While it has been lauded as somewhat of a medication wonder for opioid and heroin addiction, Suboxone is also an addictive narcotic and must be taken only under close medical supervision. This reality can raise concerns if you’re about to take an employer or prospective employer’s drug test and are taking Suboxone. You may be worried about the test detecting the presence of Suboxone—or, about failing the test because of the medication. Those facing probation drug tests may have similar questions. The below answers to these concerns should be reassuring….
Brief Intro to Suboxone
Suboxone, a Schedule III narcotic drug only available by prescription, is a maintenance drug that is popularly used in the detoxification of opioid drugs and sometimes as long-term maintenance treatment for opioid and heroin addiction. Suboxone consists of buprenorphine (an opioid) and an opiate-blocker called naloxone. As with other opiates, Suboxone can be addictive, and discontinuing the use of the drug can result in symptoms of withdrawal. Research conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) found that after treatment initiation, the buprenorphine-naloxone combination helps with treatment retention.
Some People Will Live with it Long-Term
Some chronic heroin users and those with long-term opiate addiction require Suboxone maintenance to be able to function without relapsing and reverting to previous drug use. For some individuals who’ve gone through opiate addiction treatment but aren’t able to maintain their sobriety, Suboxone maintenance helps keep them off heroin and staves off painful withdrawal symptoms. For them, long-term Suboxone maintenance is necessary (although “long-term” doesn’t need to mean “forever.”)
Concern About Suboxone Showing Up on Drug Tests
Those on probation and subject to drug testing may also wonder if Suboxone shows up on a probation drug test or will make them fail the test. According to US Drug Test Centers, court-ordered testing for drugs is standard in this country for federal and county probation, and for drug courts. Probation drug testing may be ordered by the parole officer, probation officer, or drug court. The frequency of the required tests depends on the individual’s history, how they’ve complied with any terms or conditions of probation, and whether the probation officer has concerns over the individual’s ability to maintain sobriety and stay off drugs. The short answer to does Suboxone show up on a probation drug test: maybe, although it’s not likely during standard tests.
Why That Would be the Case
The fact that Suboxone won’t show up on routine drug tests should be reassuring for anyone worried about an upcoming drug test. For example, the only time that Suboxone would show up on a probation drug test is if the test specifically tested for buprenorphine (one of the components in Suboxone), buprenorphine metabolites, or naloxone (the other component in Suboxone).
Detecting Suboxone in drug tests requires the use of specific immunoassay designed to check for buprenorphine, its metabolites, or naloxone. Another way to detect the presence of Suboxone during a drug test is to use liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. This method of testing, however, is expensive.
What Common Drug Tests Typically Show
Standard drug tests involve panels, typically identified as to the number of drugs or substances. For example, common drug tests look for five, seven, or 12 substances, and are called 5-panel, 7-panel, or 12-panel drug tests. Drug tests ordered by the courts typically use urine, blood, hair, or breath to screen for possible drug and alcohol use.
In 5-panel urine drug tests, the drugs tested for generally include amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, opiates, and PCP. In most drug tests, the results detect substances used within the last one to four days. However, there are exceptions. Benzodiazepine drugs, long-acting drugs that can be detected up to a month (30 days) after last use, are likely to show up.
Other drugs likely to show up in common drug tests include: marijuana, especially if the individual is a chronic user; PCP, which can be detected up to eight days), and phenobarbital, which can show up three weeks after use.
Among the various types of common drug tests is one known as a 10-panel test. This test is usually administered to individuals in law enforcement, public safety, occupational medicine, and to those on parole, specifically to see whether the parolee’s terms of probation were violated by the use of drugs. The list of drugs a 10-panel test typically checks for includes PCP, opiates, methadone, cocaine, barbiturates, methaqualone, oxycodone and Percocet, MDMA and Ecstasy, THC (marijuana), propoxyphene, benzodiazepines, and amphetamines.
Does Suboxone show up on a 10-panel test? Will Suboxone make you fail a test? Again, the only way Suboxone will show up on the drug test is if extremely high levels of the drug have been taken, or if buprenorphine screening has been added to the panel. This applies to any drug panels, as buprenorphine can be added to any drug test if it’s deemed necessary.
How to Address Suboxone Use
If you’re taking Suboxone as part of a drug treatment program using opiate replacement drugs and face the prospect of a drug test of unknown specificity, you’re rightly curious about what the test will show. Will Suboxone make you fail a test? Most likely it won’t unless the drug panel specifically adds screening for buprenorphine.
Declare It on Any Drug Test Taken
Not knowing what specific drugs or substances may be added to a test makes it a little more difficult to be sure that the test won’t check for the presence of buprenorphine that may show up if you’re taking Suboxone. One option is to be proactive and declare that you’re taking Suboxone as part of a prescribed drug treatment program, including maintenance for opioid addiction.
What If You Don’t Want to Divulge You’re on Suboxone?
While there should not be a stigma associated with being in treatment for opioid addiction involving drug replacement therapy, it’s natural to be wary about disclosing you take Suboxone for opiate addiction. While the situation is delicate and can be worrisome to handle, addressing Suboxone use honestly and directly can be the best approach. After all, overcoming an addiction to opioids often involves a long-term treatment program, one that may require the use of Suboxone in some prescribed manner, far longer than getting past the immediate withdrawal of opioids during detox.
As such, being an active participant in your recovery from drug use is a positive indicator of your commitment to sobriety. You cannot do it alone, and choosing to remain in treatment using Suboxone maintenance, along with continued behavioral counseling and therapy as part of medication-assisted treatment (MAT), is a testament to your willingness to do what it takes to get past opioid addiction.
Consider Life Beyond Suboxone Maintenance
Most people in Suboxone maintenance don’t want to continue taking it indefinitely. Initially, during early recovery, Suboxone often makes a lot of sense, and few would argue with the reduction in withdrawal symptoms that occurs when taking the medication under medically supervised detox. Over the longer term, though, many people decide they’d like to discontinue Suboxone maintenance.
If getting off taking Suboxone is the goal, FHE Health can help. Life beyond Suboxone maintenance is indeed possible and can be accomplished through a medical detox program that involves a gradual tapering of doses and eventually weaning off Suboxone entirely.
Since Suboxone contains buprenorphine and naloxone, it is a medication that has withdrawal symptoms when suddenly discontinued. That’s why discontinuing Suboxone abruptly is unwise and will result in significant withdrawal symptoms.
At FHE Health, the process for weaning off Suboxone requires a careful, medically monitored plan that can be adjusted to account for different dose tapers. It isn’t a one-size-for-all plan that will get you off Suboxone in a matter of a couple of weeks. This is longer-term gradual discontinuation of Suboxone until it’s completely safe to stop all use of the drug. And since one of the greatest risks following opiate addiction treatment is a relapse, continuing counseling and therapy is vital in being able to successfully cope with recurring cravings and urges, finding effective ways to combat triggers, and discovering and implementing healthier behaviors to ensure a stable recovery and continuing sobriety.
There is life after Suboxone. When you contact FHE Health, we’ll help you find it.