OUD affects nearly 16 million individuals globally, 2.1 million of which reside in the U.S. One of the most common treatments for this type of substance abuse has become medication-assisted treatment (MAT).

Of the numerous MAT options available for opioid use disorder (OUD), Suboxone emerges as one of the most effective. Produced in the 2000s, this type of MAT has helped multiple patients on their path toward recovery.

Read on to learn more about how long Suboxone blocks opiates, how it works, and its effects, among other details.

What Is Suboxone?

Suboxone is a prescription drug brand that contains two active ingredients: buprenorphine and naloxone. The medication’s primary use is to treat OUD.

Originally, Suboxone’s main ingredient, buprenorphine, was produced in 1966 as a better pain relief option than morphine. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) eventually approved the prescription medication after its production.

It took scientists about a couple of years to perfect buprenorphine for commercial use. Back then, they knew that it could potentially be used to treat opioid addiction. Nonetheless, it took another 30 years before the drug would become prescribed for that purpose.

How Long Does Suboxone Block Opiates

The duration of Suboxone’s efficacy isn’t fixed. It can depend on several factors, including a patient’s metabolism, opiate addiction severity, duration of use, and weight.

On average, you can expect the drug to block opiates for 24 to 60 hours. That’s why medical professionals usually prescribe one administration per day. It’s given via a sublingual film that patients place under their tongues until it dissolves.

Naloxone’s effects in Suboxone tend to wear off easily after a few hours. Meanwhile, buprenorphine can last a more extended period.

If an opioid addiction patient attempts to take a full opioid like fentanyl, heroin, or morphine after taking Suboxone within 24 hours, the full opioid’s effects won’t occur.

How Does Suboxone Work?

The MAT works with two main ingredients: buprenorphine and naloxone. Here’s what you need to know about them.


The buprenorphine portion of Suboxone works as a partial opioid agonist. An agonist is a substance that acts like neurotransmitters that bind to opioid receptors to create a certain action, such as respiratory depression or pain relief.

While opioids create that same reaction, buprenorphine triggers a more muted effect. It allows patients to gradually taper off the opioid addiction rather than go cold turkey. Fortunately, the drug also has a ceiling effect.

This means it carries less risk of addiction because its effects will plateau after a specific dosage. Subsequently, it won’t cause a strong high as full opioid agonists would.


As opposed to buprenorphine, naloxone acts as an opioid antagonist. In other words, when bound to a receptor, it blocks the effects of opioids. For this reason, it can cause opposite reactions, such as increased pain sensitivity rather than pain relief.

The antagonist’s addition decreases its risk of abuse, making it one of the best MATs for opioid abuse.

Ratio of Active Ingredients

Suboxone’s ratio of buprenorphine and naloxone is a critical factor during the manufacturing process.

Generally, buprenorphine has a higher dose. For instance, if the ratio is 8 mg of buprenorphine, the naloxone quantity will be 2 mg. It’s usually a fourth of the buprenorphine quantity.

Maintaining this ratio is crucial because if more naloxone is added, it can block buprenorphine’s binding effects.

The Role of Affinity in Suboxone

Affinity is how well a drug binds to your receptors. Receptors can only bind with one molecule at a time.

In Suboxone’s case, buprenorphine has a relatively high affinity. Consequently, once bound to a receptor, other full opioid receptors that try to bind will be blocked off.

Naloxone has an even higher affinity, allowing it to remove full opioid agonist molecules from drugs like oxycodone and hydromorphone.

Benefits of Using Suboxone

Suboxone is often a part of opioid addiction treatment programs. It’s highly effective at managing withdrawal symptoms and reducing the risk of relapse and opioid cravings.

Here are some benefits of the drug as a MAT:

  • It’s FDA-approved.
  • Decreases overdose rates.
  • Has a lower dependency risk.
  • Increases chances of retention during treatment.
  • Reduced costs for hospitalization treatment.

Suboxone Treatment Statistics

A study conducted to prove the efficacy of Suboxone included 326 patients suffering from heroin addiction. After administration, 17.8% of them had no trace of the opioid in their urine after four weeks.

Meanwhile, those from the placebo group only had 5.8%. As for their craving score, it dropped from between 62.4 and 65.6 to 29.8.

Other statistics show that after administering Suboxone for over 12 weeks, 49% of patients suffering from painkiller abuse had reduced their drug intake.

Is Suboxone Better than Methadone?

Apart from Suboxone, some medical professionals also use methadone during MATs. Nevertheless, Suboxone is proven the better option.

Unlike methadone, Suboxone has a reliable ceiling effect. Overall, it’s less addictive in its composition and carries a better chance of assisted recovery.

Risk Factors of Using Suboxone

Despite the long list of benefits associated with Suboxone, there are some risk factors you must consider.

Addiction Potential

Although Suboxone boasts low dependency and a ceiling effect, it still carries the risk of abuse. Since the prescription drug contains buprenorphine, patients may risk its addictive properties.

Some reports found that those suffering from heroin addiction purchase the drug off the streets to prolong the substance abuse.

They do so by taking Suboxone to manage the withdrawal symptoms before going back to taking heroin once again.

For this reason, you’ll need to inform your healthcare professional if you’re developing a dependence.

Treating an opioid addiction without the MAT can prove even more challenging. Recovering from the dependency will likely involve tapering off of Suboxone.

You can decrease the likelihood of Suboxone addiction by administering the drug as intended by your doctor.

Waiting Period

Suboxone treatment doesn’t start immediately after your last dose of opioids. Instead, you need to wait until you experience moderate opioid withdrawal symptoms to begin your MAT.

For instance, if patients are dealing with Vicodin or heroin abuse, they’ll have to wait at least between 12 and 24 hours from the last dose.

Meanwhile, long-acting opioids, such as OxyContin and morphine, will require patients to wait approximately 36 hours. Withdrawal indicators like dilated pupils and goosebumps are essential to note before administering Suboxone.

If you end up taking the MAT before metabolizing your last dose of opioids, your body will likely feel sick. For this reason, Suboxone can be a difficult treatment plan to start with.

Severe addiction cases will particularly find it challenging to wait this long before beginning their treatment.

Side Effects of Suboxone

Suboxone can trigger side effects, including:

  • Insomnia
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Bodyache
  • Cough
  • Runny Nose

Half-Life of Suboxone

A drug’s half-life refers to the time it takes for its active ingredient to reduce by half in volume in your body. This duration depends on the drug type. In the case of opioids, their half-life usually takes around a few hours.

Suboxne’s active ingredient buprenorphine features a half-life that lasts an extensive 24 to 70 hours. This offers exceptional long-acting effects to ease patients through recovery.

Factors Affecting Suboxone’s Half-Life

The amount of time it takes for your body to metabolize half the Suboxone dosage depends on several factors, including:

Medication Interactions

Certain medications can alter Suboxoe’s efficacy rate. You’ll need to be especially wary of drug interactions, particularly of the following:

  • Cholesterol-lowering medications
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Alcohol
  • Niacin
  • Fluoxetine
  • Acetaminophen
  • HIV-treatment drugs


Individuals tend to metabolize Suboxone at different rates. That’s why doctors typically try to find the best dose to administer for maintenance during the induction period.


As you age, your metabolism tends to slow down, allowing the drug to stay longer in your system.


Your diet plays a critical role in drug absorption. It manages your drug-metabolizing enzyme system, affecting its half-life.

Dose and Length of Use

The dosage of Suboxone can affect how long it stays in your system. Since it has a ceiling effect, taking a higher amount than needed won’t offer any additional MAT benefits.

In addition, if you’ve taken Suboxone for prolonged periods, it can take a longer time to detox it out of your system.

Health Issues

Certain underlying health issues can affect Suboxone’s half-life. For example, if you’re struggling with liver or kidney dysfunction, it can take a longer time for the drug to metabolize in your system.

To Conclude

Opioid addiction is a serious disorder affecting millions every year. Undergoing MAT programs have become a popular option for recovery. One of the many drug options used in these treatments is Suboxone.

With a high efficacy rate, low dependency, reduced relapse rate, and ceiling effect, the prescription medication offers a relatively safe path toward full recovery.

Besides that, if you or a loved one is struggling with this type of substance abuse in the New Jersey area, don’t hesitate to reach out to NJ Addiction Resources.