How Long Does Buprenorphine Stay in Your System?

Effects of the Pain Medication and Prevention of Withdrawal Symptoms

Buphenorphine pills
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Buprenorphine is in a class of medications called opioid partial agonist-antagonists. It is used in transdermal patches and buccal films for people who need round-the-clock medication for pain who can't be treated with other medications. It is also used to prevent withdrawal symptoms for patients who stop taking opioid drugs by producing similar effects to these drugs. Buprenorphine is also known as Suboxone (buprenorphine and naloxone), Subutex, Belbuca, Buprenex, Butrans, Temgesic, and Bupe 

Learning how it acts in your system and what interactions there can be with other drugs can help understand precautions and how to prevent an overdose.

How Buprenorphine Works in Your System

Buprenorphine is a powerful, long-lasting opioid and even if you take it according to your doctor's instructions, you must be monitored for possible severe reactions, especially when first taking buprenorphine or when the dosage is changed.

The FDA website contains Medication Guides for many of the brand names of buprenorphine-containing products. You should consult your doctor or these guides for specific precautions, restrictions, and further information for each product.

The effects of buprenorphine are on the opioid pain receptors in the brain and spinal cord. But it also depresses the respiratory centers of the brain. It produces pinpoint pupils. It reduces the motility of the gut, which can lead to constipation. It also is a vasodilator and so it can produce flushed skin, sweating, and feeling faint when you get up after lying down or sitting.

Buprenorphine has a long half-life of 24 to 42 hours. It is broken down by the liver and excreted in the bile and kidneys into the urine and feces. For the combination product Suboxone, the naloxone has a shorter elimination period with an elimination half-life from 2 to 12 hours.

There are many drug interactions with buprenorphine that can lead to severe and possibly fatal reactions. Do not drink alcohol or take any medications that include alcohol white taking buprenorphine. Do not take any street drugs.

While you need to discuss all medications, supplements, vitamins, and over-the-counter drugs with your doctor, these are the ones of the strongest concern: benzodiazepines (such as Xanax, Librium, Klonopin, Valium, Diastat, Ativan, Restoril, Halcion and all others), muscle relaxants, sedatives, sleeping pills, tranquilizers, pain medications, and medications for mental illness and nausea.

If you stop using buprenorphine suddenly, you may have withdrawal symptoms.

Symptoms of Buprenorphine Overdose

Symptoms of a buprenorphine overdose can include:

  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Slowed breathing

If you suspect someone has overdosed on buprenorphine, call the poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. If the victim has collapsed or is not breathing, call 9-1-1.

How Long Buprenorphine Stays in the System

Trying to estimate exactly how long buprenorphine is detectable in the body depends on many variables, including which type of formulation of the drug is used, whether it is in combination with other drugs, and individual metabolism.

Buprenorphine has a different metabolite (norbuprenorphine) than commonly abused opioids and it may not be tested for on a urine drug screen such as used for employment. However, testing for it has become more common.

If you are prescribed buprenorphine or the combination product Suboxone, you should disclose it to the testing laboratory so your results can be properly interpreted. It may be detected in the urine for as long as 6 days, but even longer depending on individual metabolism. It may be detected in a targeted opioid urine screen or a specific buprenorphine urine screen.

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