How Long Does Buprenorphine Stay in Your System?

Buprenorphine in Your Blood, Urine, Hair, & Saliva

Bottle of 8mg buprenorphine tablets

 

Joe Raedle / Staff / Getty Images

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 but can't be treated with other pain-relieving medications. It is also used to prevent withdrawal symptoms for people who stop taking opioid drugs by producing similar effects to these drugs. Buprenorphine is sold under the brand names Suboxone (buprenorphine and naloxone), Subutex, Belbuca, Buprenex, Butrans, Temgesic, and Bupe. 

Buprenorphine and products containing buprenorphine are classified as Schedule III drugs, meaning they are considered to have a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence.

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

How Long Does Buprenorphine Stay in Your System?

Blood: Up to two days

Urine: Up to six days

Saliva: Up to three days

Hair: Up to 90 days

How Long Does It Take to Feel Effects?

Buprenorphine is a partial agonist that works by activating opioid receptors in the brain. This effect is less pronounced than in the case of opioids such as methadone and heroin. Activating the brain's opioid receptors results in a reduction in opiate withdrawal symptoms. Essentially, the drug satisfies the brain's need for opiates while avoiding the euphoric effects of opiate drugs. 

The amount of time it takes to begin feeling the effects of this medication varies depending on your body's individual factors. Buprenorphine reaches peak blood concentration levels in about 40 minutes to three and a half hours. 

Once you have taken a dose of the medication, the effects can last for up to three days.

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.

How Long Does Buprenorphine Last?

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, which includes both buprenorphine and naloxone, the naloxone has a shorter elimination period with an elimination half-life from two to 12 hours.

Buprenorphine is a powerful, long-lasting drug 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.

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

If you have been prescribed buprenorphine or the combination product Suboxone, you should disclose it to the testing laboratory so your results can be properly interpreted.

Lab tests usually involve the use of gas chromatography or liquid chromatography methods. However, some drug screenings used by employers are not able to detect this substance. It may be detected in a targeted opioid urine screen or a specific buprenorphine urine screen.

Urine testing is the most common method, but blood, saliva, and hair testing can also detect buprenorphine, but such methods tend to be used less frequently.

Urine

Buprenorphine is detectable in urine for up to six days after the last use. Because this medication is often used to prevent opioid withdrawal symptoms, it is important for labs to be able to distinguish between prescription buprenorphine use and non-prescription opioid use.

Research suggests that doses taken as part of buprenorphine maintenance show up in urine at significantly lower levels than that of heroin, meaning that routine urine testing can be used to distinguish between this medication and illicit heroin use.

Blood

While blood tests tend to be used less frequently due to their invasiveness and higher costs, buprenorphine is detectable by blood analysis for up to two days after the last dose. Blood tests also have a much shorter detection window than urine tests and are often best used relatively quickly after a person has taken their last dose of the medication.

Saliva

Research suggests that saliva tests can be a fast and accurate tool for detecting the presence of buprenorphine. Saliva tests may be used more frequently because they are easy to administer and have a slightly longer detection window than blood tests. Buprenorphine can be detected in saliva for approximately three days after the last use of the medication.

Hair

Research has also found that buprenorphine can be detected in hair samples. As with other substances, the detection window for hair testing is much longer. Buprenorphine can be detected in head hair follicle samples for up to three months after the last use.

False Positive Testing

While a useful, simple, and inexpensive tool, immunoassays (one of the most common types of urine drug screen) can give false-positive results. There have been reports of the several medications triggering a false-positive result for buprenorphine, including:

  • High-dose morphine
  • Tramadol
  • Codeine
  • Solian (amisulpride)
  • Dogmatil (sulpiride)

As with most positive results, testing to identify specific drugs, rather than classes of drugs, is needed to confirm a positive urine drug screen.

To ensure clinicians can accurately interpret your drug screen results, always disclose any prescription or over-the-counter medications you are taking.

Factors That Affect Detection Time

There are a number of different variables that can influence how long it takes for your body to metabolize and eliminate buprenorphine. Some of the factors that can play a role in how long this substance remains in your system include age, liver function, and overall health.

Age

It is advised that caution should be used when prescribing buprenorphine medications to older adults due to decreased cardiac, hepatic, and renal functioning. The presence of other diseases and the use of other medications may also impact how fast buprenorphine is cleared from the body. Older adults may need to take this medication in smaller doses in order to avoid toxicity.

Liver Function

Because buprenorphine is metabolized and excreted primarily by the liver, hepatic impairment can influence how long it takes for the medication to be processed and cleared from your system. Studies found that the half-life of buprenorphine is longer for individuals with moderate to severe liver impairment.

Overall Health

Your overall health has an influence on how well your body processes and excretes different substances, including buprenorphine. If you are in good condition and have a faster metabolism, you may clear the substance at a somewhat higher rate. People with slower metabolisms, on the other hand, may take longer to eliminate the medication from their systems.

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.

How to Get Buprenorphine Out of Your System

While buprenorphine is not detected by standard screenings, it is possible that an employer may conduct a specific test designed to detect the substance. In such cases, it is important to know that you are within your rights to use the drug as long as you have a prescription.

If you want to get this substance out of your system, the first step is to stop taking the medication. If you stop using buprenorphine suddenly, however, you may have withdrawal symptoms. Always consult your doctor before discontinuing your medication.

If you want to speed up how quickly the drug is metabolized and eliminated from your system, make sure that you get regular exercise, follow a healthy diet, and drink plenty of water, which may help improve your body's metabolic rate.

Symptoms of 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 911.

Risk of Drug Interactions

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, the following are generally of the biggest concern for harmful interaction with buprenorphine: benzodiazepines (such as Xanax, Librium, Klonopin, Valium, Diastat, Ativan, Restoril, Halcion, and others), muscle relaxants, sedatives, sleeping pills, tranquilizers, pain medications, and medications for mental illness and nausea.

Getting Help

While it is possible to become dependent upon buprenorphine, it is less addictive than opioids such as morphine and heroin. Managed use of the substance allows people to slowly taper off their dose as they go through treatment.

Buprenorphine withdrawal symptoms are similar to those of opiate drugs but usually milder. Common symptoms can include nausea, headaches, flu-like symptoms, body aches, mood swings, and difficulty sleeping. The worst of these symptoms usually pass in the first three to five days, but milder symptoms may continue for a few weeks.

If you are concerned about your buprenorphine use, talk to your doctor about other treatment options for opioid use disorder. Options may involve switching to another type of medication-assisted treatment or using psychological strategies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or contingency management (CM) to support your long-term recovery.

If you need help finding treatment resources, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at 1-800-662-4357 or utilize their online treatment locator.

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources

Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Ling W. Buprenorphine implant for opioid addiction. Pain Manag. 2012;2(4):345-50. doi:10.2217/pmt.12.26

  2. Kahan M, Srivastava A, Ordean A, Cirone S. Buprenorphine: New treatment of opioid addiction in primary care. Can Fam Physician. 2011;57(3):281-9. PMID: 21402963

  3. Buprenorphine. DrugBank. November 15, 2019.

  4. Balhara YP, Jain R. A urinalysis-based study of buprenorphine and non-prescription opioid use among patients on buprenorphine maintenanceJ Pharmacol Pharmacother. 2012;3(1):15–19. doi:10.4103/0976-500X.92496

  5. Farquharson S, Dana K, Shende C, et al. Rapid identification of buprenorphine in patient saliva. J Anal Bioanal Tech. 2017;8(3):368. doi:10.4172/2155-9872.1000368

  6. Belivanis S, Tzatzarakis MN, Vakonaki E, et al. Buprenorphine and nor-buprenorphine levels in head hair samples from former heroin users under Suboxone® treatment. Drug Test Anal. 2014;6 Suppl 1:93-100. doi:10.1002/dta.1611

  7. Tenore PL. False-positive buprenorphine EIA urine toxicology results due to high dose morphine: a case report. J Addict Dis. 2012;31(4):329-31. doi:10.1080/10550887.2012.735598

  8. Shaikh S, Hull MJ, Bishop KA, et al. Effect of tramadol use on three point-of-care and one instrument-based immunoassays for urine buprenorphine. J Anal Toxicol. 2008;32(5):339-43. doi:10.1093/jat/32.5.339

  9. Berg JA, Schjøtt J, Fossan KO, Riedel B. Cross-reactivity of the CEDIA buprenorphine assay in drugs-of-abuse screening: influence of dose and metabolites of opioids. Subst Abuse Rehabil. 2015;6:131-9. doi:10.2147/SAR.S88935

  10. Birch MA, Couchman L, Pietromartire S, et al. False-positive buprenorphine by CEDIA in patients prescribed amisulpride or sulpiride. J Anal Toxicol. 2013;37(4):233-6. doi:10.1093/jat/bkt016

  11. Food and Drug Administration. Highlights of prescribing information: Subutex (buprenorphine sublingual tablets) for sublingual administration. Updated February 2018.

Additional Reading