What Are Suboxone Strips Used For?

Medically Reviewed by
Nzinga Harrison, MD
April 1, 2024

Suboxone strips, also referred to as Suboxone films, are a form of Suboxone approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2002 to treat opioid addiction. Suboxone films contain buprenorphine and naloxone as the active ingredients. And they are available in easily dissolvable strips to be administered sublingually (under the tongue) or buccally (between the gums and the inner lining of the cheek). 

Suboxone films contain the same ratio of active ingredients and are available in the same dosage as Suboxone pills. However, the misuse potential is relatively lower for Suboxone films compared to the tablet form as they cannot be crushed and snorted. Suboxone sublingual has also been observed to absorb more quickly and effectively than pills. Suboxone films can be prescribed by doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and other medical professionals licensed to prescribe medications.

What Are Suboxone Strips?

An info card explaining some quick facts about Buprenorphine/Naloxone or Suboxone

Suboxone strips help individuals with opioid use disorders achieve long-term recovery and regain control over their lives. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the buprenorphine in Suboxone is a partial opioid agonist medication that works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain to reduce withdrawal symptoms and opioid cravings. And naloxone, on the other hand, is an opioid antagonist (inhibitor) that works by blocking the effects of other opioids to reduce the risk of overdose and relapse. Both work together to help reduce withdrawal symptoms associated with opioid addiction and help individuals in recovery focus on other elements of their rehabilitation program.


How Are Suboxone Strips Taken?

Suboxone sublingual films are administered by either placing it under the tongue or the inner cheeks until it is completely dissolved. These strips generally take around six to 10 minutes to dissolve completely. If two strips are taken, the films should be placed on opposite sides under the tongue or inner cheeks without overlapping them. If more than two strips are taken, the next films should be placed after the first two have completely dissolved. 

Suboxone sublingual film strips should not be chewed or swallowed whole. Doing so will not generate the desired effects as they are not designed to be split or broken. Suboxone films should also not be taken with benzodiazepines, alcohol, or other substances. People who take Suboxone with such substances are at higher risk of experiencing serious health effects, including overdose death. 


Who Should Not Use Suboxone Strips?

The combination of buprenorphine and naloxone makes Suboxone films an excellent medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD) as it possesses a low risk for addiction and misuse. However, Suboxone treatment may not be ideal for everyone with opioid dependence. 

Suboxone films may not be recommended for people who are:

  • Under the age of 16
  • Allergic to buprenorphine or naloxone, or any other ingredient in the medication
  • Have asthma or other serious breathing problems 
  • Have serious liver problems 

It’s also important to talk to your healthcare provider if you have any of the following health conditions:

  • Thyroid problems 
  • Prostate problems 
  • Alcohol use disorder (AUD)
  • Adrenal gland problems such as Addison’s disease
  • Kidney problems 
  • Kyphoscoliosis (hunchback disease)
  • History of seizures 
  • Severe mental health issues such as depression or anxiety disorder
  • Head injuries or brain tumor

Your healthcare practitioner can help you by adjusting your Suboxone dosage or provide you with an alternative treatment.

What Are Suboxone Strips Used For - Eleanor Health

Side Effects of Suboxone Film Strips

As with any medication, Suboxone can also cause a few negative side effects. Suboxone side effects tend to be mild and are most often similar to opioid withdrawal symptoms. 

Some of the common side effects of Suboxone include:

  • Insomnia 
  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness 
  • Fatigue 
  • Nausea
  • Headache 
  • Excessive sweating 
  • Dizziness 
  • Stomach cramps 
  • Muscle aches 
  • Joint pain
  • Flu-like symptoms such as chills, fever, sore throat, runny nose, and watery eyes

In rare instances, Suboxone can also cause severe side effects. People are advised to contact their healthcare provider immediately if they experience any of the following side effects:

  • Reduced sexual desire 
  • Slurred speech 
  • Extreme drowsiness 
  • Hives, rash, or itching 
  • Hallucinations 
  • Irregular menstruation
  • Swelling of the face, hands, feet, or legs 
  • Breathing troubles 
  • Yellowing of the eyes or skin 

It’s crucial to refrain from driving or partaking in any hazardous activities while on Suboxone until you know how Suboxone affects you.  


How Long Do Suboxone Strips Stay in Your System?

The half-life of Suboxone’s active ingredient, buprenorphine, is estimated to be around 37 to 42 hours. Since it takes around five half-lives for a substance to completely leave the body, it may take around seven to nine days for buprenorphine to leave the body completely. However, as the liver breaks down buprenorphine into metabolites called norbuprenorphine with an estimated half-life of up to 150 hours, buprenorphine can remain detectable in the body for up to two weeks after the last dose.

The naloxone in the medication has a half-life of around two to 12 hours. Thus, it can stay in the body for up to 60 hours, although it generally clears well before buprenorphine.

Suboxone generally takes seven to nine days to leave the body completely. However, this may differ from person to person based on factors such as:

  • Age
  •  Weight
  •  Metabolism Speed
  • Frequency of Suboxone use
  • Suboxone dosage
  •  Liver health 

Suboxone Addiction

Although Suboxone is potentially addictive, the risk of Suboxone addiction is relatively low compared to addictions to other opioids. This risk is lowered because Suboxone does not generate as intense of a sedative effect as most opioids. In addition, it also generates a “ceiling effect” that makes it difficult to enhance its intoxicating effects by taking large doses of the medication. But since the buprenorphine in the medication can trigger withdrawal symptoms when Suboxone use is stopped abruptly, individuals are gradually tapered off the medication by medical professionals towards the end of treatment. 

Suboxone has attracted numerous headlines for being a game-changer in the battle against opioid addiction. However, for Suboxone to be successful, it has to be provided in combination with other elements of a comprehensive treatment program such as counseling and behavioral therapy

If you are seeking help with your loved one’s addiction, contact us today to speak with an addiction treatment specialist.

If you need help with your substance use disorder, we are here to help you build your confidence and momentum towards the future you want. We provide treatment services for adults with alcohol, opioid, and other substance use disorders. We are currently located in Louisiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas, and Washington.

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Nzinga Harrison, MD

Dr. Harrison serves as the Chief Medical Officer for Eleanor Health with more than 15 years experience practicing medicine. She is a double-board certified physician with specialties in general adult psychiatry and addiction medicine. Dr. Harrison has spent her career as a physician treating individuals from marginalized communities with substance use and other psychiatric disorders. As a physician executive, she has served as Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer roles committed to creating and improving systems-based delivery of psychiatric and substance abuse care. She is a vocal advocate for stigma reduction, and is passionate about the necessity for whole-person care as individuals and communities seek to recover from and prevent substance use disorders.

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