How long does Subutex stay in your System?

Subutex was one of the first drugs formulated with buprenorphine and approved for the treatment of opioid use disorder. In 2002, the FDA approved Subutex to treat withdrawal symptoms in those diagnosed with opioid addiction. Before Subutex, methadone was the medication of choice in treating opioid abuse. Subutex contains one active ingredient, buprenorphine. The sublingual tablets were prescribed as part of a comprehensive treatment plan that included medication-assisted treatments (MAT) and cognitive therapies.

A variety of colorful pills, capsules and tablets, which include Subutex, are lined up in rows represent how long Subutex stays in your system.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, MAT for opioid use disorder is an evidenced-proven treatment method to help users reduce opioid use, reduce opioid overdose death, reduce the transmission of infectious diseases and reduce the incidence of criminal activities. The Schedule III controlled substance has a low potential for abuse compared to its predecessor Methadone. When taken as directed, it can help patients stay comfortable during the detox and withdrawal phase.

What is Subutex/Buprenorphine?

Buprenorphine is an opioid partial agonist that works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain to produce effects of euphoria and respiratory depression in a lower moderate dose compared to full opioids. It stops opioids from having their full effects and tricks the brain into functioning normally without experiencing the “high” that it normally does from a full opioid. Users experience a much weaker opioid “high”. It produces less opioid-like effects and less pleasurable feelings, which will make it less likely for the body to develop a dependence on the drug.  

Subutex is often used during the detox period of recovery. It can help patients manage their withdrawal symptoms. It stops opioids from having their full effects on the brain and body and eases withdrawal symptoms, making it more comfortable for patients to go through the detox process. Oftentimes, intense withdrawal increases the urge for patients to continue using in order to avoid painful side effects.

Infographic depicting both the short term and long term effects of using Subutex.

Decreased feelings of physical dependency include experiencing fewer withdrawal symptoms and less intense cravings. Ultimately, the drug was designed to lower the potential for drug misuse. Despite its lower risk for abuse, the potential for misuse is higher in those who do not have an opioid dependency or history of opioid use. This is because their bodies are not accustomed to the effects of opioids whether or not it is full or partial effects. For a person who has experience with opioids, the partial effects are not enough to produce the euphoric feelings users most likely seek when abusing. The misuse risk is also increased when mixed with other substances such as alcohol or benzos.

Subutex, the brand, is no longer available for use in the United States. However, other generic forms of buprenorphine are available through prescription medication.

How long does Subutex stay in your System?

Subutex can stay active in the body between 12 -24 hours depending on how quickly the drug is absorbed and processed. It can remain in the system for an estimated 5-8 days after initial dosage. This medication was meant to be used a few days at a time due to its long-lasting nature.

Subutex has a half-life of anywhere between 20-70 hours. This is the average amount of time it takes the body to eliminate half of the dose from the system. It takes about 4 -5 half-lives in order for Subutex to be fully eliminated from the system.

The medication can stay and be detected in the blood for up to 2 days. It can stay and be detected in the urine for up to 10 days. It can be detected in saliva for up to 24 hours. And it can be detected in hair for up to 90 days after the initial dose.

There are many varying factors that can affect how long Subutex stays in your system. Factors include age, weight, height, metabolic rates, liver functionality body mass index, quantity of Subutex taken and duration in which the drug was consumed. Taking into account these important factors can help you determine how long the opioid medication will stay in your system and how long the effects of the medication can last.

Infographic showing a timeline for Subutex withdrawal including side effects and symptoms associated with each phase

Serious Side Effects of Subutex

  • Headaches
  • Agitation and mood swings
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia and changes in sleeping habits
  • Musicale and joint pain
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Vertigo
  • Digestive issues
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Respiratory distress
  • Adrenal insufficiency
  • Liver damage
  • Dependence and addiction – Has the potential for addiction
  • Risk of overdose – Impacts the respiratory systems that slow down breathing and heart rate
  • Behavioral issues – Lying about how much they have taken, stealing from friends and family in order to obtain drugs, loss of interest in activities once loved and unexplained poor performance in school or at work

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Subutex vs Suboxone

Subutex and Suboxone are two popular prescription drugs used in the treatment of opioid use disorder. The active ingredient in Subutex is buprenorphine, while the active ingredients in Suboxone are buprenorphine and naloxone. Today, Suboxone is more commonly prescribed for use in most treatment programs because the added ingredient of naloxone helps to drastically reduce the risk of abusing the medication or other opioids.

Unlike Subutex, which is a partial opioid agonist, Suboxone is an opioid antagonist. This means it works to block the effects of opioids at the receptor sites of the brain, resulting in no euphoric effects. Subutex is a slow-acting medication in which its peak effectiveness happens around the 3-4 hour mark. Suboxone, takes effect almost immediately making the user withdraw from opioids.

Both medications are used in MAT to help reduce the severity and alleviate the pain of opioid withdrawal symptoms. Side effects for both medications include headache, nausea, vomiting, constipation, insomnia, excessive sweating, pain, loss of sensation or burning in the mouth.

The main difference between the two medications is their potential for abuse. Suboxone has a less chance for misuse due to the added active ingredient naloxone. Naloxone put the user into immediate withdrawal without any feelings of opioid euphoria. Subutex has a higher chance of misuse because it is still an opioid. Partial opioids still produce euphoria-like effects, just at a much lower and less intense level. This will have little effect on opioid users, but it may have more effects on users who have no history of opioid use.

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Treatment for Subutex

Addiction is both a physical and psychological disease. By alleviating some of the most intense or the worst symptoms can help people begin to think more clearly and rationally about their recovery. Prescription medications such as Subutex/buprenorphine and Suboxone are commonly used to treat opioid use disorders. It is often integrated into detox treatments as a part of medication management recovery. At Hotel California by the Sea, we specialize in treating addictions to substances such as opioids. Though not common, Subutex addiction can result in a difficult recovery path.

Intensive care is provided at all levels of treatment including detox, residential and outpatient programs. Unique treatment methods such as cognitive behavioral therapy individual sessions, group therapy sessions and EMDR therapy allow for clients to learn and practice effective coping skills. Our evidence-based treatments help clients understand their addiction from every aspect including emotional, physical and psychological. At Hotel California by the Sea, we are dedicated to providing our clients with the skills and resources to help them transition into independent life and a successful recovery.