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What is Sublocade? How does Sublocade work?

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June 15, 2021

Medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) are a critical tool for individuals struggling with opioids. Research has repeatedly shown the efficacy of  this pharmacological component. To date, there are three medications that are recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat opioid use disorder (OUD): methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone. All brand name MOUD prescriptions include one, or a combination, of these three medications. Common brand names include Bunavail, Belbuca, Subutex, Suboxone, Naltrexone (Vivitrol), Sublocade, and ZubSolve. There are unique characteristics and side effects associated with each medication. This page focuses specifically on the brand name Sublocade

What is Sublocade?

Sublocade is the brand name for extended-release buprenorphine-monotherapy subcutaneous injection. Buprenorphine (Sublocade) is prescribed after individuals have begun induction and have been taking transmucosal (film/tablet dissolved under the tongue or inside of the cheek) buprenorphine for at least seven days. Brand names of transmucosal buprenorphine products include Suboxone and Subutex. Because it is a partial opioid agonist that is injected, buprenorphine (Sublocade) must be administered by a healthcare provider. The initial dose of buprenorphine (Sublocade) consists of two injections amounting to the total of 300 mg of buprenorphine. After this initial injection, a regular monthly injection will be administered of 100 mg of buprenorphine. Depending on the patient, maintenance dosages can range between 100 mg to 300 mg of buprenorphine. Buprenorphine (Sublocade) is an abdominal subcutaneous injection meaning it is injected through the stomach right below the skin. The medication is injected as a liquid and forms into a gel beneath the skin. This gel steadily releases buprenorphine into the body over the course of a month. 

Some medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD), like Suboxone or Zubsolv, are a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone. In contrast, buprenorphine (Sublocade) is a buprenorphine-monotherapy. Buprenorphine-monotherapies do not combine ingredients. Sublocade is strictly composed of buprenorphine. To fully understand how Sublocade works, we need to understand how buprenorphine works. 

How does Sublocade work?

As previously mentioned, buprenorphine is one of the three FDA-approved medications used to treat OUD. It is available in a variety of forms including as a buccal film, sublingual film or tablet, injection, or implant. Buprenorphine is known as a partial opioid agonist. A partial opioid agonist helps to reduce opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms in individuals with OUD. It does this by interacting with the same opioid receptors that are activated by full opioid agonists. Examples of a full opioid agonist include oxycodone, heroin, fentanyl, and methadone. Unlike a full agonist, buprenorphine does not fully activate the opioid receptors. Buprenorphine has a “ceiling effect” because it only partially activates opioid receptors. It is nearly impossible for those with OUD to get “high” or experience euphoric effects with buprenorphine. Buprenorphine is a maintenance medication that can be used temporarily or as a long-term treatment for patients with OUD. 

Learn more

Bicycle Health is dedicated to helping people get off and stay off opioids. To learn more about the success rates and safety of Bicycle Health’s telemedicine addiction treatment in comparison to other common treatment options, call us at (844) 943-2514 or schedule an appointment here.

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