The body is an impressive machine, but as amazing as it is, it’s not 100% efficient. Did you know that we sometimes only absorb 10% of the nutrients in the food we eat?  The same can be said for other things we put in our bodies, such as vitamins or medicines–including the common MAT medication, Suboxone. The real question is, “What can be done about it?”

The solution isn’t simply to increase your intake of the substance but to improve your body’s ability to extract and absorb those good things you’re consuming. Fortunately, science has unlocked several ways to aid our body and help it extract as many benefits as possible from the things we consume. Here are 4 ways to increase the effects of suboxone (plus things you should avoid) to get the most significant benefit from your other medications.

How to Increase the Effects of Suboxone

  1. Take suboxone sublingually (under the tongue)

Method of administration, a.k.a. the way you take your medications, can make a big difference in how it works. It can affect how much of it is absorbed by the body and how quickly it takes effect. The most effective form of suboxone is film strips dissolved under the tongue. These enable more buprenorphine/naloxone combinations to get into your system than the oral suboxone pills would.  This is because when swallowed, suboxone (or any other medication for that matter) must go through the digestive system. The stomach is a very hostile place for medications and gastric juices can destroy a drug before it can enter the bloodstream.   

  1. Don’t swallow before it’s fully dissolved.

Suppose you are using the sublingual version of suboxone. In that case, you can ensure that you get as much into your system as possible by allowing it to dissolve completely before swallowing. Remember those unfriendly stomach juices we mentioned earlier? Swallowing your suboxone before it’s adequately absorbed forces the medication to go through the digestive system, thoroughly undoing any benefit of using the oral strips. Pro tip: Lean your head forward while waiting for the film strip to dissolve. That way, you won’t accidentally swallow any suboxone along with your saliva.

  1. Keep your mouth closed while it’s dissolving.

To maximize the effect of suboxone, it’s best to keep your tongue flat against the base of your mouth, which requires keeping your mouth closed the entire time. Chewing or even talking while taking suboxone can dislodge the film strip before it dissolves under the tongue. If this happens, you’ll end up swallowing some (which we previously mentioned as something you want to avoid doing). Fortunately, suboxone strips only take between 5 to 10 minutes to dissolve. 

  1. Don’t smoke, eat, or drink 15 minutes before or after

Known as the ‘Rule of 15’, avoid consuming water or food or smoking at least 15 minutes before and after taking suboxone as it could directly interfere with absorption. Some say to wait as long as 30 minutes to eat or drink after taking it. 

Things to Avoid

Several substances can cause adverse drug interactions with suboxone. Alcohol is obvious due to its depressant effects, making it a dangerous combination that can lead to fatally slowed respiratory function. 

The other things to avoid while taking suboxone aren’t as intuitive. Herbal compounds chamomile, St. John’s Wort, and valerian have health benefits on their own, but when combined with suboxone can increase the likelihood of side effects and reduce its efficacy. 

Another surprising item to avoid? Grapefruit. Both the fruit and the juice are bad news when it comes to suboxone. The resulting drug interaction raises the levels of suboxone in the body, increasing the odds of adverse side effects. 

Reasons to Increase Suboxone Dose

In some cases, it’s not that your body isn’t absorbing enough of the medication but that your dosage might be too low. The most telling signs that this is the case are if you experience any withdrawal-like symptoms, which include: 

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Anxiety
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Severe cravings
  • Tremors

It’s not unusual for the suboxone dosage to be adjusted, especially during the first few months. Having a dose that’s too low is unlikely to offer much of a benefit, and the ultimate goal is to reduce cravings. If your current dosage isn’t fulfilling this, talk with your suboxone doctor or find a suboxone clinic near you to determine whether your current suboxone dosage is correct.