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How Long Does Sublocade Stay in Your System? Understand the Timeline

Danny Nieves-Kim, MD profile image
By Danny Nieves-Kim, MD • Updated Oct 15, 2023 • 6 cited sources

Doctors deliver Sublocade shots once per month. Sublocade’s half-life is 43 to 60 days, and it generally takes four to five half lives for a drug to be eliminated in the body. As such, Sublocade stays in your system for between 5 and 10 months, although it will remain at therapeutic levels for 2 to 5 months.[1] 

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Buprenorphine, the active ingredient in Sublocade, will show up on drug screens that specifically test for buprenorphine. However, drug tests do not commonly test for buprenorphine.

But if an employer or doctor orders a specialized test to screen for Sublocade’s active ingredients, you could test positive for buprenorhine in urine and blood for up to one year or longer. [2]

What Is Sublocade?

Sublocade is a brand-name medication that contains buprenorphine. It’s a core treatment doctors can use in Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT) programs to combat opioid use disorder (OUD). 

Other buprenorphine products, including Suboxone, are designed for at-home use. Your doctor offers prescriptions you take every day in the comfort of your home. 

Sublocade is different. You visit a doctor or medical professional once per month for an injection. You don’t take anything at home. 

Understand Sublocade’s Half-Life

A half-life is a measurement of how long it takes your body to remove half of a particular substance. When four or five of these periods pass, the drug is no longer active. 

Researchers say that the terminal half-life of Sublocade (or the point where the drug is no longer active) is 43 to 60 days after it’s injected.[1] 

A monthly dose of Sublocade means you’ll never be without the medication inside your body. When the new shot begins, the old one is wearing off. 

Does Sublocade Show Up on a Drug Test?

Sublocade doesn’t always show up in a routine drug test. In typical drug panels, doctors look for illicit and illegal drugs like heroin or painkillers. They don’t always look for prescription MAT solutions like buprenorphine. 

Research also suggests that buprenorphine is hard to detect in urine, which is the method most companies use to test for drugs. In one study, close to 45% of samples with buprenorphine didn’t show up as positive in urine screens.[3]

But some drug tests can and do flag buprenorphine. For example, researchers say that 8% of people submitting samples as part of MAT spike their urine with buprenorphine.[4] They’re trying to suggest they’re using their medication when they’re not. 

Studies like this prove that some tests can and do detect the buprenorphine in Sublocade. 

How Long Will Sublocade Show Up in a Drug Test?

Sublocade is made with persistence in mind. It can show up in tests for long periods, as a result. 

If you’ve used Sublocade for four to six months, it can appear in drug tests for the following time frames:[1]

  • Blood: 12 months
  • Urine: 12 months

Buprenorphine typically appears in hair drug tests for 90 days. Since Sublocade contains a long-lasting form of this medication, expect it to appear in your drug tests for much longer. 

Factors That Influence How Long Sublocade Lasts

Some people process drugs faster or slower than their peers. Common factors can shift your metabolism. 

These factors can alter how long Sublocade stays in your system:[5]

  • Weight: People with a higher weight may process drugs differently than people who weigh less. 
  • Organ health: Liver issues could slow down how long Sublocade persists in your body. Poor kidney health matters too. 
  • Age: Older people typically need more time to process drugs than their younger counterparts.[6] 
  • Other drugs: If you take other substances alongside your Sublocade, they could alter your test results. Generally, the more substances you take, the longer it may take your body to process drugs.
  • Treatment time frame: If you use Sublocade for four to six months, it stays in your system for up to a year. If you stop the drug sooner, it can clear your body quicker.

If you feel like your Sublocade doses are wearing off too quickly, talk with your doctor. Together, you can create a customized treatment program that ensures your MAT is as successful as possible. 

The primary goal is to preserve your recovery from OUD. If you notice any concerning symptoms, always talk to your doctor.

By Danny Nieves-Kim, MD

... Read More

  1. Sublocade prescribing information. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Published March 2021. Accessed August 16, 2023.
  2. Evaluation of Long-Term Buprenorphine Plasma Exposure in Subjects Who Received at Least 2 Subcutaneous (SC) Injections of Extended-release Buprenorphine (SUBLOCADE) in Phase III Studies. Published August 2020. Accessed October 2023.
  3. Balhara YP, Jain R. A urinalysis-based study of buprenorphine and non-prescription opioid use among patients on buprenorphine maintenance. J Pharmacol Pharmacother. 2012;3(1):15-19. doi:10.4103/0976-500X.92496
  4. Gliadkovskaya A. Some opioid use disorder patients spike drug tests with buprenorphine, JAMA study finds. Fierce Healthcare. Published March 23, 2023. Accessed August 16, 2023. 
  5. Garza AZ, Park SB, Kocz R. Drug elimination. [Updated 2023 Jul 4]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from:
  6. Mangoni AA, Jackson SH. Age-related changes in pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics: basic principles and practical applications. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2004;57(1):6-14. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2125.2003.02007.x

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