How long does Suboxone stay in your system? Of the commonly used opioids, the narcotic in Suboxone called buprenorphine has the longest half-life of them all except for methadone. A half-life is a chemical term referring to how long it takes the body to break down half of an ingested dose. Buprenorphine’s half-life is about 36 hours. For example, if you took 4 milligrams of buprenorphine on Monday morning at 10 AM, it would be approximately 10 PM on Tuesday night until the body would have metabolized 2 of the 4 milligrams, leaving 2 milligrams still active. Since 2 milligrams is a fair amount of buprenorphine in its own right, you could expect to still be experiencing the effects of it. In fact, opioid replacement therapy takes advantage of this.
By about 10 AM on Thursday, the body would have broken down half of the 2 milligrams, leaving about 1 milligram, still a significant amount of this powerful opioid. This goes on until so much of the drug has been broken down that there is no longer any effect at all. Overall, it takes about four to five half-lives of a given drug to eliminate enough of it to where it would no longer show on a urinalysis drug screen.
Drugs have known metabolites, a kind of by-product, and these are what urinalysis drug screens are looking for. For example, the main active metabolite of oxycodone is oxymorphone, more commonly known by its rather infamous trade name Opana. Hydrocodone breaks down into hydromorphone, also known by its moniker Dilaudid, along with a minor metabolite player called dihydrocodeine. Buprenorphine’s main active metabolite is called norbuprenorphine, along with its glucuronide conjugates. These metabolites are what make drug screens so accurate.
Although false positives are possible at the screening level, all suspected positive tests are confirmed by a laboratory, often in a process known as gas chromatography. This actually examines the molecules present in a sample. This reveals the chemical composition without a doubt. Now that you understand a bit more about half-lives and metabolites, you likely will begin to see why you can’t just claim the test is wrong. It couldn’t be wrong when the lab is looking right at its molecules! Anyone who understands the science of urinalysis drug testing understands that confirmation by gas chromatography or GC is all but foolproof.
These particular metabolic reactions cited above are mediated by the enzyme CYP3A in the liver. This enzyme is also involved in many other drug chemical reactions in the body that involve drugs not associated with abuse. Did you know that grapefruit is a powerful inhibitor of CYP3A? This is why many prescription drug container labels will include a warning about consuming grapefruit juice while taking the drug in question.
Some abusers of opioids and other drugs will deliberately drink grapefruit juice with their dose in an effort to potentiate, meaning increase, the effects of the drug. This is a dangerous practice easily leading to overdose in some individuals.
How Long does Suboxone Stay in your System?
We have seen how long buprenorphine’s half-life is, approximately 36 hours. From the information provided here, can you see that it would take at least 144 hours for Suboxone to leave your system sufficiently to clear the threshold of the average urine drug screening test? This figure is based on simple arithmetic:
- X amount of buprenorphine
- Calculate a loss of one-half of the dose every 36 hours
- Figure an average of at least four half-lives to clear threshold
Based on this information, we see that this 144 hours breaks down like this: Four half-lives of 36 hours each, or 144 hours total, for the body to metabolize the buprenorphine enough to pass a typical urine drug screen. Of course, the drug will continue to be present for much longer on the molecular level, but these levels are typically too low to be detected or have any effect.
It’s important to understand that this 144 hours is based on a single dose. Multiple doses over time would extend the drug test detection window significantly. It’s also possible that certain people would need five or even six half-lives to be able to pass a standard drug test.
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