successful their recovery tends to be. As it is hard to determine an exact treatment duration, as a rule, a patient should be prepared to stay on the medication until their lives improve. Interpretations around what that means can vary, so you could use a 12-month treatment plan as a reasonable gauge.

There is no clearly defined length of time for Suboxone treatment. However, buprenorphine is an opioid, and if use is abruptly discontinued, the patient WILL experience withdrawal symptoms. Stopping Suboxone should be done under the supervision of your prescriber.

When prescribing Suboxone, it is necessary to wait for the patient to enter withdrawal before inducting Suboxone in their treatment plan. Otherwise, the drug will shock the patient into precipitated withdrawal. Common side effects like constipation, sweating, nausea, insomnia, dizziness, and drowsiness should be expected in this instance. Benzodiazepines should not be mixed with Suboxone as they pose serious interaction effects. It is also important to note that relapse rates are high when Suboxone treatment stops, no matter how motivated the patient might be to remain sober. The risk of overdose and death also increases with relapse as the patient’s tolerance is lower. Overdose risks should be explained, and naloxone should be provided to the patient when they end Suboxone treatment.

Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) is a problematic pattern of opioid use that can lead to significant impairment and/or distress. OUD is a chronic and relapsing condition, and it should be treated accordingly. The staff at Confidant are here to help. Contact us today.