Understanding your pain management options while taking Suboxone®

Understand what pain management options are available while taking Suboxone and find out which OTC pain relievers are safe to use.

Ophelia team
Pain management and Suboxone
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Fact checked by
Arthur Robin Williams, MD

If you take multiple prescriptions, your doctor and pharmacist will check for potential interactions, and Suboxone® is no exception to this process (important safety information). But what happens if you need to take an over-the-counter (OTC) medication on Suboxone? For many people, taking pain relievers is a quick and easy way to resolve headaches and minor injuries, but it’s important to proceed with caution if you’re also undergoing MAT.

What pain meds can you take with Suboxone?

Now that you’ve started your MAT program, you might wonder whether you’ll have to cut out any other medications. This might not always be necessary, and getting a professional medical opinion before starting or stopping any medication you take regularly is essential. Plus, there’s no reason for you to suffer through pain, be it acute or chronic.

There is likely an appropriate solution for you that accounts for both your Suboxone use and pain relief needs. Today, you can find various safe and effective OTC painkillers. Each offers a different formulation, application method, and side effects, so their interactions with Suboxone can vary. 

Oral Analgesics

Oral analgesics, like NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and acetaminophen, are popular OTC pain relievers. Here’s how each can interact with Suboxone:

  • NSAIDs: NSAIDs are used to reduce pain, fever, and inflammation. This category includes ibuprofen (i.e., Advil®), naproxen (i.e., Aleve®), and aspirin (i.e., Bayer®). There are currently no known interactions between these types of medications and Suboxone.
  • Acetaminophen: Commonly used to treat minor aches, pains, and fever, Tylenol® and other acetaminophen products are not known to react poorly with Suboxone.

Topical Analgesics

Topical analgesics are applied directly to the skin rather than being swallowed. They mostly come as a gel, patch, or ointment. This type of medication makes it easy to concentrate the pain relief in specific areas, like minor injuries, stiff joints, or muscle aches. 

Lidocaine is one of the most common active ingredients in topical pain relievers. Lidocaine is an anesthetic jelly, cream, or patch used to treat localized nerve pain and skin conditions. Interactions with Suboxone may be minor and are generally unlikely. But there have been some reported interactions among people who take both, including cellulitis and anemia.

What’s safe to use when taking Suboxone for MAT?

In general, NSAIDs and acetaminophen are safe and effective options with Suboxone. Doctors often recommend these OTC medications for patients with OUD (opioid use disorder) as an alternative to opioid painkillers. This is because taking an opioid with Suboxone can intensify the side effects of both drugs, leading to an increased risk of overdose. However, everybody is different, and what’s best for one patient might not be healthy for another. The safest pain reliever to use while taking Suboxone is the one your doctor recommends. If you are experiencing minor pain, talk to your clinician about your options. 

Taking an easily obtainable OTC medication may seem harmless. Still, a medical professional can provide you with an alternative drug that addresses your specific pain more directly or recommend the best dosage or time to take it. They will consider your health history and MAT to determine the best pain relief medication for you.

Can Suboxone itself cause pain?

Like any medication, Suboxone has some potential side effects. Some patients may experience back pain or headaches unrelated to withdrawal symptoms. This can result from medication overuse headaches or opioid-induced hyperalgesia, an unusual phenomenon where patients taking opioids develop a higher pain sensitivity. If you’re getting headaches or other minor pain while taking Suboxone, contact your MAT provider for solutions.

Does Suboxone treat pain?

You might have heard that Suboxone can help you manage acute or chronic pain. This is partially true in some circumstances. Buprenorphine, a component of Suboxone that is meant to reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings, has pain-relieving properties. Certain forms and formulations of buprenorphine have even been approved by the FDA to treat moderate-to-severe chronic pain. The FDA has not, however, approved the use of Suboxone as a pain medication.

Remember to only take Suboxone as directed. Suboxone is a safe and effective treatment for OUD, as long as it is taken correctly, and a qualified MAT provider can continuously monitor your progress.


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