Drug tests and Suboxone (buprenorphine)

Even some treatment professionals and medical professionals have mistaken ideas about drug testing for buprenorphine.

Because it’s a man-made opioid, buprenorphine won’t show as an opiate on a drug screen. It won’t cross-react with tests for oxycodone or hydrocodone. A specific test for buprenorphine must be done in order to detect its presence. In the past, this test was expensive, but now can be added to a drug test fairly cheaply.

I test for buprenorphine because I need to make sure my patients are taking their medication, and haven’t given it or sold it to someone else. Fortunately, I’ve never had a patient to whom I’m prescribing Suboxone have a urine drug screen that didn’t show the medication.  

My patients ask me if the Suboxone I prescribe for them will show up on employment testing, and I answer no, it’s unlikely. Most employers don’t check for methadone, and are even less likely to check for buprenorphine. Employers won’t know unless you tell them you’re on Suboxone. (Methadone, like Suboxone, has to be tested for on a separate test, and won’t show as an opiate.)

Should you tell them? That’s a question you’ll need to answer for yourself. Ordinarily I’m an advocate of honesty, but because Suboxone is usually prescribed to treat opioid addiction, disclosing this information more or less informs them you’ve had a problem with addiction. Is that your employers business? No, I think not, unless it’s a “safety sensitive” job, and even then it’s often not appropriate to tell your employer.

51 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by db89g23 on June 23, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    Definitely good advice about keeping quiet about Suboxone in the workplace. Unlike other prescription drugs (ironically even pain killers), the mere mention of it will cause those around you to forever see you as an addict. While that may be the truth, nobody needs this sort of judgement on them.


  2. Posted by richard sergi on July 2, 2011 at 4:24 am

    how long does it for suboxone to get out your body


  3. Posted by Greg on August 21, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    Do I have a potential lawsuit?
    Here is my story……..

    I was hired a year ago….I work as a maintenance manager in what is called a safety sensitive position. I am on a medication called suboxone, that is a type of narcotic, but also prevents the effects of norcitics…I got hooked on pain killers after a surgery and been on it for a few years. When I was hired I went for a company physical, I told the doctor that I was taking this medication (suboxone) and he said it was ok, he listed it on the report and why I was taking it, all is good….. I got a medical card for my CDL and I was hired and life goes on… …

    A year later, I needed another physical, to renew my medical card for my CDL license, I went to the company doctor again, and told him I was still taking this medication (suboxone) he passed me and renewed my medical card and listed it on the report. A few days later, my boss told me that the company didn’t allow me to be on this medication,

    They will most likely fire me, or something…I have been cleared by two doctors and two company physicals and gotten my medical card renewed by DOT standards and been cleared to be on this medication, but they still say it’s a non listed SSL medication, what ever that means ?? So I am not allowed to take it. I have done everything that is required of me; I never hide the medication… I can not just stop taking this medication; with out getting horribly sick…if I stop, I will be in no condition to work or function…

    My questions are, can they terminate me? What are my rights? I can not afford to be off of work with no income, I am not an addict, and it’s none of their business how I came to be on it…It wouldn’t make any difference, but I will tell you any ways. I donated my kidney to my nephew, after the surgery I got physically dependent on pain killers, as part of my rehab, I been put on suboxone.


    • Hello and thanks for writing. Your question is a good one!
      Jobs requiring a cdl, or commercial driver’s license, are regarded as safety sensitive positions. This means there are restrictions for these jobs that you don’t have for jobs that don’t somehow endanger the public. The DOT regulations prohibit “narcotic, or other habit forming drugs.” What does that mean? In my opinion it’s poorly worded and too vague. First of all, what is a narcotic? The legel definition is different from what most doctors regard as a narcotic. And what is meant by habit forming? Physical dependence? Psychological dependence?

      It would be far better if the DOT prohibited drugs and medications that impair driving. For example, benzodiazepines like alprazolam (Xanax) can affect reaction time. But numerous studies of patients on maintenance doses of methadone and buprenorphine (Suboxone) show these patients aren’t impaired.

      You should probably consult a lawyer about your rights. Should it make a difference that you disclosed Suboxone from the start? I don’t know the legal answers, only the science, and sadly they often don’t have any correlation.


  4. Posted by Lynn on September 8, 2011 at 5:47 am

    I am on Suboxone and have been clean from all drugs and alcohol since I have been on it (almost 2 & 1/2 years). I feel like I am finally a normal person and getting back on track in every aspect of my life. But today my disease came back to haunt me…

    I just got a job offer at a veterinary clinic (I am in school to become a vet-tech), and I went to give a drug screen tonight. I am terrified they are going to test for suboxone because of the pharmacy in the clinic. I caught a quick glimpse of the collectors computer screen and I saw that the company had added Tramadol and Benzos to the screen, but I couldn’t see past that.

    I am not sure what to do because I am supposed to put in my two week notice at my other job tomorrow, and I don’t want to lose that job if the vet doesn’t hire me because of the Suboxone.

    Do you have any advice or insight?

    Thank you!


    • It’s rare that companies screen for buprenorphine (Suboxone). But it really doesn’t matter, because (hopefully) you are getting it by prescription from a doctor. That means that unless you are in a safety-sensitive position, like airline pilot, doctor, nurse, it shouldn’t be an issue. I’m not sure about vet offices, but if they are worried you’ll take medication, you’re less likely to be tempted since you are in treatment. It’s the people using drugs and not getting help that they hopefully are screening for.

      Please write back and let us know what happens. I believe you should be fine, but then I’m not a lawyer.


    • Posted by Hunting vol on July 19, 2016 at 5:34 am

      I’ve been taking subutex legally prescribed for almost 3 years this week I have a pre employment drug screen at Eastman Chemical company’s construction vendor. I have heard that the company does not test for subutex during the pre employment screening or the random drug screens but do test for it if they give you a reasonable cause test or are in an accident. Why would a company not test for it for all drug screens? I just can’t imagine a company buying two different types of tests for different scenarios. Wouldn’t it make sense to have the same test no matter what? Any info would help thanks


      • I don’t know. That doesn’t sound logical to me either.
        It shouldn’t make a difference – you are being prescribed buprenorphine, so if you test positive, your doctor can attest to the fact she’s prescribing it.

      • Posted by Hunting Vol on July 22, 2016 at 6:08 am

        That’s what I thought too. My brother who works there is the one who told me about the 2 different types of tests and told me if he were me not to worry. I also talked to my doctor and he told me I wouldn’t say anything unless for some reason they did end up testing you for it, my brother who works there takes Xanax and hydrocodon legally so I wouldn’t see why it would matter since I take it legally. I’ve took many drug screens for different jobs and it’s never been tested for and that’s what I plan on telling them if for some reason it is tested for. If anyone has any other info please help. It’s just construction but I have 2 kids and really just want to give them the best life I can

  5. Posted by Lynn on September 12, 2011 at 1:07 am

    Thank you for your response. Everything turned out fine and I start next week. Thanks!


  6. Posted by mark on April 22, 2012 at 5:48 am

    My work just tested me and found saboxone but i dont have ascipt but i do have a scipt for hydrocodone


  7. I went to a coal mines today and went to a job interview and everything was doing fine. thay where going to hire me .and then thay talked aboult a drug free work invierment and them thay asked me if i was on any meds and i told them i am on soboxone and its perscribed by a doctor and that acked like i im a drugy and sead that it is the same thing as doing drugs that pepole use it as a cruch and now thay ack like thay r not going to give me a job do i have a law suit


    • Yes, I’d talk to a lawyer. I don’t know how strong your case is, but since addiction is a protected illness under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and since Suboxone is an approved medication to treat this disorder, I suspect you have a case. Not being a lawyer, I can’t say for sure.
      Even if the job you applied for involves running heavy machinery, there’s no evidence you would be unable to do that job. Most studies show reaction times of patients on stable doses of suboxone are the same as non-medicated people.
      If there’s a way you can prove they denied you employment because you have the disease of addiction, and/or are prescribed suboxone, do so. I’d try to get something to that effect in writing. Many times after employers say something stupid like what you describe, later they change their story, and lie. They blame not hiring you on something else.
      The same is not true of other drugs, like benzodiazepines. Even with a prescription, this class of drugs can impair your abilities, meaning there is a safety issue, and a legitimate reason not to hire a person operating heavy machinery.


      • Posted by Hope on January 9, 2016 at 12:08 am

        My husband also worked in the mining industry. He took suboxone due to an opioid dependence and was fine after beginning treatment. Back to his normal self!! Everything was fine. Most, but not all mining operations do not test for suboxone but for some reason his work began to test for it, of course he did not tell them when he began treatment because he felt that it was a private matter. After testing positive for suboxone the VP called him into the office and told him that any time he got a prescription that he was supposed to inform them (even if it was for an antibiotic or ibuprofen?!) and that he had six months to quit the medication or he would be fired with no hesitation. He was also told that he was using the treatment for a crutch and that he could take all the opioids (Lortab) he wanted to but absolutely no suboxone??!! His physician told him that they could NOT fire him for seeking help but he was afraid that they would anyway. After six months he quit due to fear of dismissal. I told him not to, but he was too afraid not to. They tested him 11 days after the 6 month period was up to the day. Fortunately at that time he was clean but I knew that suboxone was not a 6 month program and I had kept around 60 of his strips back from his prescriptions to help when he needed them badly. 2 weeks before Christmas (this yr) his work drug tested and his test came back as diluted?! He had not taken anything for around 12 days or close to that.We both knew that his test was not diluted with anything other than water or maybe energy drinks?!! That is all he drinks. He was worried that their was going to be layoffs as was everyone else at the time so two days after the original test he took a half of one of his suboxone that was prescribed that I had put back for months. That day he went in and they told him that he would have to retest!!! He knew they would fire him. He had no choice but to leave a job he loved and had for 6 years that he was very good at. Exceptionally good at. It seems so wrong to be that afraid and so easy for them to take everything from you. His doctor insisted that this was wrong but he knew that they would fire him and they would have. I know that the Americans with Disabilities Act is supposed to protect people but does it really? This employer had absolutely no fear of the Act stopping him from doing this. Not that we said anything to him about the Act but you know they have to know about it?!! Do these employers know something that we do not? They sure seem to. They seem to be more against a person seeking help than they are against taking these highly addictive medications?! Our lives are devastated. Now they are going to deny him his unemployment. As a doctor do you think this is okay to do to people?

      • I’m with you…if it isn’t illegal it should be.
        The problem is that many times the employer fires the person for being an addict in recovery, and won’t admit it – they blame it on something else.
        Have you and your husband considered talking to a lawyer? Perhaps you could sue the company for something like wrongful termination, based on violating the ADA.
        I don’t know if you have a case or not, but it seems wrong to me too.

  8. Posted by Jeff b on January 27, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    Im a recovering addict and have got my life all straitened out with the help of counceling and sub films. This is a miricale drug and im proud to say im in the midst of tapering down to 3mg every am. Ive worked for a company for 7 years doing route sales on a strait commision pay scale. Do to the large growth I now drive a dual axle truck where a medical dot card is required.(massachusettes) long story short they disqualified me . My doc that perscribes me says sub is safe enough for a pregnant woman and that the dot examaner is incorrect. Thats all well and good but how do I retake the test with that on my file? The examiner says ill be able to get my card when I have written document stating ive completed the program. What do I do? Is the examiner wrong or is my sub dr wrong? Is this a state dot law or is this dot a fedral organization? Please if anyone has an answer please help! Thank you!


    • I don’t know. You may want to consult a lawyer. I do know patients on methadone can’t get a DOT card, not because it impairs them, but because theoretically they could relapse back to illicit opioids. I imagine the DOT’s reasoning is the same for buprenorphine The sad thing is that if you hadn’t told them, they wouldn’t know, because the DOT doesn’t test for buprenorphine (Suboxone) or methadone.


  9. Posted by drawfire2 on March 21, 2013 at 9:10 pm

    I guess the DOT does not require a check for buprenorphine but does any1 know if the bigger companys do?


  10. Posted by drawfire2 on March 21, 2013 at 9:11 pm

    as in bigger trucking, sorry


    • I don’t know. Guess you’d have to ask them. But I haven’t yet heard of any company doing screening for buprenorphine.


      • Posted by John K on April 28, 2013 at 1:41 pm

        Many companies do in fact test for buprenorphine now. Most probably do not, but its becoming more and more common. My GF just went to take a pre-employment drug screen this morning and buprenorphine showed up on the instant test she was given. They are now having her go to a laboratory for a test tomorrow morning.

  11. Posted by Kendall on June 13, 2013 at 12:54 am

    Does dot test for AutoZone when you have pre-employment screen from motor carrier solutions…?


  12. Posted by Kendall on June 13, 2013 at 12:54 am



  13. Posted by kim on November 29, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    does any one know if the union ibew test for suboxone.


  14. Posted by George on August 20, 2014 at 7:01 pm

    Do School Systems generally test for Suboxone?


  15. Posted by Chris R on August 23, 2014 at 2:28 am

    I have been prescribed ritalin as an adult and there is a required urine test at my Heath clinc to make sure I’m taking the meds properly not over taking or selling. I guess it has became a big issue these days I use to take it all threw school. My question is do u think a health clinics drug screen would check for suboxone?


  16. Posted by Micheal on September 26, 2014 at 2:06 am

    So I have been prescribed subuxone for about a year now and it’s time for a urine test to determine the levels of buprenophone in my system. I’m worried because for the past month I have been trying to cut down the amount I have been taking I’m prescribes 3 strips per day and every other day Or so I have been taking 2-2 1/2, will they be able to see this in my test? Or are the test more black and white like its in your system or it’s not? I’m worried because I don’t want to be in trouble and I’m not ready for the doctor to cut me down yet


  17. Posted by Success is my Dream on November 6, 2014 at 1:45 am

    I was just offered a position through a hospital. I am going to have to take a drug screening for this position. I have been taking 8-12mg of suboxone per day for a few months. I do not have a prescription for it. Will the suboxone show up on the drug test? Also, how long will it take for the suboxone to leave my system? I would appreciate a knowledgable, non-biased answer. This is my dream job and I’ve worked so hard and completed college to get to this point in life. Thanks all!


    • More facilities are testing for buprenorphine, so if they test for it, it will be positive. And I’ve seen it remain positive for several weeks, maybe longer. Perhaps you should look into seeing a doctor to get the Suboxone legitamately.


  18. Posted by Jason clemons on February 3, 2015 at 6:23 am

    Dear Janaburson,

    Thank you for such a helpful blog. I just completed my Masters Degree and seeking employment in the pharmaceutical sales or medical equipment sales industry. I am currently under a doctors care for opiate addiction stemming from a previous valid prescription of hydrocodone from an injury. I am prescribed 3/4 strip of 8-2 per day. I have 3 interviews from 3 different companies scheduled next week. They all require a pre employment drug screening. Do u advise to disclose my usage to the drug screening company? If I disclose, provide a legal prescription, and then test positive does my potential employer have a right to know that I am prescribed this medication. Or would the drug lab simply report a negative test to the employer. All these companies provide company cars. Is that a liability that they need to know. Am I covered under the Americans with disabilities act in these scenarios? The jobs may include providing drug samples “non narcotic of course” and being in an operating room providing direction on application of hernia mesh products. I have been with my current employer for 10 years and have never been affected negatively performance wise by the drug. These opportunities are a once in a lifetime and I have been waiting my whole life to break into this type of career. I am currently 33 and need this career change now. I am very nervous about this and not sure what to do. If I quit cold turkey of 3/4 8-2 daily use how long to be out of my system after app. 8 months in program. That is not my desired direction because withdrawals may impede my interviewing abilities which is very good. I would greatly appreciate some advice and direction to all my above questions, mainly if the employer needs to know my medical condition business. Sorry for the long winded questions and explanations.


    • Most of your questions are legal in nature, so of course you may wish to consult a lawyer. But I would be surprised if your employer checked for buprenorphine, since it requires a specific test. If this is a safety sensitive job, they may test for bupe. If they do, and you have a prescription, it shouldn’t count against you. I believe you should be protected by the ADA. But does discrimination ever happen? I fear it does.


      • Posted by Jason Clemons on February 5, 2015 at 3:40 pm

        Thank your for your quick response. If you were in my position would ask the company administering the drug test if my particular test is checking for bupe? If so, should I then provide a legal script. Or would you say nothing and if indeed they are checking for bupe, provide the documentation after the fact. My instincts tell me to say nothing at all and hope they are not testing for it. I just worry the implications of not disclosing.

      • I think asking about a specific test would be a big red flag that you may be taking it.

  19. Posted by Redbeard2467 on May 8, 2015 at 10:04 pm


    Thanks for this article, it was great!

    I just had a quick question. I’m about to be drug tested for a new job as an installer for comcast through as contacting company. The contractors are a fairly small company, and through a current employee, i know they’re very lax once you pass the initial drug test. They actually smoke pot daily lol.

    The only other time they test is in case of an accident.

    My question is, do you think the prescreening will include buprenorphine? It’s not a safety conscious type job.


    • I rather doubt it, but who knows? If you are getting it by prescription, no problem – if you aren’t getting it by prescription, you may have a bigger issue to address than a positive drug screen.


  20. Posted by Bella on September 15, 2015 at 1:33 am

    My husband had an opiate addiction but has been clean for over 2 years in a suboxone pregram. Prior to his current doctor, he briefly saw another addiction specialist who was very accusatory and rude to him and he fed up leaving her program. He was offered a position and was scheduled for pre-employment screening with the same doctor that he left 3 years ago. From the get go she was prejudice against him and accused him of not being clean


  21. Posted by Cob on March 14, 2016 at 2:42 am

    Hello ! I have an immediate problem and of course very little people to talk to about it.I’ll try to keep it as short as possible.
    I’ve been in successful Sub therapy for 3 years now. My dosage is down to 1/2 of 1 strip per day. I’ve been trying to keep my life together and have been recently having trouble getting a decent job. I’m in a very depressed area, and it doesnt help that I am over 50 so most won’t even give me a chance.
    Anyway, I finally land something decent at a senior citizen facility that pays pretty well and the hours are great. I did great with the interview and they pushed me right through the process. (Backround checks, TB tests, Physical Therapy etc.
    There was the drug test by urine speciman that they test right on the grounds there in their lab.
    I nearly fell over when the girl came back in like 5 minutes after I peed in the cup and said, ” I’m sorry to tell you your test is Positive” She asked about my meds and I listed them but I didnt think or never dreamed they would test for Sub especially in an instant test like this but she finally said ” Your positive for something someone of Suboxene would have ” Well, I could just cry and I’m a grown man but its been so hard to get something and now this.They havent told me no yet but suddenly ( and everybody in the place seemed to know about it) the mood toward me started to change as if I was a junkie trying to sneak past them
    Anyway, to keep this as short as possible, I’m just devastated.
    If they choose not to hire me do I have any legal recourse ? I mean I have all the “Welcome Abord” manuals and everything else they give new employees and I did all the paperwork for taxes and such and direct deposit and stuff, I WAS IN is what I’m trying to say and now…. They said they’ll have to call me. 😦
    Meanwhile HIPPA violations happened all over the place. I ran to my Dr and got a nice letter explaining that I have been successfully treated for 3 years and would have no ill effects from driving so it shouldnt be a concern. I took the letter down to give to the transportation manager and he was out so I said to the secretary that I needed him to see this letter and what did she do? She took it out and read it !! SO of course now its all around and I am a very private person.
    At my Dr office where I’ve been treated, they are just flabbergasted that this place even tests for Suboxene and especially to get an immediate positive result. They can’t believe it, they are an addiction clinic and they have to wait extra days for the Sub part of the drug tests to come back because it isnt part of the rest of the screening and this place determines all this in 5 minutes on the spot?
    Any ideas at this point PLEASE ?


  22. Posted by Louis on March 4, 2017 at 10:42 pm

    I was just drug tested for a union job in Connecticut. I’m a laborer and they did a swab test. It came back positive for buprenorphine.Didn’t no they where testing for it. I have been drug testing for the last 10 years and never had this happen!!!, I feel like a scum bag I now feel like I have to worry about another company finding out.


  23. Posted by Melony on March 15, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    Hello I am very concerned. I came across this blog as I am frantically trying to find answers as to testing positive for suboxone on a random drug test. When I was hired I was not on suboxone. I have a prescription and see my doctor every month. I do everything by the book, however I am also prescribed valium. I have never been selected for a random drug test in 8 years at the casino I work at. However now, (because Tribal laws can be a little bit of a grey area) I am very concerned. I am not even sure if the Bupe will show up on the drug screen, but want to be honest just in case, and provide them with the information right away. Can I be fired for “being on a maintenance medication” which therefore means I was an addict at some point in time. I don’t know what my rights are here, and in case I do lose my job of 8 years I wish I was more educated on the subject. I am seeing so many different stories online and wish I knew the answer so my stomach could stop turning. It’s mind boggling that any script gets approved as long as you have the paperwork, but something like this (a maintenance drug) is when it gets questionable.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: