How Long Does Buprenorphine Stay In Your System?

Buprenorphine can stay in your system and be detectable up to 4 days after ingestion. With a long half life (24-60 hours) and slow onset, buprenorphine is becoming the preferred medication for opiate addiction treatment. More on buprenorphine bio-availability and tracking here.

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Reviewed by: Dr. Dili Gonzalez, M.D. Dr. Juan Goecke, M.D.

ARTICLE OVERVIEW: Buprenorphine is detectable in urine up to 4 days after ingestion. With a long half life (24-60 hours) and slow onset, buprenorphine is becoming the preferred medication for opiate addiction treatment. But it is unlikely that you will be drug tested for buprenorphine. Why? More on buprenorphine bio-availability, treatment protocols and tracking of opiate use here.

What Is Buprenorphine Used For?

Buprenorphine is used in the treatment of opioid addiction. Doctors can prescribe a number of meds for opiate detox and long term control of cravings.  Buprenorphine is used for both.

As an opioid partial agonist, buprenorphine activates mu-opioid receptors in the brain enough to prevent withdrawal symptoms but not enough to induce a high. So the risk of addiction to buprenorphine is rather low when compared to other opioids.  And longer term use of buprenorphine to manage cravings also helps keep people in treatment.

These effects occur because buprenorphine has been designed to have a “ceiling effect”. So doses higher than 16-32 mg are unlikely to produce greater effect. As a result, buprenorphine helps keep patients in treatment, reduces illicit opioid use and reduces mortality caused by harder drug use (heroin, OxyContin, morphine, etc.).

How Do You Take Buprenorphine?

Buprenorphine is taken as a sublingual tablet.

Currently, only two forms of buprenorphine are approved for treatment of opioid addiction. Other forms of buprenorphine (ex. Buprenex) have not been approved by the FDA to treat opioid addiction. Medications containing buprenorphine that have been designed to decrease the potential for abuse by injection and have FDA approval include:

1. Subutex
2. Suboxone

Help finding Suboxone doctors.

Peak Levels And Half Life Of Buprenorphine

Buprenorphine has poor oral bio-availability and moderate sublingual bio-availability. Why? Partly because buprenorphine is highly bound to plasma proteins.  Because of an extensive first pass in metabolism, buprenorphine has both slow onset and long duration (24-48 hours). Furthermore, the rate of absorption of buprenorphine is slower by the sublingual route, giving an average peak level at approximately 200 minutes after ingestion.

Likewise, buprenorphine has slow offset, and the half life of buprenorphine is greater than 24 hours (24-60 hours). This formula allows for once a day or every other day dosing when treating opiate addiction.

Buprenorphine Drug Testing

Currently, no precise test measures buprenorphine, although it can be detected in urine, blood, or hair by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) and by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay in urine. Until new, commercially available tests are developed, drug tests for people receiving buprenorphine aim to detect OTHER substances of abuse.

In fact, opiate drug tests aren’t personal; they are just a way to track your recovery progress. Testing for buprenorphine or other opiates helps prescribing doctors detect substance use, adjust dosage, and monitor treatment compliance. Therefore, drug tests initiated by clinics or doctors who prescribe buprenorphine can provide both an objective measure of treatment efficacy and be used as a tool to monitor your progress.

How Long Does Buprenorphine Stay In The Body?

Opioids like buprenorphine are synthetically manufactured drugs, which means that they are not directly refined from the poppy plant. While the chemical structures are the same as opiates, detecting synthetic opioids requires a lower sensitivity detection level than their natural counterparts. The average detection time for opioids like buprenorphine is around 3 days (2-4 day detection window in urine samples) but may be longer for chronic users.

Buprenorphine And Addiction

People most at risk of becoming addiction to buprenorphine are those who HAVE NOT been previously physically addicted to opioids, or those who take buprenorphine other than prescribed (swallowed, chewed, snorted, injected). These users are more at risk of addiction because they tend to feel stronger euphoric effect of buprenorphine than those who take buprenorphine for medical reasons.

Problems With Buprenorphine?

If you think that you have a problem and are misusing buprenorphine…you need to ask yourself if you are ready to stop, or not. Drug addiction treatment requires the full participation of addicts in order to be successful. Please leave us your questions and comments below. We welcome all experiences, will keep your comments anonymous and will respond to legitimate questions or concerns personally.

Reference sources: CSAT buprenorphine information center: What is buprenorphine?
NIDA: Buprenorphine
SAMHSA: Buprenorphine
SAMHSA/CSAT Treatment Improvement Protocols: Chapter 9, Drug Testing as a Tool
NIDA Monograph Series: Buprenorphine: An Alternative Treatment for Opioid Dependence
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.
Medical Reviewers
Dr. Dili Gonzalez, M.D. is a general surgeon practicing women's focused medici...
Dr. Goecke is a medical doctor and general surgeon with personal experience of...

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a licensed medical professional.

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