Can We Take Suboxone For Pain?

suboxone for pain

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 Suboxone can be used to treat opioid disorders. Buprenorphine, a component of Suboxone, helps to relieve the pain. 

Suboxone is a drug used to treat opioid misuse. But in some cases, doctors use its component (Buprenorphine) is a pain-relieving drug. It is a partial opioid agonist, which doctors have been using for over 25 years. In clinical practice, Buprenorphine has its use in treating acute and chronic pain and sometimes in anesthesia for patients during surgery.

Suboxone has two components (Buprenorphine and Naloxone). Doctors recommend Suboxone only to treat opioid addiction, not pain. In this article, let’s discuss whether we can take Suboxone for pain?

Can we take Suboxone for pain?

Before going into the details of whether one can use Suboxone for pain, let’s discuss whether it’s an FDA-approved drug or not. Suboxone is an “off Label” drug used by doctors to relieve acute and chronic pain in some patients. An off-label drug is an unapproved use of a medically approved drug. This drug treats a medical condition that the FDA does not authorize to treat.

But Buprenorphine (a pain-relieving component in Suboxone) is in clinical practice for relieving pain. The use of Buprenorphine is FDA approved to treat acute and chronic pain. There are various forms of Suboxone in the market. It would help if you took these according to your doctor’s advice. Let’s go through them individually:

How does Suboxone Prescribed?

Suboxone, for pain management, is available in the following forms:

  • When administered under the tongue, tablets dissolve in the mouth (Sublingual Films).
  • Patches to apply over the skin.
  • Injections (available only in the hospitals).

Methods of Administration:

Suboxone sublingual film is taken under the tongue until it dissolves completely. Suboxone helps with pain when taken as a whole. Don’t break, chew or swallow the film. Neither eat nor drink anything until the film completely dissolves.

Sublingual Administration:

Place the suboxone film under the left/right side of the base of the tongue. Place another film sublingually on the opposite side from the first film. The film should remain under the tongue until it dissolves completely.

Buccal Administration:

Doctors who prescribe Suboxone for pain advise placing one film inside the right or left cheek. The method of buccal administration is the same as for sublingual films. If you have to put extra films inside the cheeks, use the opposite cheek respectively and wait for the tablet until it dissolves.

Administration of Patches:

Is Suboxone used to treat pain by applying patches? It depends on the severity of pain and the drug’s strength that your doctor prescribes. Patients apply the buprenorphine patches every 3 to 5 days in most cases.

How to apply Buprenorphine patch?

  1. Read the instructions on the patch carefully.
  2. Open the patch from the packaging. Don’t use scissors, as you might cut off the patch.
  3. Keep the empty patch as you have to return it to the pharmacist and the used patch so that they can dispose of it safely.
  4. Peel off the plastic from the patch without getting in touch with the sticky side.
  5. Try to apply the patch on non-hairy skin. Make sure you use the patch on clean, undamaged, and dry skin.
  6. If your doctor prescribes more than one patch, try not to apply by overlapping them.
  7. Wash your hands after you have applied the patch in the right place.

Don’t get exposed to extreme heat like hot showers, sun, saunas, and sunbaths. The Buprenorphine might dissolve in your skin and increase the chances of side effects or over dosage. In this way, Suboxone for pain is available in patches.

What Can Suboxone Do to Relieve Pain?

Opioid receptors manage your pain sensations but activating them with Suboxone can reduce pain in many patients. Scientists’ research on Suboxone painkilling effects shows promise. In comparison with other opioid painkillers, the use of Suboxone for pain involves:

  • Decreased suppression of the immune system.
  • Easy to administer among old age and patients with renal issues.
  • Lesser development of tolerance.
  • Effective in neuropathic pain(nerve pain).
  • A lower chance of respiratory depression.

 The naloxone in the drug causes unpleasant withdrawal effects and blocks the other opioids. As a result, Suboxone for pain management reduces the patients’ risk of misusing their medication. 

How does Suboxone help in treating Acute Pain?

The dose of Suboxone in patients with opioid use disorder is only once a day, but the pain-relieving effect of Buprenorphine lasts 6 to 8 hours.

For relieving acute pain, your doctor prescribes Suboxone for pain relief. You can also adapt non-drug therapies like heat, cold, physical, or behavioral therapy to minimize the pain. Your doctor can also prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), topical treatments, and corticosteroids as non-opioid medical treatments. NSAIDs like ibuprofen naproxen are used. Regional (numbing) anesthesia is also an option.

The daily dose of Suboxone in 3 or 4 divided doses per day (every 6 to 8 hours) helps control mild-to-moderate pain in some patients. These doses are adjustable according to the severity of the pain.

 Your doctor can add other opioid treatments temporarily to manage your pain and treat the withdrawal symptoms if needed. A pain consulting service from the hospital may also be available for the patient.

How Suboxone helps in treating Chronic Pain:

It is difficult to lead an everyday life when suffering from chronic pain. Chronic pain is physically debilitating and becomes psychologically and emotionally traumatizing as well. It becomes challenging to perform your daily tasks, and your relationships may often suffer.

One of the most widely used chronic pain management methods is opioid medications. Opioids such as morphine and codeine, and other painkillers are very effective in eliminating pain and are safe. However, there are risks to using opioid analgesics for long-term pain management. It leads to dependency and addiction. Chances are even more significant for patients with a history of addiction.

Suboxone allows patients to recover from opiate addiction without becoming ill and developing withdrawal symptoms. Suboxone is less addictive than other opioids like morphine and codeine. Suboxone is a partial opiate agonist and can be an attractive option for long-term chronic pain management. You should only use Suboxone for pain under the supervision of a medical professional.

Side Effects of Suboxone:

Like every other medicine, Buprenorphine has side effects but only in a few individuals. Most people don’t have serious side effects. Most of them appear after taking higher doses. As long as you take prescribed doses, you are good to go.

  • Respiratory difficulty: You are at high risk of developing complications if you already have asthma or breathing difficulties and take Suboxone for pain.
  • Allergic reactions: you may develop hives, rashes on the skin, or low blood pressure while using Suboxone to help with the pain.
  • Opioid misuse: symptoms of opioid withdrawal may include trembling, excessive sweating, high temperature, watery eyes, nausea, diarrhea, and muscle pain. Rush to your doctor if you develop any of these symptoms.        
  • Common Side Effects:
  • Headache, Dizziness.
  • Constipation.
  • Confusion. 
  • Stomach pains.
  • Low energy and feeling tired.
  • Disturbed sleep patterns.

The Bottom Line:

Suboxone can be used for the treatment of both acute and chronic pains. Treating patients with pain and addiction are common problems, and these patients appear to be the most challenging patients seen in any clinical setup. It is important to remember that addiction treatment for any drug is the same as getting treatments for other chronic illnesses. 

If you’re a substance abuser suffering from chronic pain, seek an addiction treatment setup that offers chronic pain management. These programs provide you with various ways to manage chronic pain and overcome your addiction.

Don’t let any pain come in the path of spending a healthy life. Get immediate help through a pain management program specializing in patients with substance abuse problems. Have a productive and healthy life ahead!


1- Can Suboxone use as a painkiller?

FDA disapproves Suboxone (Buprenorphine and naloxone) sublingual film as a pain relief medicine. Suboxone is only approved to treat opiate addiction (opioid use disorder). Only a single component, Buprenorphine (without naloxone), is approved to treat pain.

2- Is Buprenorphine a good painkiller?

Buprenorphine is a strong opioid painkiller. It’s used to treat severe pain during or after surgery, a severe injury, or cancer pain. It’s also used to treat long-term illnesses when weaker painkillers have stopped working.

3- Does Suboxone work for chronic pain?

It is essential to understand that FDA approves Suboxone to treat opioid addiction and not for chronic pain. A lower-dose transdermal formulation of Buprenorphine (Butrans) is available to manage moderate to severe forms of chronic pain.

4- How do you maximize Suboxone absorption?

To help increase Buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) absorption, while placing film or tablet under your tongue, make sure you keep it in place until it fully dissolves – this may take several minutes. Try not to move it around in your mouth before it dissolves completely. Don’t attempt to chew or swallow it.

 5- Why does Suboxone only dissolve under your tongue?

 This method allows Buprenorphine to absorb quickly and safely. Chewing or swallowing the drug will hinder the absorbance of medication. To achieve its full effect, you must dissolve it entirely in your mouth under the tongue or inside the buccal cavity.




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Medically reviewed by DR.Reckitt.

Claire Wilcox, MD, is a general and addiction psychiatrist in private practice and an associate professor of translational neuroscience at the Mind Research Network in New Mexico; and has completed an addictions fellowship, psychiatry residency, and internal medicine residency. Having done extensive research in the area, she is an expert in the neuroscience of substance use disorders. Although she is interested in several topics in medicine and psychiatry, with a particular focus on substance use disorders, obesity, eating disorders, and chronic pain, her primary career goal is to help promote recovery and wellbeing for people with a range of mental health challenges.

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AddictedRecovery aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use disorder and mental health issues. Our team of licensed medical professionals research, edit and review the content before publishing. However, this information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. For medical advice please consult your physicians or ChoicePoint’s qualified staff.

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