If you hate the taste of Suboxone, it can make staying on track with your meds more challenging. But there are ways to deal with the flavor.
When you think of all of the struggles and pain that substance use disorder can bring us, the taste of our meds seems like a minor hiccup. But when we’re dealing with the ups and downs of addiction recovery, every obstacle in our paths matters. So let’s talk about the taste of Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone) and how to deal with it.
Why does it taste so bad?
The fact is that most medicine tastes bad. The active ingredients (the ingredients that make meds work) often have a metallic, salty, or bitter flavor. But with medications that come in pill form, we swallow them fast and wash them down with water, so our tongues don’t really have a chance to taste them. Suboxone is a sublingual film, which means you put it under your tongue and let it dissolve (or some people let it dissolve pressed against the inside of their cheek). This means the medicine is in your mouth the whole time, so you can’t avoid tasting it. It’s not that Suboxone tastes significantly worse than other medicine—it’s that you’re spending more time tasting it than you do other medicines.
How people overcome the taste
People in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) have come up with so many ways to cope with the flavor of Suboxone! Here are a few of the suggestions that have worked for others. Don’t try any of these while the medication is still in your mouth! Wait until the strip has fully dissolved (ideally at least 15 minutes)!
- Candies. Candies are very flavorful, often inexpensive, enjoyable, and readily available. This makes them a popular way to chase away the taste of Suboxone.
- Sour candies like Warheads, lemon drops, Sour Patch Kids, and tamarind candies both have a strong flavor to combat the medication taste, and also make the mouth water a lot, washing away lingering flavors well.
- Hot candies like Red Hots and other cinnamon candies create a hot sensation that can distract the brain from any lingering Suboxone taste.
- Strong mints, like Icebreakers or Altoids, have a very intense flavor as well as a cooling menthol sensation to distract from the medicine taste. As a bonus, many strong mints are sugar-free or low in sugar.
- Chocolates can be effective, especially dark chocolates, as the bitterness of chocolate can mask the residual bitterness from the medication. Even a small piece of chocolate works well if you let it dissolve in your mouth instead of quickly chewing and swallowing it.
- Beverages. A drink can be an easy way to wash away an unpleasant flavor.
- Coffee has a bitter taste that works like dark chocolate to mask residual bitterness.
- Fruit juice combines tartness and sweetness and can be great for ridding your mouth of the Suboxone flavor. Citrus juices can be especially effective.
- Other drinks that we’ve seen recommended are milk, Mountain Dew, and sports drinks.
Obviously, we’re not recommending that anyone start eating tons of candy and drinking buckets of coffee! A nourishing diet is important for all of us, but especially in recovery. But if a bit of candy or beverages can help you take your meds as directed, it only makes sense to give that a try!
What NOT to do
There are conflicting reports about brushing your teeth or using mouthwash. Some people find it effective, while for others it creates a terrible orange juice-and-toothpaste combination. So try toothpaste or mouthwash cautiously until you know which camp you fall into!
One hard and fast rule is not to use alcohol to wash away the taste. The medication guide for Suboxone warns against mixing alcohol with Suboxone. The reason for this is that alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, and combining it with any opioid (which buprenorphine is categorized as) can be dangerous.
Another big no-no is swallowing the strip instead of letting it dissolve under your tongue. Buprenorphine isn’t absorbed well by the lining of our digestive system, so if you swallow it, you won’t get the full benefit of the dose. It is absorbed well when dissolved under the tongue or on the cheek, which allows the full dose to work.
Finally, don’t try to use anything—whether on this list or not—until after the film has completely dissolved. Try to wait at least 15 minutes after you put the dose under your tongue. If you eat, drink, spit, or smoke before the Suboxone has dissolved, you will interfere with how well it is absorbed, and therefore how well it works.
Opioid use disorder can be a matter of life and death. If you really cannot handle the taste of Suboxone even after trying the things suggested above, talk to your doctor.