Does Suboxone show up on drug tests?

Yes and no. Most employment or probation/parole drug screens are not comprehensive enough to test for Suboxone. However, Suboxone can be detected when specifically targeted. More on Suboxone drug screens here.

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Yes and no.

The fact is that is that, yes, the active ingredients in Suboxone can be detected ( buprenorphine and naloxone), but only if tested for specifically. However, neither component will appear as an opiate on standard testing for opiates.

If you are enrolled in an opioid treatment program (OTP), your physician may order a comprehensive panel, for a variety of reasons. Why? More on why doctors test for Suboxone and drug testing standards and methods for Suboxone here.

Suboxone in treatment

Suboxone, the buprenorphine – naloxone combination, has been shown to effectively treat opioid dependence or block the effects of illicit opioids without noticeable negative effects of naloxone.  Suboxone euphoria effect is debatable, but according to some researchers, because of its lower potential for abuse and strong safety panel, Suboxone is considered the first line medication option for beginning opioid dependence treatment. So why order a drug test for Suboxone?

Why order a test for Suboxone?

Tests are generally ordered to be Suboxone-specific in a clinical setting when there is a suspicion of non-dosing (clients may be selling their medication) or low absorption may interfere with effective treatment. Suspicion of benzodiazepine abuse, which has been attributed to at least one death when combined with Suboxone, is another possible reason. The 12 panel test is costly, and seldom is used outside a clinical setting.

What screens detect Suboxone?

The major active ingredient in Suboxone (buprenorphine) can be detected in urine, blood, or hair by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (CM/MS) and by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay in urine. In a study done in 1994, researchers used the enzyme-linked multiedimmunoassay technique after administering naloxone, and again, although the metabolites of naloxone are similar in structure to oxymorphone and are excreted in the urine for several days, naloxone was not associated with a positive for opiates.

How long can Suboxone be detected?

Suboxone appears in a comprehensive drug screen as buprenorphine within 2 to 5 hours. How long Suboxone stays in your system varies.  But Suboxone is usually not detectable 2-3 days after administration, dose dependent. In some cases however, buprenorphine has been detected up to 4 days after ingestion, due to a long half-life (24-60 hours) and slow onset.

What is the cut-off level for Suboxone?

What is the cut-off level for Suboxone to be considered present?  Present testing techniques are less than precise, but the detection level is currently 10ng/ml.

Suboxone use and potential for abuse

In treatment of opioid addiction, Suboxone is currently the first medication prescribed. Suboxone can come with a potential for abuse, but this is relatively low. Suboxone abuse occurs most among individuals without previous opioid addiction. If Suboxone is taken in ways other than prescribed (swallowed, chewed, or snorted), the user may feel a stronger euphoric effect, increasing abuse potential. But due to the opioid antagonist properties of the combination in Suboxone, the potential for abuse by injection remains low. If injected, Suboxone creates withdrawal due mainly to the naloxone ingredient.

Questions about Suboxone use

If any of you had a problem with narcotic addiction, and are sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, this medication may be part of a successful treatment plan for you. Please leave your comments or questions below. All comments are anonymous and your privacy is respected.

References sources: NIDA Monograph Series: What Bupremorphine is and Why It’s Important Annals of Emergency Medicine: Does naloxone cause a positive drug screen? MD Alan B. Sorrow, PHD, MT,DABCC Frank H. Wians, Jr, MS,MT, Stephen L.Mickelsen, BA, MT John Norton. May 6, 1994. Abstract.
SAMHSA/CSAT TIP Treatment Improvement Protocols: Chapter 9, “Drug Testing as a Tool”
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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