How Long Does Suboxone Block Opiates?

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D. on March 15, 2021

Suboxone is a prescription drug that blocks the effects of opiates for about 24 hours. Along with methadone, Suboxone is a leading treatment for opioid dependence and addiction.

How Long Does Suboxone Block Opiates?

Suboxone is capable of blocking opiates for about 24 hours, which is why it’s generally prescribed for daily use.

One of the primary purposes of Suboxone is to block other opiates from binding to opioid receptors in the brain.

Millions of people in the United States struggle with opioid abuse and addiction, and over 100 people a day die due to an opioid overdose.

Suboxone is one of the leading treatments for opioid use disorder, as a drug that can help reduce the discomfort of opioid withdrawal, decrease opioid cravings, and reduce the risk of relapse.

What Is Suboxone?

Suboxone is a combination product of buprenorphine and naloxone, both of which can also be prescribed separately.

Buprenorphine belongs to a class of medications called opioid partial agonist-antagonists. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist, which allows it to block the effects of opioids.

Suboxone comes in the form of a sublingual film that is put under the tongue. It is commonly used within medication-assisted therapy, the most effective treatment for opioid addiction.

How Does Suboxone Work?

Suboxone binds to the same opioid receptors in the brain as common opioids of abuse, such as heroin, oxycodone, and fentanyl.

Unlike these other opioids, however, Suboxone has what’s called a “ceiling effect”. This means, despite any dosage increase, eventually the effects of Suboxone will reach a peak.

This is important because it makes it less likely to become a drug of abuse. It doesn’t cause the same rush of euphoria as other opioids. And because it binds to the same opiate receptors, Suboxone can reduce opioid cravings.

Suboxone’s effects will generally last about 24 hours. For this reason, it will usually be prescribed on a daily basis by a healthcare provider.

Side Effects Of Suboxone

Suboxone, like any drug, can cause side effects in some people. These side effects may occur when taken as prescribed or if it is misused.

Side effects of Suboxone may include:

  • headache
  • stomach pain
  • drowsiness
  • nausea or vomiting
  • constipation
  • mouth numbness
  • difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • back pain
  • blurred vision

Most side effects of Suboxone are not severe. If you or a loved one does experience severe side effects after taking Suboxone, contact your doctor or 911 in the case of an emergency.

Opioid Abuse And Dependence

The primary use of Suboxone is to treat opioid dependence, which can be both a sign and symptom of opioid abuse.

What opioid abuse can look like:

  • taking drugs in higher doses than prescribed
  • taking opioids more often than prescribed
  • taking opioids with other drugs
  • crushing, snorting, or injecting opioids
  • taking them for any reason other than prescribed

Opioid dependence can lead to uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms within hours of your last dose. This can make it difficult for people to stop taking it.

How Suboxone Can Help Treat Opioid Dependence

Suboxone can offer a number of benefits for people who have become dependent on opioids, including the illicit opioid heroin.

These benefits include:

  • it can serve as a long-term treatment
  • it can treat opiate withdrawal
  • Suboxone reduces opioid cravings
  • Suboxone reduces risk for relapse and opioid overdose

Suboxone is considered by many as a useful tool to re-establish normalcy after addiction and to rebuild a more hopeful, addiction-free future in recovery.

Are There Risks To Taking Suboxone?

Suboxone generally carries less risks than other opioid drugs. When taken as prescribed, it is less likely to lead to physical dependency.

Furthermore, due to its ceiling effect, you’re unlikely to overdose by taking Suboxone alone. Overdose can occur if you take Suboxone with an excessive amount of other depressants, such as benzodiazepines or alcohol.

Naloxone, one of the ingredients in Suboxone, is the primary treatment for opioid overdose. If you’re taking Suboxone for opioid use disorder, your doctor may also prescribe naloxone in case of an overdose.

Treatment Programs That Use Suboxone

Contrary to what some believe, the use of Suboxone for opioid addiction is not “trading” one addiction for another. For many people, Suboxone can be life-changing.

Suboxone is often used in medication-assisted treatment. This is an integrated treatment that combines the use of medications like Suboxone or methadone with behavioral therapy.

Suboxone treatment can be offered in:

  • inpatient rehab programs
  • residential rehab programs
  • partial hospitalization programs (PHPs)
  • intensive outpatient programs
  • outpatient rehab programs

To begin this treatment, people will need to have stopped taking opioids for 12 to 24 hours, once they are in early withdrawal. Taking buprenorphine before this can risk triggering acute withdrawal.

Although commonly used with other treatments, Suboxone can also be useful for treating opioid addiction by itself. The type of treatment program you need will largely be determined by your physical and mental health needs.

Find Suboxone Treatment For Opioid Addiction

For years, Suboxone has been used within opioid treatment programs to help people formerly addicted to opioids recover from addiction and rebuild their lives.

If you or a loved one is struggling with opioid addiction, we may be able to help. Call our helpline today to find Suboxone treatment options for yourself or a loved one near you.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D. on March 15, 2021

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