Does Suboxone (buprenorphine) treat pain?

Buprenorphine (the main ingredient in Suboxone) is a potent opioid analgesic, and has been used intravenously to treat pain for over 30 years. More on Suboxone for pain here.

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Buprenorphine for pain

Yes. Buprenorphine has been used to treat pain.

In fact, buprenorphine is a potent opioid analgesic, and has been used intravenously to treat pain for over 30 years. However, in high, steady doses, people become tolerant to the effects of buprenorphine at the mu opioid receptor. Tolerance removes most of the analgesic actions of buprenorphine, limiting the pain-treating actions of the drug. But at the same time, tolerance removes most of the analgesic effects of ALL opioids, including oxycodone and other common pain medications. Because of tolerance, all opioid analgesics lose potency over time, including buprenorphine.

The effect of tolerance on analgesia

But chronic pain has a number of factors that alter how the pain is experienced, including placebo effects, the effect of mood on pain sensation, and the actions of natural pain-fighting nerve pathways. Many people with chronic pain continue to report benefit from pain medication, well beyond the length of time for tolerance to occur. Likewise, many patients report pain relief from long-term buprenorphine – even though tolerance would be expected to reduce analgesia from the medication.

More on Suboxone

Do you still have questions about Suboxone?  Please leave your questions in the comments section here.  Whether you’re interested in Suboxone addiction signs or the narcotic classification of Suboxone, we’ll do our best to respond to you personally and promptly.

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About the author
Dr. Jeffrey Junig, MD, PhD is a psychiatrist practicing in northeast Wisconsin, in recovery from opioid dependence. He is Board Certified in both Psychiatry and Anesthesiology and holds a PhD in Neuroscience. He writes about buprenorphine at Suboxone Talk Zone, and manages a forum for patients taking buprenorphine called SuboxForum.

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  1. I’ve suffered with chronic pain for 29 years now. I was in process of weaning down my huge amount of opiates with my doc at a safe & tolerable level. Sadly my doc was booted out of practice & doc that took over had very negative attitude about me. I’d been crazy bad sick for three weeks got worse each day. Knowing my body & working as Medical Assistant for 27 yrs I knew this was not right. Went into office requesting ONLY a stool study. Had scrips for following month. This new doc refuses & believed when I c/o constant vomiting up to gallon of bile a day & explosive diarrhea, she sadly believed h treated me as just a pain in rear pain patient. After 4 months of this several IVs of just fluids & 5 ER visits someone finally ordered a ultrasound. Found my gall bladder full of stones. Then a stool study showed campylobacter. I’d lost 40lbs in 2 months. Got surgery horrific experience cuz my new pcp was drastically reducing pain med + bad communication. I’d been on Morphine ER 100mg TID, morphine immediate 60mg QID, & trampoline 50mg 8 per day. Woke from surgery wanting to have someone kill me in so much pain. Nurses orders were for only 1 morphine IR 60 q6 hrs only. Fast forward. Now found new pcp & have been on Suboxone x 9 months 8mg/2mg. I have 5 herniated cervical discs. L4, L5, & S1 badly heniated. Degeneration, narrowing of spine all the fun stuff. I agreed to start Suboxone cuz research I’d done said I’d be much better in long run. Oxycodone and oxycontin worked best for me prior to all of the morphine Madness I had been on a stable dose for 5 years. When I ended up on Medicaid it wasn’t covered therefore had to use the morphine that genetic testing showed I hyper metabolized and lost any pain benefit prior to 4 hours. My question today is I believe I’m on lowest dose of Suboxone and I currently have pain all day and all night and 0 quality of life. Prior to me getting sick all of my medical records state that I have been a great patient never abused my medication and definitely never showed any signs of addictive behavior. I have an appointment with the doctor that prescribes the Suboxone in the morning. I’m praying that they will finally agree to increase the dose in hopes of reducing pain so I can maybe leave the house for more than just a doctor’s appointment. My apologies for the long story above. Any suggestions or recommendations would be greatly appreciated. Thank you kindly

  2. Why would my doctor want to change my usual medication to suboxone, does that mean he thinks I am abusing my current medication? Also, since I do have chronic pain, will suboxone actually work?

  3. Hi. I have been prescribed a pretty high dosage of suboxone for over a year now for opiate addiction and have been able to stay clean, I also use this medication for my chronic pain. I noticed that when they went from 4mg twice a day to 8mg twice a day, I have been very depressed. It has helped my pain a lot, but I’m real depressed and lethargic. Can suboxone with naloxone cause depression?

  4. I’ve been taking Methadone for 18yrs. for pain. 50mg am & 50mg pm. My doctor is retiring & a new PM dr. wants to put me on Suboxone. I started w/methadone because i’ve no ins. & methadone is affordable, and continues to manage my pain @ 100mg a day.I cannot function in the pain that I have. I’m afraid that suboxone won’t manage my pain the way methadone does. Can you help me with my fears about suboxone vs methadone for severe pain. Pain that I can’t live in. Thank You very much.

  5. I’m shocked to read that so many people are taking a drug that they should have been educated about by their pain dr prior to even starting Suboxone. I not only had my dr educate me (at her assistance as well as mine). Then I ALWAYS research a drug before I take it.

    You can that other opiates while on Suboxone, but you need to be under a dr care that knows your taking Suboxone. If that dr is knows about Suboxone then he/she will know what to do. If not hopefully they’re smart enough to speak to ur pain dr. If you suffer chronic pain then educate urself.

  6. Good After😊 I have been on Methadone for 6 years now and as of a week ago my dr said that he would like to take me off of the Methadone and start m3 on Suboxne. I mind you I went thru SERIOUS withdraws.. I was at 100mg of Methadone and Now Taking 2- 8 mgs a day. Of course all at the doctors request. I was in a very bad car accident 6 years ago and from that I got put on the Methadone. My question is this I was under the understanding that the Suboxone is used to treat pain why do I hurt so bad? I have never felt tbis bad on the Methadone. Never…Will this help me at all with the pain ? Because I feel like I was in another car accident with everything in my neck hurting constanly.. Just wanted to know how long do you need to be on tbe Suboxone before it hells with the pain? Thank you

  7. If you have taken suboxone for a extended period would a dr be able to relieve pain through iv drugs after a surgical procedure

  8. I have been taking suboxone for over two years, and want to get off of it. What would you suggest? Frankly, I’m a little worried, after having heard horror stories about the withdrawal. Some say it’s worse than heroin withdrawal.

    1. Hi Emily. I suggest that you speak with your doctor to help you plan an individualized tapering schedule. Moreover, experts claim that the safest way to detox from a drug is under medical supervision, so call the helpline you see on the website to get in touch with a trusted treatment consultant who can help you find the best treatment options for you.

  9. Hi

    Saboxine has a half life. Last longer in your system so it’s harder 5o get off of. Sean your self down. If you are getting sick it’s withdrawals. If you are not throwing up, I would tough it out and get off them.. You are almost done withdrawing if it’s been two weeks.. do you get bad leg pains to

  10. Saboxine blocks oxycode
    If your taking saboxine the ocycodone won’t work saboxine a blocker
    Both pain meds saboxine you evenly your body with build up tolerance and more won’t Eva be enough. And pain meds saboxine evenly give you more pain couse you need more so you body withdrawal that’s joint pain back pain leg pain
    I will not ever take pain meds or saboxine. If you don’t get properply weaned off slow you get deathly I’ll bad I know believe me
    I smoke pot for my pain and just deal better than those pain meds saboxine
    I have bad pain I deal couse pain meds saboxine is not a option. Been there done it.
    I herd they might found something else for pain good luck to you all

  11. Sabin is worse 5han pain meds. It has a longer life 8n your body. Harder to get off. All pain meds saboxine your body gets addicted . You build a tolerance and then the withdraws
    Symptoms get so bad you could never take enough saboxine or pain meds eventually you be taking them every hour or you be sick
    Its all bad bad
    If you can deal wit pain do othe tHong to make 5he paim lI vliveable with. .stay away from saboxine and pain meds
    It only gets worse longer you take saboxine or pain meds.

  12. I was taking oxcodone for about 3 years. I stopped that and started taking suboxone. I took suboxone three months. I couldn’t afford to keep going so I tried to stop on my own. It’s been 12 days since I stopped taking suboxone. I have diarrhea lasting ten days but only comes about once or twice a day. Feel really depressed and have anxiety. Is this normal or should I be coming off of it by now. Go back to suboxone Dr??? Sorry so Long and thanks

  13. If I am taking 2mpg or less a day for a month. Could I just stop cold turkey and not get withdrawal symptoms like feel sick.. I need to know if I have to wean down to 0 could someone give me suggesstion please

    1. Hi, Gineen. Experts don’t recommend to quit cold turkey. The best way is to wean off the drug slowly. So, I suggest you consult your doctor to help you plan an individualized tapering schedule just for you. Good luck!

    1. Hi Johnny. Depends on how you take the buprenorphine (sublingual or transdermal). The transdermal works by delivering 5, 10, and 20 mcg/hour doses over 7 days. Taken sublingually, buprenorphine’s pain-relieving properties last on average 6 to 8 hours.

  14. I have been taking 1 sub every 6 hours for about 5 years. Recently, due to chronic pain, my pain mgt Doc lowered my sub intake to just 2 a day(1/per 12 hrs) but also added oxycodone 30 mg (immediate release) for me to take every 6 hrs, and also Nucynta 100 mg immediate release every six hours. Please help me understand this!

    1. Hi R.C. Is he doing this with the intention on lowering your tolerance to suboxone before he switches you to another medication for pain management? 5 years on suboxone is a long-term use and getting off buprenorphine can be hard. He may just be looking ahead what’s best for you. You can feel free to ask your doctor questions.

  15. I have been on suboxin for five months I have lost thirty pounds I needed to lose it but is this normal will it keep going down

    1. Hi Cheryl. Weight loss can be caused by suboxone. I suggest you report this side effect to your doctor and get help in finding a way you can no longer loose weight and still get treatment.

  16. Hi Donna. Did you take any other medications the first time you used it?! It’s rather unusual, but it can be just your organism reacting to a substance…

  17. I have taken subutox a couple of times. the first time took 5 mgs and felt like I had taken 10 mgs of oxycodone..next time I took 7.5 mgs and could’nt feel anything. I took it for pain. why is this? I don’t take it regulately.

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