Suboxone is a medication that is used for the treatment of Opioid Use Disorder and has proven to be a vital tool in addiction treatment. When used under medical supervision, it can turn lives around for many affected individuals.
Dosing, patient history, and individual variation can all impact how effective Suboxone is, so the question of how long Suboxone can block opiates does not come with a single answer.
In this article, we’ll take a look at:
- How long Suboxone can block opiates under different circumstances
- The frequency of Suboxone dosing required
- Exactly how Suboxone works.
Let’s get started.
How Long Does Suboxone Block Opiates?
Suboxone generally blocks opiates such as heroin, fentanyl, or morphine, for around 24 hours. However, for some, the effects may last up to 60 hours.
The duration of the medication’s effects will vary from individual to individual. This variation is due to factors such as weight, metabolism, and the history of the patient’s substance use.
Additionally, prescribed doses can impact duration (I.e. higher doses will last longer).
The amount of Buprenorphine administered can affect how long Suboxone blocks opiates.
Buprenorphine has a high affinity for u-opioid receptors as well as a long half-life. At doses exceeding 16mg of sublingual Buprenorphine, the drug can block the ‘high’ that other opioids provide.
This is due to the fact that there is enough to saturate available opioid receptors at this dose. At even higher doses (such as 24mg a day), there has been no evidence to show any clinical advantage.
Factors such as body fat, weight, height, and age will all affect an individual’s metabolism. This will vary from person to person, and the efficiency of one’s metabolism will impact how long Suboxone works.
For instance, older people who generally have a low metabolism rate will break down the drug more slowly. This can provide longer-lasting effects as the medication stays in the body longer.
Having tolerance to a drug means that you need more of the substance in order to have the same effects previously experienced at lower doses.
Suboxone’s interactions with opioid receptors in the brain are like opioids themselves; the drug can cause the development of opioid tolerance over time. Constant higher doses can also build tolerance as the body becomes accustomed to it.
Additionally, careful supervision and lower induction doses should be general practice. This is so tolerance to Suboxone is not developed, and its duration in the body (as well as effectiveness) remains at a steady rate.
Frequency of Suboxone dosing
The frequency of Suboxone administered to a patient may impact how long it blocks the effects of opiates.
Suboxone is usually taken once daily on whatever dosage the patient is on. However, splitting the doses into three to four separate occasions can provide improved analgesic effects of the medication over a longer period of time in some cases.
At the end of the day, it is up to a medical professional to dictate what’s the best frequency of dosing for the patient.
Other medications or substances used
Other medications or substances can definitely impact how long Suboxone works at blocking opiates. On top of this, they can cause serious side effects. Drugs such as those that contain cytochrome P450 3A4 inhibitors can block the breakdown of Suboxone and increase the risk of side effects.
In contrast to this, drugs that contain cytochrome P450 3A4 inducers can speed up Suboxone breakdown — making it less effective. Even grapefruit juice can be a threat as it increases Suboxone levels in the body and can lead to potential side effects.
A Closer Look at How Suboxone Works
Buprenorphine and Naloxone are the two ingredients in Suboxone. Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist that interacts with μ-opioid receptors in the body. These receptors are like locks that can be opened when opioids bind to them.
However, when Buprenorphine binds to them, they are only partially activated. This provides mild effects of an opioid.
Buprenorphine’s slow attachment and long-lasting effects ensure that it alleviates withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist with the role of counteracting the effects of opioids. When it binds to μ-opioid receptors in the body, it blocks them — reversing the symptoms of opioid overdose.
The combination of both Naloxone and Buprenorphine provides a treatment that aids patients in transitioning from opioids to sobriety without going ‘cold turkey’.
We still cannot provide a single answer to the question of how long Suboxone blocks opiates. This is due to many factors that have been discussed such as dosing, metabolism, and tolerance.
What appears to be most important is having proper medical supervision to assess what’s suitable for the patient. Not everyone will process the medication at the same rate, and each individual will need appropriate guidance.
- CHAPTER 9: Applying Best Practice Guidelines on Chronic Pain in Clinical Practiced Treating Patients Who Suffer From Pain and Addiction KEITH G. HEINZERLING, MD, MPH (PDF)