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How Long Does Suboxone Block Opiates For?

The length of time a medication like Suboxone is effective in the system is based on two primary factors: the metabolism of the person taking the medication and the half-life of the medication.[1]

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In general, if Suboxone is taken as prescribed, the person’s metabolism is average, and there are no other factors impacting the process, Suboxone should block opiates for up to 24 hours or longer.[2]

There are other contributing factors as well, which can alter how long Suboxone or any medication is effective in the system, including other medications also being taken, the presence of any illicit substances in the body, and underlying medical conditions.

Significantly impacting the equation is also the dosage the person is taking and how long they have been consistently taking the drug. 

How Does Suboxone Block Opiates?

Suboxone is made up of two ingredients: buprenorphine and naloxone.[3]

Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist that binds loosely to the opioid receptors, helping the user to avoid cravings and opioid withdrawal symptoms that occur when stopping use of full opioid agonists like prescription painkillers and heroin.[4]

Naloxone is an opioid antagonist, which means that it blocks the euphoric effects of opioid drugs.[5]

Buprenorphine to Naloxone Ratio

In Suboxone, there is a 4:1 ratio of naloxone to buprenorphine, which means for every one part buprenorphine there are four parts naloxone.[6] 

Depending on whether the person is actively transitioning into recovery, in the maintenance stage, or trying to lower their dose of Suboxone, they may be prescribed a sublingual film containing the following doses:[7]

  • 2 mg buprenorphine and ½ mg naloxone
  • 4 mg buprenorphine and 1 mg naloxone
  • 8 mg buprenorphine with 2 mg naloxone 
  • 12 mg buprenorphine with 3 mg naloxone

This ratio helps to ensure that there is not enough naloxone to block buprenorphine from doing its job but enough to make sure that the person does not experience a high. 

Ceiling Effect & Blocking Effect

Buprenorphine has a ceiling effect, which stops the person from feeling high once they hit a certain limit, no matter how much of the drug they take.[8] Meanwhile, naloxone remains dormant unless the drug is abused or someone attempts to take opioids on top of Suboxone. If these situations occur, naloxone activates and stops the effects of all opioids in the system, putting the person into opioid withdrawal

Understanding the Half-Life of Suboxone

The half-life of Suboxone is significant because it plays a huge role in how long the drug is active in the system, helping to block opiates. There are two different half-lives to consider given the two active ingredients in Suboxone.


The half-life of a medication is defined as how long it takes for half of the drug to be processed out of the system.[9] For example, if the half-life of a drug is four hours and the person takes a 10 mg dose, four hours after taking the drug, they will have about 5 mg of the drug left in their system. Another four hours later, they will have about 2.5 mg in their system. In general, it takes about five half-lives for the substance to be fully eliminated from the system. 

Half-Life & the Efficacy of Suboxone

In Suboxone, buprenorphine has a half-life of anywhere from 24 to 42 hours, while naloxone has a half-life of two to 12 hours.[2]

Because buprenorphine has a much longer half-life than naloxone, this has an impact on how long the drug is effective in blocking the use of opiates. If taken as prescribed, buprenorphine levels rise over time in the system to a therapeutic level, while naloxone levels are maintained. 

If the person stops taking Suboxone abruptly, levels of buprenorphine will remain in the system longer than levels of naloxone will. This does not mean that Suboxone will no longer block opiates two to 12 hours after taking the medication. In fact, Suboxone is usually taken just once per day during the maintenance period because there will still be enough naloxone in the system at the 24-hour mark to be effective.

Because it takes about five half-lives for the drug to be eliminated from the system completely, naloxone may still be in the system of the user up to 60 hours after taking the last dose. 

Factors That Impact the Half-Life of Suboxone

There are a number of factors that can impact how long it takes for someone to process Suboxone out of their system. These include the following:[1,10-15]


The rate of metabolism in the body changes over time, and not everyone will metabolize Suboxone at the same rate. This means that two people taking the same dose of the medication may find that it is effective for different lengths of time based on metabolism alone. In the early period of Suboxone induction, doctors work with individuals to find the appropriate maintenance dose for them.  

Other Medications 

Taking multiple medications and supplements always comes with a risk of interactions that may alter the mechanism of either or both substances. This means that if someone is taking medications other than Suboxone, the half-life of Suboxone may be impacted if those medications alter metabolism or the chemical mechanism of the drug. 


With age, metabolism generally slows down, so older people may retain higher levels of Suboxone in their system for longer than younger people.

Diet & Lifestyle

How much movement you get in a day, the type of food you eat, and how much you eat can all have an impact on your rate of metabolism. This will impact how long Suboxone stays active in the body.

Underlying Health Issues

There are a number of health issues that can greatly impact how long it takes for the body to break down and eliminate Suboxone. For example, the liver is primarily where medications are metabolized so if there is liver dysfunction, the process may be slowed significantly.

Similarly, the kidneys play a big role in the breakdown and elimination of drugs. Kidney damage can mean that it takes longer to metabolize Suboxone.


Higher doses of Suboxone may take longer to be eliminated to the point where the levels of the drug in the system are no longer at therapeutic or effective levels. 

Length of Use

Those who have taken Suboxone for a longer period of time may have a buildup of the drug. This can mean it takes a bit longer for a full elimination of the drug from the system. 

Talk to Your Doctor

If you have questions about your rate of metabolism and the half-life of your dosage of Suboxone, talk to your doctor. They’ll take your medical history into account, as well as your drug abuse history and current dose of Suboxone. With this information, they can give you a personalized idea of what to expect from your medication. 

Updated April 2, 2024
  1. Andrade C. The practical importance of half-life in psychopharmacology. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2022;83(4):41940.
  2. Highlights of prescribing information for Suboxone. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Revised March 2021. Accessed March 20, 2024.
  3. Velander JR. Suboxone: Rationale, science, misconceptionsThe Ochsner Journal. 2018;18(1):23-29.
  4. Buprenorphine. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Published 2023. Accessed March 10, 2024.
  5. Naloxone. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Published September 18, 2023. Accessed March 20, 2024.
  6. Yokell M, D. Zaller N, C. Green T, D. Rich J. Buprenorphine and buprenorphine/naloxone diversion, misuse, and illicit use: An international reviewCurrent Drug Abuse Reviews. 2011;4(1):28-41.
  7. Highlights of prescribing information: Suboxone sublingual film. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Revised September 2015. Accessed March 10, 2024.
  8. Infantino R, Mattia C, Locarini P, Pastore AL, Maione S, Luongo L. Buprenorphine: Far beyond the “ceiling.” Biomolecules. 2021;11(6):816.
  9. Hallare J, Gerriets V. Half life. StatPearls. Published 2021. Accessed March 20, 2024.
  10. Palleria C, Di Paolo A, Giofrè C, et al. Pharmacokinetic drug-drug interaction and their implication in clinical managementJournal of Research in Medical Sciences: The Official Journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences. 2013;18(7):601-610.
  11. Mangoni AA, Jackson SHD. Age-related changes in pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics: basic principles and practical applications. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. 2004;57(1):6-14.
  12. Niederberger E, Parnham MJ. The impact of diet and exercise on drug responsesInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2021;22(14).
  13. Vaja R, Rana M. Drugs and the liverAnaesthesia & Intensive Care Medicine. 2020;21(10):517-523.
  14. Guidance for industry pharmacokinetics in patients with impaired renal function – Study design, data analysis, and impact on dosing. Published September 2020. Accessed March 20, 2024. U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  15. Brown SM, Holtzman M, Kim T, Kharasch ED. Buprenorphine metabolites, buprenorphine-3-glucuronide and norbuprenorphine-3-glucuronide, are biologically active. Anesthesiology. Published October 2011:1.
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