Sublocade and opioid addiction

Ultimate Guide on Sublocade

UPDATED April 24, 2024

Opioid addiction has exploded into a national epidemic, causing heartbreak and strife to countless individuals and families across the nation. Originally, prescription opioids were intended to ease pain. Fast forward to today, and we see the catastrophic effects of these drugs in that they are highly addictive and cause tremendous degradation in the health of users if abused. Thankfully, there is hope. 

While there are a myriad of different treatments for opioid use disorder (OUD), we want to talk to you about a specific solution known as Sublocade treatment. In this guide, we’ll uncover what Sublocade is, how it works, and the potential risks and benefits this drug might have for recovery from opioid addiction.  

Before reading further, however, please note that the information on this page is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. If you are struggling with chronic pain and opioid use and are looking for answers, please contact us today.

Overview of Sublocade

Sublocade is the brand name of a prescription drug. It is dispensed via injection and contains extended-release buprenorphine intended to treat adults with opioid addiction. The injection is given monthly and may only be administered by a certified healthcare provider.

Its significance in opioid addiction treatment

Clinical studies show that when treated with Sublocade, people were 14 times more likely to achieve success in opioid addiction recovery. Furthermore, after using Sublocade for 24 weeks, 80% of trial participants were tested as opioid-free. These statistics and other research conclude that Sublocade is a promising contender in the recovery of opioid use disorder.

Sublocade is a prescription subcutaneous injection that blocks the reward centers in the brain. When taken, the buprenorphine in Sublocade affixes to the brain’s opioid receptors, making addictive opioids (such as heroin or hydrocodone) less likely to adhere. By stimulating the mu receptors in the brain, Sublocade reduces an individual’s compulsive or physical need for opioids.   

addicted to opioids

How Long Does Sublocade Stay in Your System?

As mentioned, Sublocade is a once-a-month injection. The delivery of buprenorphine (the active ingredient in Sublocade) is sustained, which means it remains in the blood system throughout the month.   

Detailed explanation of Sublocade’s duration in the body

Although injections are once-monthly, the composition of Sublocade is such that it can remain in the body for extended periods, depending upon the patient. The duration of Sublocade effects has a half-life (the amount of time it takes for your body to process and remove half of a substance) of 43 – 60 days. It takes approximately 4 – 5 half-lives for the drug to ultimately be expunged from the body. Consequently, the therapeutic levels of Sublocade remain in the bloodstream for 2 – 5 months, but traces of the drug could remain in the body for up to 5 – 10 months. For example, if you receive Sublocade injections for six months, it will potentially remain in your system for approximately 12 months.

Factors influencing its longevity

We must also consider other factors when determining how long the Sublocade remains in the body. For instance, an individual’s body weight, age, other drugs taken, any preexisting conditions, and the length of treatment can all influence how long Sublocade stays in the system.

Clinical implications of its duration

Due to its unique formulation, Sublocade injections are gradually released into the bloodstream over the course of a month (per injection). After administration, the drug forms a reservoir (known as a “depot”) under the skin. This depot under the skin releases buprenorphine into the bloodstream throughout the month. This results in a stable and continuous level of the drug over time, which can be highly impactful in curbing cravings and reducing withdrawal symptoms.

 How to leverage Sublocade’s duration of action

We can utilize Sublocade’s long half life in your body to your advantage.  When the time is right for you to stop Buprenorphine, Sublocade can help.  While this is off label use,  by using two monthly loading doses, many patients will test positive for up to 8 months.   For many of our patients, this has allowed them to gradually taper off without experiencing ANY withdrawal symptoms.  

Is Sublocade Covered by Medicaid

Is Sublocade Covered by Medicaid?

In most instances, Sublocade is available at a reduced cost to individuals with Medicaid, and in some cases it could be obtained at no out-of-pocket cost.

The cost of Sublocade for individuals with Medicaid varies depending upon which state one resides. The average cost is anywhere from $1 – $4 per injection depending upon your state’s Medicaid allowances.

Variability in coverage based on state and policy

You can clarify the copayment costs of Sublocade by visiting the Medicaid website and viewing your state’s Medicaid policies. Or, you can contact us, where we will be happy to ascertain Medicaid coverage for Sublocade according to your state’s Medicaid policies.

Tips for navigating insurance for Sublocade treatment

Most insurances do cover the cost of Sublocade. However, different policies provide different allowances in coverages. You can get the answers you need by checking with your insurance provider. You can also contact us at Direct2Recovery, where we can verify your insurance and determine the cost of Sublocade treatment.

What is Sublocade Used For?

Simply put, Sublocade is used in conjunction with behavioral therapy for the treatment of OUD. 

The primary purposes and indications for Sublocade use

As it has shown promise in reducing cravings and alleviating the painful symptoms of withdrawal, Sublocade is considered an effective solution for individuals seeking help in recovery from opioid addiction.

Its role in the treatment plan for opioid addiction

Sublocade can be effective in blocking the pleasure centers of the brain. By staunching the rewarding effects of opioids, users find the compulsion or craving for ongoing opioid use to be greatly reduced, thus gently weaning the individual from the addiction to opioids.

Comparison with other treatment options

Sublocade has become an appealing option over other treatment methods due to its accessibility and affordability. It is more available than methadone (another common treatment for OUD). It is usually more affordable than other treatments. Furthermore, many patients appreciate the once-monthly dosage as a more convenient form of medically assisted treatment over other prescription aids that require daily administration. Furthermore, Sublocade is an attractive medicine for OUD due to its non-addictive nature.

How Does Sublocade Work?

Sublocade can only be administered by a certified healthcare provider. Once the liquid form of the drug is injected under the skin, the drug transforms into a solid gel known as a “depot.”  Over time, this gel dissipates and slowly releases into the bloodstream, disseminating chemical elements of the drug over a period of one month. The drug itself works by blocking pleasure centers in the brain so the patient’s compulsion to use opioids again is significantly reduced.  

In-depth look at the pharmacology of Sublocade

The active agent buprenorphine in Sublocade is a semisynthetic opiate known as an agonist-antagonist. As a partial mu-receptor agonist, buprenorphine produces a cap on pharmacological effects. Consequently, the danger of abuse or overdose are significantly reduced compared to full opioid agonists.  

Its mechanism of action in the body

According to clinical trials, the extended-release of Sublocade in the body establishes ongoing relief from cravings as it bonds with receptors in the brain, making other opioids (such as what the patient is addicted to) resistant to attaching as they may have before administration of the drug. As a result, the buprenorphine in Sublocade can potentially offer long-term relief from withdrawal symptoms and OUD.  

Expected outcomes and efficacy in patients

Relief from Sublocade can be observed within the first few hours of the injection. However, outcomes can vary from person to person. According to clinical trials, a 12-week study on 39 adults revealed that Sublocade effectively blocked the rewarding effects of opioids. Additionally, clinical studies showed that Sublocade is 14 times more effective when used with a comprehensive behavioral treatment plan than similar medications.

Does Sublocade Have Naloxone in It?

No, it does not. Naloxone and Sublocade are often confused, and here is what you need to know about the two:

Composition of Sublocade

As mentioned, the active ingredient is buprenorphine using an Atrigel delivery system. This is a biodegradable 50:50 poly (DL-lactide-co-glycolide) polymer and a biocompatible solvent N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone (NMP)

Clarifying the presence or absence of naloxone

Naloxone is a medication that is used to rapidly counteract the implications of an opioid overdose, and you might be more familiar with its common name, Narcan. Because Sublocade is formulated to be non-addictive, there is minimal chance of overdose (or abuse) of the drug. Furthermore, Sublocade may only be administered via a regulated program and by a certified healthcare professional making it less likely to be abused. For these reasons, the resuscitative agents in naloxone are not present in Sublocade.

The significance of its ingredients in treatment

Naloxone is an opioid antagonist that can be found in other medications to treat OUD. For instance, it is an active ingredient in Suboxone, another promising treatment for opioid addiction. When combined with buprenorphine, naloxone is meant to reduce the occurrences of patients feeling euphoria or experiencing a high that accompanies opioid abuse.

Where and How Do You Get Sublocade?

Sublocade can only be obtained by prescription. Furthermore, Sublocade injections can only be administered at specialized clinics by a licensed healthcare worker.  

Steps to obtain Sublocade (prescription, specialized clinics, etc.)

To obtain Sublocade, you can first contact Direct2Recovery, as we are a licensed provider. There are other providers if you are unable to receive Sublocade treatment at our facilities.  

The process of administration

As mentioned, the Sublocade administration process is initiated by an injection. It is injected as a liquid in the subcutaneous tissues of the abdomen. Once injected, it comes into contact with the patient’s body fluids which prompts the buprenorphine in Sublocade to solidify into a gel, which disburses throughout the bloodstream gradually over time.

Regulatory and legal considerations

Sublocade is a Schedule III controlled substance. That means it is subject to federal Department of Enforcement Administration (DEA) regulations. Consequently, this drug must be securely locked at all times, and only authorized medical personnel may have access to it.


We’ve provided a significant amount of information about Sublocade and opioid addiction here. To help you process all of this data, here is a summary of key takeaways about Sublocade:

  • Sublocade contains buprenorphine. It does not contain naloxone.
  • This drug may only be obtained by a prescription and can only be administered in specialized clinics by a professional healthcare provider.
  • Sublocade is a once-monthly liquid injection that can stay in the body for twice as long as its half-life.
  • After injected, the liquid forms into a gel known as a depot which is gradually time-released for ongoing relief.
  • Encouraging results are seen in clinical trials, and it has a promising success rate among users.
  • Sublocade blocks reward receptors in the brain, essentially cutting off the pleasurable responses typically associated with opioid use.
  • This pleasure blocking rendered by Sublocade potentially nullifies cravings for opioids, making it a useful method for OUD treatment.

We hope these insights into the Sublocade proved to be helpful and informative. If you or someone you care about is struggling with OUD, please reach out to Direct2Recovery today. We have the compassion, qualifications, and expertise to help you live an addiction-free life. We will guide you through the entire process and clearly answer all of your questions about what to expect in your new, rewarding life without opioid addiction.

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Sublocade and opioid addiction

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