What Is Suboxone? How Does it Work?

Suboxone was developed as an alternative to methadone to ease the severe symptoms of opioid withdrawal and help with ongoing cravings. If an individual has a strong desire to stop taking opioids but has intense cravings, they are likely a candidate for a Suboxone program.

What Is Suboxone?

Suboxone is FDA-approved to treat opioid use disorder. It is a sublingual film that dissolves under the tongue with a combination of two medications – buprenorphine and naloxone. Suboxone diminishes withdrawal symptoms and cravings for opioids.

Suboxone Is A Partial Opioid

Full Opioid in the Receptor vs. Partial Opioid Not Fully Filling the Opioid Receptor

Is Suboxone an Opioid?

Yes, Suboxone is an opioid because it attaches to opioid receptors in the brain, but it does not fully activate them. Suboxone is safer than other opioids like oxycodone or heroin since it is only a partial opioid.

How Does Suboxone Work?

Suboxone works by blocking the receptors in the brain that crave opioids, without activating these receptors to create a “high.” 

Blocking opioid receptors stops the brain from sending signals that cause withdrawal symptoms and cravings for opioids. 

If drugs like heroin or prescription pain pills are used, the opioid receptors are blocked, so these drugs will not give off the “high” either.

Suboxone Ingredients

Suboxone contains 80% buprenorphine and 20% naloxone.

NOTE: If sold illegally (using names like Buse, Sobos, Strips, Oranges, Big Whites, Small Whites, Stops, Sub or Subs), anything could be mixed in or made to look like Suboxone. Always get Suboxone from a medical professional to be sure of the ingredients.

How do I take Suboxone?

Suboxone can’t be taken right after drug use because it can make withdrawal symptoms worse, but can be continued for months or years as needed.

Is Suboxone substituting one drug for another?

No! Suboxone is a medication people need to manage a disease. A person with diabetes requires insulin daily and we don’t say that they’re addicted to insulin.

Research shows Suboxone improves brain function. If you interviewed a group of people, you’d never be able to tell who is taking Suboxone and who isn’t. 

Though not a cure for addiction, medications like Suboxone can be life-changing. Suboxone helps your body feel and function normally. 

1. Suboxone is only meant for opioid addiction.

Suboxone won’t be used for addictions like meth or alcohol.

2. Suboxone only treats the physical issues.

Combing Suboxone with therapy helps you tackle the mental aspects of addiction. Usually, there is more that’s fueling the cycle like self-esteem, depression, anxiety or trauma.

Getting Suboxone at a Suboxne Clinic

A Suboxone clinic isn’t a jail or a hospital. Give yourself the benefit of:

Symetria Recovery Suboxone Clinics

If you don’t live nearby in Texas or Illinois, the Find a Suboxone Doctor article can help you find a Suboxone Clinic near you. You can do this!

Still Have Questions?

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Lolly F
Lolly F

Do people who have changed from heroin use to fentanyl get worse withdrawal symptoms on suboxone than if they stayed on heroin?

Dr. Abid Nazeer MD, FASAM
Dr. Abid Nazeer MD, FASAM
Reply to  Lolly F

Patients should not have severe withdrawal symptoms once stabilized on Suboxone whether previously using heroin or fentanyl. More commonly we see minor withdrawal symptoms that may linger, which is called PAWS (Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome). PAWS is something that resolves over time and you are able to function, but still experiencing symptoms.

It is possible that fentanyl causes a person to experience worse or earlier precipitated withdrawal too if taking Suboxone too soon after use (even if the last use was 24 hours prior). Fentanyl is much stronger and connects to the receptors tighter than heroin. It also has a lot of variabilities depending on what route you take it (e.g., IV versus Lollipop versus transdermal patch), how long you’ve been on it, and how much you take. This all results in Fentanyl being more unpredictable than Heroin when trying to avoid precipitated withdrawals from Suboxone initiation.


I started today on Suboxone and got bad withdrawal. Will it happen again tomorrow?!

Reply to  Robert

No, you’re in precipitated withdrawal b/c you took it too early. Try again tomorrow and it’ll make you feel better. You got this!


Today was my last opiate use. How long should I wait to take this? And how long till it works so I’m not sick?

Reply to  Bill

My suggestion would be to wait at least 48 hours OR until you are in full withdrawals and can no longer wait to feel physical relief. Wait as long as you can before taking Suboxone to avoid putting yourself in worse conditions. Pending you didn’t take Suboxone too early, you should feel relief from it very quickly. I hope that helps and lots of luck on your new journey!

Reply to  Bill

You can start taking it as soon as you start feeling the withdrawal symptoms. You DO NOT need to be in full withdrawal! I actually started taking it before the withdrawal symptoms because anxiety got the best of me. As a result I didn’t feel any withdrawal symptoms whatsoever.

Depending on drug use, you might need more Suboxone than the doctor told you. This lasts 1 to 3 days. Take only what you need to be withdrawal free and keep lowering the dose until you have your life back. Best of luck! You got this!!

Reply to  Bill

Take it saboxin in 48hrs than when u hit 16mgs in 4 days you will be 100 per cent


Is Suboxone effective when used as a pain medicine?



Symetria doctors follow rigorous sourcing guidelines and cite only trustworthy sources of information, including peer-reviewed journals, court records, academic organizations, highly regarded nonprofit organizations, government reports and their own expertise with decades in the field.

Datt, A., & Hirsch, A. R. (2020). 108 Warning: Generic Suboxone Not Equal to Name Brand. CNS Spectrums , 25(2), 270. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/340889434_108_Warning_Generic_Suboxone_Not_Equal_to_Name_Brand

Helm, S., Trescot, A. M., Colson, J., Sehgal, N., & Silverman, S. (2008). Opioid antagonists, partial agonists, and agonists/antagonists: the role of office-based detoxification. Pain physician, 11(2), 225–235.

Ling W. (2012). Buprenorphine implant for opioid addiction. Pain management, 2(4), 345–350. https://doi.org/10.2217/pmt.12.26

Quattlebaum, T., Kiyokawa, M., & Murata, K. A. (2021). A case of buprenorphine-precipitated withdrawal managed with high-dose buprenorphine. Family practice, cmab073. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1093/fampra/cmab073

(2020, September 15). Buprenorphine. SAMHSA; U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/medications-counseling-related-conditions/naltrexone

(2021, May 14). Buprenorphine. SAMHSA; U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/medications-counseling-related-conditions/buprenorphine

All content is for informational purposes only. No material on this site, whether from our doctors or the community, is a substitute for seeking personalized professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never disregard advice from a qualified healthcare professional or delay seeking advice because of something you read on this website.

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