Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone) is a prescription medication that is used to treat opioid dependence and addiction. It is typically given during opioid withdrawal to alleviate withdrawal symptoms, and some patients continue taking the medication during the early weeks and months of their recovery because it can stabilize brain chemistry and reduce drug cravings.
Suboxone contains buprenorphine which is a partial opioid agonist. Partial opioid agonists activate opioid receptors in the brain as other opioids do, but to a much lesser degree. So although taking Suboxone as prescribed will not make you feel high, long-term Suboxone use can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal upon ceasing the use of the medication.
Because Suboxone is a long-acting medication, withdrawal can last longer than it does with other opioids. Working with your doctor to slowly reduce your dose and taper your body off will help you avoid withdrawal. But if you have been abusing and are addicted to Suboxone, it’s best to seek help from a trusted addiction detox and treatment center.
Suboxone Withdrawal Symptoms and Side Effects
The Suboxone withdrawal timeline can begin 24 hours after your last dose and may last for up to a month in extreme cases. Symptoms will change over time and may come and go as your body adjusts to functioning without Suboxone.
Common symptoms of Suboxone withdrawal include:
- Watery eyes
- Runny nose
- Drug cravings
- Abdominal cramping
- Body aches/muscle pains
- Difficulty concentrating
Symptoms may vary in duration and severity based on factors such as how long you’ve been taking Suboxone, whether or not you’ve been abusing it, and what dose you were taking.
How Long Does Suboxone Withdrawal Last?
The Suboxone withdrawal timeline is different from one person to the next due to personal dosage history and health. Several factors influence how long Suboxone withdrawal lasts, for example:
- Taking higher doses than prescribed or abusing your medication can make withdrawal symptoms severe and longer-lasting.
- Withdrawal symptoms may last longer in older individuals, people with lower body weight, and those with slower metabolisms.
- Whether you stop taking Suboxone suddenly or gradually reduce your dose can influence your experience during withdrawal.
- People with poor liver and kidney function will take longer to clear Suboxone from their system, so they will also have withdrawal symptoms for longer periods of time.
The best way to avoid Suboxone withdrawal is to talk to your doctor before stopping your medication. If you are addicted, a detox or treatment center can help you detox comfortably.
What to Expect Throughout the Suboxone Withdrawal Timeline
The longer you abstain from Suboxone, the less severe your withdrawal symptoms will be. However, the first few days to weeks can be very uncomfortable. Knowing what to expect can help you prepare properly and give you the opportunity to seek medical treatment.
Suboxone withdrawal generally follows this timeline:
- 1-3 days after your last dose – Physical withdrawal symptoms will begin starting with flu-like symptoms such as a runny nose, fatigue, chills, and sweats.
- 3-5 days after your last dose – Withdrawal symptoms will peak around day 3 and include symptoms such as fever, body aches, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Psychological symptoms such as cravings, anxiety, and irritability will also appear.
- 1-2 weeks after your last dose – Symptoms will start to decline in severity but some flu-like symptoms, gastrointestinal upset, and mood-related symptoms will fluctuate, becoming severe at times.
- 2-4 weeks after your last dose – Physical withdrawal symptoms will begin to subside 2-4 weeks after you stop taking Suboxone, but cravings and other mood-related symptoms will continue.
- One month or longer – Most symptoms will subside within one month. Post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) such as depression, anxiety, and fatigue may persist for a couple of months in people who were taking Suboxone for long periods of time.
Managing Suboxone Withdrawal
The safest and most comfortable way to detox from Suboxone is to taper down your dose under the guidance of a licensed medical professional. The tapering process involves gradually reducing your dose over a period of weeks or months, allowing your body to adjust to lower and lower doses of Suboxone.
Eventually, you will be able to stop taking Suboxone completely without going into severe withdrawal. Some individuals will experience minor symptoms of withdrawal when they first switch to a lower dose, but symptoms will not be near as severe as if they had quit Suboxone cold turkey.
In addition to a Suboxone taper, there are self-care practices you can embrace that may help reduce the severity of your symptoms. These include:
- Eating a healthy and balanced diet
- Getting plenty of light exercise
- Drinking plenty of water
- Following a regular sleep schedule
- Taking plenty of time to relax
- Engaging in hobbies that you enjoy
- Practicing other healthy habits such as journaling, yoga, or meditation
- Talking with a support group
- Staying busy
- Avoiding alcohol and other drugs
What if I’m Addicted to Suboxone?
Despite being such an effective medication, Suboxone can be addictive. If you or someone you love are addicted to Suboxone, simply tapering off the medication and getting through withdrawal is not enough to stay sober–you likely need professional treatment.
After detoxing or tapering off of Suboxone, you may consider attending an intensive outpatient program (IOP) that can help you understand why you got addicted in the first place, how your emotions and behaviors fuel your substance abuse, and what you need to do to stay sober. Treatment for Suboxone addiction may include:
- Group and individual therapy
- Mental health counseling
- Holistic and adventure therapies
- Support groups
- Sober living
- Case management
- Aftercare planning and support
Find Help for Suboxone Abuse and Addiction Today
Whether you need support while getting off Suboxone or have found yourself addicted to the medication, Next Step Recovery is here to help.
Our facility offers Intensive Outpatient Program services in North Carolina for men struggling with substance abuse. Our treatment center and services are catered to those who require additional support after completing a medical detox or an inpatient drug rehab program. Next Step Recovery also provides support to those at risk for relapse, in need of additional mental health services, or simply needing another level of care after their initial addiction treatment program.
To learn more about our addiction treatment programs in Asheville, NC, or to find help for yourself or a loved one, please call now.
- Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA): Buprenorphine, Retrieved March 2023 from https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/buprenorphine.pdf
- National Library of Medicine: Withdrawal from Buprenorphine/Naloxone and Maintenance with a Natural Dopaminergic Agonist: A Cautionary Note, Retrieved March 2023 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3835595/
- National Library of Medicine: Tapering off and returning to buprenorphine maintenance in a primary care Office Based Addiction Treatment (OBAT) program, Retrieved March 2023 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6139651/