Thursday April 24th 2014

How long does buprenorphine withdrawal last?

Buprenorphine can be a useful drug prescribed to treat opiate addiction. Because it is a partial agonist, buprenorphine (used in brand name medications such as Suboxone and Subutex) results in a milder degree of physical dependence and is associated with milder withdrawal syndrome following cessation.  But what kind of timeline can you expect during buprenorphine withdrawal? And do people taking buprenorphine for opioid dependence experience less severe withdrawal than those who abuse buprenorphine to get high?

More here on how long it takes to withdraw from buprenorphine and what symptoms you can expect in the course of the first month after you stop taking it. Then, we invite your questions about buprenorphine withdrawal at the end.

How long until buprenorphine withdrawal starts?

What does buprenorphine withdrawal feel like?  Basically, it feels like a really bad flu.  Buprenorphine withdrawal can start in the hours or days after you take your last dose.

Generally, it is recommended that you gradually reduce your doses of buprenorphine over the period of 2-3 weeks before complete cessation so that the withdrawal symptoms are not as severe. Although the physical withdrawal symptoms resolve after a period of 7-10 days, the psychological withdrawal symptoms can last for months or longer. Symptoms of benprenorphine withdrawal include leg restlessness, nausea, and sweating, yawning, pain, anxiety, irritability, insomnia and cold or flu-like symptoms.

Buprenorphine withdrawal timeline

24 – 72 hours: Buprenorphine withdrawal will usually peak in severity and intensity 72 hours after your last dose and gradually become less intense. During this period, it is common to experience diarrhea, sweating, nausea, dilated pupils, watery eyes and restlessness.

Week 1: In the first week after stopping buprenorphine, week you will probably continue to to feel aches and cramps within the stomach area and in your joints. You may be uncomfortable during this time period and have difficulty sleeping. Mood swings are also common, with bouts of anxiety or depression.

Week 2: After two weeks of buprenoprhine withdrawal, the pain and discomfort of acute withdrawal may not be as severe but you still experience aches. Depression can starts to set in, as well, and you may notice an extreme loss of motivation.

Week 3-4: After three to four week mark, most of the physical withdrawal symptoms will be gone, however you will intense drug cravings may be present for those addicted to buprenorphine. Depression is also common. This time is very important, as you will be very vulnerable to relapse.

How long do buprenorphine withdrawal symptoms last?

Buprenorphine withdrawal symptoms last longer for those who use buprenorphine for longer periods of time or at higher doses. Additionally, those who use buprenorphine other than prescribed (snort, inject, chew) may experience more severe symptoms than someone taking buprenorphine as prescribed. In these cases, physical buprenorphine withdrawal symptoms can last weeks after stopping.

However, psychological withdrawal symptoms can last for many months after cessation. It is recommended that you join a support group or see a psychologist who can help see you through the protracted or post acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS). Many heavy buprenorphine users experience PAWS. With continued use of buprenorphine, there comes a point where the brain produces in an inadequate amount of neurotransmitters in the body. People going through buprenorphine PAWS manifest long lasting changes in the brain as a result of long term use. These changes are slower to reverse and can persist for many months, depending on the frequency and amount of past dosing.

Buprenorphine withdrawal: How long?

How long buprenorphine withdrawal lasts varies depending on how frequently you used the drug and how large the doses were. If you were a heavy user, burprenorphine withdrawal may be more intense and last longer than someone using buprenorphine for a few months. It is also crucial that your family understands your situation so that they know why you are acting the way you do and can better handle it.

Buprenorphine withdrawal duration questions

If you have further questions about how long burprenorphine withdrawal lasts, please ask them in the comments section below. We will try to respond to you personally and promptly.

Reference Sources: NCBI: Buprenorphine withdrawal
FDA: Suboxone medication guide
NIDA: Methadone Research Web Guide: Part B
National Drug Intelligence Center: Buprenorphine: Potential for Abuse

Photo credit: Dave Stokes

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