How Long Does Subutex Stay in Your System?

Subutex (buprenorphine) can be detected in the system for about 72 hours. More on the detection window and metabolism of Subutex here.

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Reviewed by: Dr. Manish Mishra, MBBS Dr. Dili Gonzalez, M.D.

ARTICLE SUMMARY: Buprenorphine is the main active ingredient found in Subutex. The average detection time for buprenorphine in urine samples is about 72 hours. Although buprenorphine may be cleared from your system a few days, it doesn’t mean your system is 100% clean from the drug; some ingredients metabolize in the liver and can be detected. Find out more about Subutex detection times here.


Subutex Detection

Subutex contains buprenorphine, a very unique opioid drug. While most drug tests do not include a panel for buprenorphine detection, there is a specific buprenorphine urine drug test that exists on the market. While buprenorphine is not usually included on standard drug screen panels and most employees don’t test for it, more and more employers are starting to test for it.

If a buprenorphine-specific drug test is ordered it will most likely be urine-based. The average detection time for buprenorphine in urine samples is about 72 hours. In urine drug tests, the detection window is 2-4 days, but may be 7-10 days for chronic users, even at typical doses.

NOTE HERE: Typical urine drug tests that detect heroin, codeine, morphine and other derivatives are not used to detect Subutex. This is because these opiate drug tests are actually testing for a different metabolite than the metabolites created by buprenorphine. In this way, Subutex will not come up positive on most opiate drug tests.

Factors that Influence Detection Times

The actual time Subutex remains detectable in a sample will depend on some or all of the following:

  • The amount of the drug taken.
  • The frequency of your use.
  • Your individual metabolism and general health.
  • The amount of fluids taken after using Subutex.
  • The amount of exercise you engage in after dosing.
  • Genetic variations that affect your drug response.

Peak Levels and Half Life

The peak level of a drug indicates is the highest concentration of a drug in a person’s bloodstream. Subutex is available as 2mg and 8mg tablets for sublingual administration. During clinical trials, its main ingredient – buprenorphine – shows signs of effects in the body rapidly after administration. The highest concentration that buprenorphine reaches in the blood, after which it declines, is achieved after about 90-100 minutes after ingestion.

The half-life of a drug is defined as the period of time it takes for 1/2 of the drug to be eliminated from the body or disintegrated by the body’s natural metabolic processes. According to this 2005 Psychiatry medical journal review of the use of clinical buprenorphine for addiction, the terminal half-life of buprenorphine ranges from three hours after intravenous administration to 28 to 37 hours after sublingual administration. The long half-life of burpenorphine from Subutex makes this medication very useful in treating withdrawal symptoms and helping people stay off stronger opiates like heroin, morphine, or oxycodone.

Prescription Guidelines

Subutex should be taken as directed by your doctor-by placing the pill under the tongue and waiting for it to dissolve; once a day at the same time of the day, so you won’t forget your dose. Subutex should be administered sublingually only and taking this medication in any manner or dose other than prescribed is considered abuse and may lead to numerous unwanted consequences.

Further, treatment with buprenorphine can be divided into the following three phases: 1) induction, 2) stabilization, and 3) maintenance. As SAMHSA’s Medication and Counseling Treatment guidelines describe, each phase comes with a different dosing schedule.

Before Subutex therapy can be initiated, a doctor usually:

  • Determines the degree or level of drug dependence.
  • Determines the last time you used a drug or a prescription medication.
  • Examines your general physical and psychological state.
  • Identifies what type of a narcotics you used.
  1. Induction. According to the Subutex FDA Drug Label, induction dosing should begin at least 4 hours after use of opioid drugs, preferably when moderate objective signs of opioid withdrawal appear. It is recommended that an adequate treatment dose is given, somewhere between 8-16 mg buprenorphine per day.

2. Stabilization. During stabilization, a person totally quits or greatly reduces use of the problem drug, no longer has cravings, and experiences few, if any, side effects. The buprenorphine dose may need to be adjusted during this phase. Because of the long-acting nature of buprenorphine, once stabilization occurs, people can sometimes switch to alternate-day dosing instead of dosing every day.

3. Maintenance. When Subutex is used in the maintenance phase pf treatment, doses are progressively adjusted in increments or decrements of 2 mg or 4 mg buprenorphine to a level that helps people suppress opioid withdrawal signs and symptoms. The maintenance dose is generally in the range of 4 mg to 24 mg buprenorphine per day depending on the individual patient. Doses higher than thishave not been demonstrated to provide any clinical advantage.

Main Subutex uses

Subutex is used in the treatment of addiction. It works as an opiate substitution therapy in order to eliminate cravings and to prevent withdrawal. It contains the medicine buprenorphine and has been used as a medication assisted treatment for drug addiction to stronger opiates/opioids like heroin, oxycodone, or hydrocodone.

Subutex is DEA approved for use in opiate/opioid addiction treatment, it is listed as a Schedule III controlled substance and is usually used under a doctor’s direct supervision. Subutex is also indicated for the treatment of drug dependence and works best when used as a part of a structured treatment program which includes counseling, psychotherapy, behavioral and educational sessions and a good support system.

How Does it Work?

Basically, the main ingredient in Subutex (buprenorphine) is an opioid partial agonist-antagonist and works by binding to receptors in the brain and the nervous system. In this way, it helps prevent withdrawal effects from harder drugs like heroin or morphine. Additionally, Subutex helps cuts cravings for stronger drugs. Another way to think of it is that buprenorphine works as a “substitute drug” for opioids, but the withdrawal from Subutex is far less intense than the symptoms opioid drugs produce when discontinued.

Effects on the brain

Do you get high on Subutex?

No, Subutex does not cause euphoria. Instead, Subutex works as both a partial opioid receptor agonist and antagonist. It competes with other opioids like morphine and heroin for the µ receptors of the central nervous system. In this way, it can interfere with the effects of these stronger drugs. Still, Subutex is only a partial agonist and has a ceiling effect. The ceiling effects makes Subutex less likely to be abused, since after a person takes about 30 mg of the drug, taking more doesn’t have any euphoria-enhancing or pleasurable effects.

Why do doctors drug test for prescription use?

In most cases doctors usually drug test for Subutex use for these 3 simple reasons:

  1. They want to analyze therapeutic adherence, or the degree to which a person correctly follows medical advice.
  2. Doctors are making sure you are not experiencing drug cravings.
  3. Doctors are making sure you are taking the right dose and not trying to get high.

Got Any Questions?

If you think that you are misusing Subutex, that it has become a problem, or if you are experiencing any side effects from Subutex therapy, your first point of contact can be your doctor. If you’re worried, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Please feel free to contact us.

To get yourself prepared, learn more about Subutex addiction, available treatment options, and what the rehab process looks like, CHECK OUT this comprehensive outline of Subutex Addiction Treatment Programs and Help.

Finally, if you have any questions at the end of this article, please ask us through the comments section at the end of the page. We try to respond personally and promptly to all legitimate inquiries.

Reference Sources: DailyMed: Suboxone-buprenorphine hydrochloride and naloxone hydrochloride film, soluble
FDA: Subutex and Suboxone Questions and AnswersMedlinePlus: Buprenorphine Sublingual
NCBI: Buprenorphine
NCBI: Clinical Guidelines for the Use of Buprenorphine in the Treatment of Opioid Addiction
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. Manish Mishra, MBBS serves as the Chief Medical Officer of the Texas Healt...
Dr. Dili Gonzalez, M.D. is a general surgeon practicing women's focused medici...

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

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