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How Long Does Subutex Stay in Your System?

Subutex is a prescription medication that contains the partial opioid buprenorphine. It’s typically provided on a once-daily dosing schedule, so it’s reasonable to assume that the drug lasts about this long in your body.[1]

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However, buprenorphine can appear on drug tests for much longer than 24 hours, depending on the testing format used. For example, it can appear in urine tests for 14 days and in hair samples for up to 90 days.[5]

Here’s what you need to know about how long Subutex stays in your system. 

Understanding the Half-Life of Subutex 

A drug’s half-life is a representation of how long it takes the average person to process about half of a given dose. Researchers say buprenorphine’s half-life is about 38 hours.[2]

Why does this matter? 

When four to five half-lives have passed, the drug concentrations inside your body are too low to be detected, researchers say.[3] From a clinical standpoint, the drug has been completely processed after four or five half-lives. 

For buprenorphine, this means a typical dose in a typical person is eliminated in about 190 hours (38×5)—or about a week. 

Subutex Detection Timeline

How long Subutex will appear in a drug test depends on the type of sample used. The following table can help you understand the differences:[5,6] 

Test typeTime Frame After Last Dose 
UrineUp to 14 days
Blood Up to 2 hours 
Saliva Up to 36 hours
HairUp to 90 days

Urine 

Urine blood tests are popular for employers, as they’re simple to conduct and not invasive. Current or prospective employees can provide a sample that’s quickly tested for drugs, and no nurses or doctors are required to supervise the process. 

Regular urine tests can’t always detect buprenorphine, but special tests that involve an immunoassay can.[4] Your treatment team might use tests like this to ensure you’re complying with your drug therapy program. 

A urine test can detect buprenorphine for up to 14 days after your last dose.[5]

Blood 

A blood test might be used in a hospital or medical clinic. If you experience an overdose or another type of emergency, the treatment team must know what you took so they can provide the proper type of treatment. Blood tests typically can’t detect drugs for long time frames, but they can be helpful for doctors trying to diagnose their patients. 

A blood test can detect buprenorphine for about two hours.[6]

Saliva

A saliva test is another non-invasive form of drug testing. You’re not required to get undressed or visit with a nurse to provide a sample. Instead, you spit into a collection device or allow someone to put a testing swab inside your mouth. 

Saliva tests can detect buprenorphine for about 36 hours.[5]

Hair 

Some drug metabolites lodge inside hair follicles as they grow. You can’t wash or bleach all of these remnants away, and testing teams don’t need big samples to determine if you’ve used drugs. 

A hair test can detect buprenorphine for about 90 days.[5]

Factors Impacting Subutex in Your System 

Many of the testing time frames we’ve mentioned are estimates. That’s because many different factors can influence how quickly or slowly the drug moves through your body. 

Those factors can include the following:[7]

  • Genetics: Your body relies on enzymes to break down opioid drugs. Some people have more of them, making drugs pass through their systems faster. 
  • Age: Very young people and very old people tend to metabolize drugs slower than other age groups. 
  • Illnesses: Poor organ health (especially diseases that impact the liver) can change how quickly drugs pass through. Sicknesses (like chronic diarrhea) that change your intestinal flora can have an impact too. 
  • Drug taking: The dose, frequency, and route of medication administration can also impact how quickly it moves through the body. 
  • Sex: Women tend to metabolize drugs slower than men do. 

Some of these factors are under your control. For example, you can take charge of your health and ensure your organs are working properly. However, things like your age and genes can’t be shifted. 

Pay Attention to How Long Subutex Lasts 

If you’re using Subutex as medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder, ensure you understand your doctor’s instructions. Take your medications only as prescribed, and call if there’s anything that seems unusual to you. 

If you’re researching how long Subutex lasts because you’re abusing the drug and want to pass a drug test, there is a better way. Treatment can help you stop abusing drugs and build a better life in recovery. Talk to your doctor about your drug use and work together to find a program that can help you quit.

While addiction is a chronic disorder, and there is no cure, comprehensive treatment can help you to effectively manage the condition for life. With the right tools, you can live a rewarding and productive life in recovery.

Updated March 18, 2024
Resources
  1. Subutex prescribing information. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Published February 2018. Accessed February 28, 2024.
  2. Kumar R, Viswanath O, Saadabadi A. Buprenorphine. StatPearls. Published November 30, 2023. Accessed February 28, 2024.
  3. Hallare J, Gerriets V. Half Life. StatPearls. Published June 20, 2023. Accessed February 28, 2024.
  4. Milone M. Laboratory testing for prescription opioids. Journal of Medical Toxicology. 2012;8(4):408-416.
  5. Opioid testing. Testing. Published September 28, 2022. Accessed February 28, 2024.
  6.  Jamshidi N, Athavale A, Tremonti C, et al. Evaluation of adherence monitoring in buprenorphine treatment: A pilot study using timed drug essays to determine the accuracy of testing. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. 2023;89(7):1938-1947.
  7. Choudhary A. Factors affecting drug metabolism including stereo chemical aspects. Pharmaguideline. Published March 19, 2022. Accessed February 28, 2024.
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