When we look back to the late 1990s, we can trace the origin of what we call the “opioid crisis” today. You don’t have to look far to see how widespread the problem has become, but the story behind it is a series of colossal mistakes.

During this span, pharmaceutical companies met with physicians and reassured the entire community that pain patients could not become addicted to opioid drugs.

After this meeting by companies like Purdue Pharmaceuticals, health care providers began prescribing at historical rates.

With an increase in prescriptions to many who did not need such significant doses, it led to the widespread misuse of both prescription and non-prescription opioids. Shortly thereafter, it became clear that these medications were, in fact, highly addictive. A study released by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) highlights that nearly 80 percent of heroin users used prescription opioids prior to their heroin use.

After nearly two decades and hundreds of thousands of lives lost, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) declared a public health emergency relating to the crisis. They also released a 5-Point Strategy to Combat the Opioid Crisis. Devastating consequences of the current state of affairs increases opioid misuse and related overdoses, as well as the rising incidence of newborns experiencing withdrawal syndrome after birth.

Part of the 5-Point Strategy is designed to provide cutting edge research on pain and addiction and improving access to treatment and recovery services. With the increase in access to treatment and best practices, it will allow individuals an introduction to medication-assisted treatment, which is medicine designed to combat withdrawal symptoms and allow someone to resume normal activities in their lives.

One such drug is Suboxone, which is a revolutionary medicine that is not typically abused.

When someone is recovering from drug addiction, standard drug tests help track drug use, and healthcare providers will measure how successful treatment is in terms of helping the individual maintain sobriety. A majority of those may need to undergo drug testing to achieve meaningful employment, and if you are undergoing treatment for opioid addiction for oxycodone, heroin, or fentanyl, you may receive Suboxone as a part of your treatment.

Suboxone does imitate some of the effects of opioid drugs. However, it does not show up on the drug test panels as other opioids. It will only register if the panel tests for buprenorphine, which is one of the active ingredients, or its metabolites.

What is Suboxone?

Suboxone is the combination of two drugs, naloxone, and buprenorphine. Buprenorphine is an opioid partial agonist-antagonist, which means it mimics the effects of opioid drugs.

Buprenorphine will ease symptoms of withdrawal and prevent future cravings. It allows someone trying to overcome an opioid addiction to move forward without the debilitating symptoms that accompany opioid withdrawal.

Buprenorphine is effective in re-establishing regular brain function and preventing relapse. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist, which means it blocks the effects of opioids. When including naloxone with buprenorphine, it’s intended to avoid the misuse of buprenorphine by causing withdrawal if the medication is injected instead of dissolved under the tongue.

If you are undergoing Suboxone treatment, you must never stop using the substance suddenly or without your physician’s approval. If you stop Suboxone use too quickly can cause withdrawal symptoms.

The list of the following symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Restlessness
  • Hot flashes
  • Cold flashes
  • Teary eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Chills
  • Sweating
  • Aching muscles
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

You are not required to stop using Suboxone before undergoing a drug test. You must always use the medication as prescribed.

How Long Does Suboxone Show up in a Drug Test?

Suboxone may not be tested for depending on the type of drug panel used. Suboxone will not cause false positives for other opioids. Buprenorphine, which is one of the active ingredients of the medicine, is similar to opioid drugs, but it is a different chemical, and it is broken down into various metabolites.

Buprenorphine, however, has an unusually long half-life when it is compared to other opioids. An elimination half-life refers to the amount of time a single dose of the substance takes to leave the body.

For Suboxone, the period lasts for 37 hours, which means that it can take over eight days for Suboxone to no longer be detectable in your body.

The period will vary for everyone, however, and some factors influence how long it will take for Suboxone to be flushed out of your system.

These include:

  • Age
  • Weight
  • Height
  • Body fat percentage
  • Metabolism
  • The amount of the last dose taken
  • Amount of time someone has used Suboxone
  • Liver health

The process to metabolize the drug creates metabolites that stay in the body for longer than the drug itself. Modern drug tests have the capability to detect these as well, and even after eight days, someone may still test positive for buprenorphine.

Blood tests are often invasive but can detect the substance shortly after being ingested. They have a smaller window to detect buprenorphine, and would only register around two hours after the last dose. Saliva tests are used more often because they are less invasive and easy to administer. The tests can work for a few days after the previous dose.

Employers commonly use urine tests, and buprenorphine is detectable in the urine 40 minutes after ingestion. For long-term users, the drug will show up in tests up to two weeks later. Suboxone and its metabolites can also be built up in hair follicles and be detected for one to three months, but it is not a reliable means of drug testing.

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