Buprenorphine is a drug referred to as a partial opioid agonist. This classification indicates that it activates opioid receptors in the brain, but to a much lesser extent than full agonists, such as heroin. It is used to minimize withdrawal symptoms in people who stop taking opioid drugs by producing similar effects to these drugs. Buprenorphine has a long half-life of 24-42 hours, meaning it takes this length of time for a person’s body to expel half of the drug.
Buprenorphine products (Suboxone, Subutex) are classified by the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) as Schedule III substances, meaning they are considered to have a relatively low potential for abuse, dependence, and addiction.
How Long Does Buprenorphine Remain Your System?
- Blood: Up to 2 days
- Urine: Up to 6 days
- Saliva: Up to 3 days
- Hair: Up to 90 days
How Long Does It Take to Experience Effects?
Buprenorphine works by binding to and activating opioid receptors in the brain, but its effects are less pronounced than most other opioids, such as oxycodone and heroin. This activation of the brain’s opioid receptors leads to a reduction in opioid withdrawal symptoms. In doing so, the drug satisfies the brain’s need for opioids but does not produce the euphoric effects associated with these drugs.
The length of time needed to begin feeling buprenorphine’s effects varies depending on the body’s individual factors. Buprenorphine reaches peak blood concentration levels in 40 minutes to 3 1/2 hours. Once a person has taken a dose, effects can last for up to three days.
Buprenorphine is also sometimes used in buccal films, a topical route of administration in which drugs are held or applied in the cheek and diffuse through tissues that line the mouth and enter directly into the bloodstream. It may also be administered via transdermal skin patches by those who require around-the-clock medication for pain that has not been effectively treated with other pain-relieving medications.
How Long Does Buprenorphine Last?
As noted, buprenorphine has a relatively long half-life of 24-42 hours. It is metabolized by the liver and excreted by the kidneys into the urine. The combination product Suboxone also includes naloxone, an opioid antagonist. Naloxone itself has a much shorter elimination period, with a half-life ranging from 2-12 hours.
Buprenorphine is a powerful, long-lasting drug. Even if taken according to a doctor’s instructions, patients should be monitored for severe reactions, especially when initially using buprenorphine or an altered dosage.
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) website contains medication guides for many brand names of products containing buprenorphine. You should consult a health provider or these guides for specific precautions, restrictions, and information regarding each product.
Buprenorphine yields a different metabolite (norbuprenorphine) than other, more commonly abused opioids. It may or may not be screened for on a urine or saliva drug test, such as those used by employers. However, screening for it has become more common. If you have been prescribed a medication containing buprenorphine, you should disclose this to the testing laboratory so the results can be interpreted correctly.
Lab tests typically involve the use of gas chromatography or liquid chromatography methods. However, some drug tests used by employers are not able to detect this substance. It may, however, be identified in a targeted test for a specific opioid/buprenorphine.
Urine testing is the most commonly used method. Blood, saliva, and hair testing can also identify the presence of buprenorphine, although these are used much less frequently.
Blood – Blood tests for buprenorphine are less common due to their invasiveness and expense. Still, when employed, buprenorphine can be detectable by blood analysis for up to 48 hours after the last dose. Blood tests also have a shorter detection window than urine tests and are most effectively used soon after an individual has taken their last dose of the drug.
Urine – Buprenorphine can be detected in urine for up to six days after the last dose. Because this medication is most commonly used to prevent opioid withdrawal symptoms, labs have to be able to differentiate between proper prescription use and recreational abuse.
Hair – Buprenorphine can also be detected in hair follicle samples. As with other drugs, hair testing’s detection window is much longer, up to 90 days following the last use.
Saliva – Saliva tests are fast and accurate tools for detecting the buprenorphine’s presence. Saliva tests may be used more often because they are simple to administer and have a longer detection window than blood tests. Buprenorphine can be found in saliva for approximately 72 hours after the last dose of the medication.
False Positive Testing
Although the immunoassay, one of the most commonly used urine drug tests, is a useful, simple, and inexpensive tool, it can also yield false-positive results. There have been reports of various medications triggering a false-positive result for buprenorphine, including:
- Dogmatil (sulpiride)
- Solian (amisulpride)
- High-dose morphine
Testing to detect specific drugs, rather than classes of drugs, is needed to confirm a positive urine drug screen. To ensure clinicians can accurately interpret a person’s drug test results, one should always disclose any prescription or over-the-counter medications that have been recently used.
Factors That Influence Detection Time
Several different variables can influence how long it takes for a person’s body to break down and eliminate buprenorphine. Factors that play a role in how long this substance remains in a person’s system include age, liver function, and overall health.
Age – Caution should be taken when prescribing buprenorphine products to older adults due to decreased cardiac, hepatic, and renal functioning. The presence of other physical health conditions and the use of additional medications may also affect how fast buprenorphine is expelled from the body. Older adults may need to use this medication in reduced doses to avoid drug toxicity.
Liver Function – Because buprenorphine is primarily broken down and excreted by the liver, hepatic impairment can affect how long it takes for the drug to be processed and eliminated from the system. Research has revealed that the half-life of buprenorphine is longer for persons with moderate-severe liver impairment.
Overall Health – Overall health has an influence on efficiently the body processes and eliminated different substances, including buprenorphine. Those who are in good health and have a fast metabolism may clear the substance at higher rates. On the other hand, individuals with slower metabolisms may take longer to clear the medication from their system.
Estimates of how long buprenorphine will be detectable in the body depend on many factors. These include the formulation of the medication used, whether it is used in combination with other drugs, and individual characteristics such as metabolism.
Getting Help for Drug Abuse and Addiction
Although it is possible to become dependent upon buprenorphine, it is less addictive than opioids such as morphine and heroin. That said, abuse and addiction do occasionally occur. As with all opioids, professional treatment is often beneficial and helps people achieve abstinence and sustain long-lasting sobriety and wellness.
Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery centers offer comprehensive, research-based rehab programs in both partial hospitalization and residential formats. Our caring staff facilitates therapeutic services and activities to those we treat, including psychotherapy, group support, psychoeducation, aftercare planning, mindfulness therapy, and more.