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How long does Suboxone withdrawal last?

Medically reviewed by Carmen Fookes, BPharm Last updated on Apr 7, 2020.

Official Answer

by Drugs.com
  • Withdrawal symptoms typically last for approximately one month, although this may vary depending on the duration of use, the dosage of Suboxone, alcohol use, and presence of medical conditions including other mental health disorders.
  • Suboxone produces similar withdrawal effects to other opioids (such as oxycodone, heroin, or morphine) if it is quit “cold turkey”.
  • Physical symptoms (such as nausea, vomiting, headaches) of withdrawal commonly begin within 24 hours after the last dose and last for approximately 10 days. These are generally worse in the first 72 hours.
  • Muscle aches and pains, insomnia, and mood swings occur during the first week of withdrawal. Depression is common during the second week. Drug cravings and depression may persist for a month or longer.
  • Suboxone is long-acting. This means that the onset of withdrawal symptoms is often delayed and symptoms last for longer than many other opioids.
  • Tapering off Suboxone, under the guidance of a health professional, will lessen the risk of withdrawal symptoms.

Suboxone contains buprenorphine and naloxone and it has become one of the preferred treatments for opioid addiction. It is usually taken once a day.

Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist. This means it does not activate opioid receptors to the same extent as full agonists (such oxycodone, heroin or methadone), but it does block them, preventing other opioids from binding to these receptors.

Buprenorphine is a drug that has a ceiling, or maximum effect when it is given to people who have taken opioids before. This means that even if you take more buprenorphine, once you get past a certain dosage, you won’t see any increase in effects.

Despite its effectiveness, Suboxone can also be addictive. And because it occupies opioid receptors, it can produce similar withdrawal effects if quit “cold turkey”.

Symptoms of Suboxone withdrawal last approximately one month although this may vary depending on the duration of use and dosage of Suboxone, if the Suboxone was mixed with other drugs, such as alcohol, and the presence of other medical conditions or mental health disorders. Withdrawal symptoms generally follow this pattern:

  • First 72 hours: Physical symptoms (chills, fever, headaches, gastrointestinal problems, insomnia, muscle aches, nausea and vomiting, sweating)
  • After the first week: Muscle aches and pains, insomnia, mood swings
  • After two weeks: Depression
  • After one month: Depression and drug cravings.

Persistent drug cravings mean that users have a high risk of relapse a month out from stopping Suboxone. Always keep in touch with your detox therapist during this time.

What are the symptoms of Suboxone withdrawal?

Symptoms of Suboxone withdrawal are similar to withdrawal symptoms from other opioids and include:

  • Anxiety
  • Chills
  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Digestive problems (eg, diarrhea, abdominal pain)
  • Dilated pupils
  • Drug cravings
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Tiredness.

How can Suboxone withdrawal symptoms be reduced?

Suboxone should be tapered off slowly under the guidance of a health professional.

This involves slowly reducing the dosage of Suboxone over several weeks or months until you are no longer taking the drug. Other medications, such as clonidine, may be given to ease withdrawal symptoms.

There is little evidence to show that rapid detox (withdrawal over three days) is better at minimizing withdrawal symptoms and it may even be dangerous. 

References
  • What Are Suboxone Withdrawal Symptoms? American Addiction Centers. https://americanaddictioncenters.org/suboxone/withdrawal
  • Suboxone Withdrawal. DrugAbuse.com https://drugabuse.com/suboxone/detox-withdrawal/

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