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Sublocade vs. Suboxone

Peter Manza, PhD profile image
Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD • Updated Oct 24, 2023 • 5 cited sources

Sublocade and Suboxone are brand-name medications used for opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment. Both contain buprenorphine, but Suboxone contains a misuse-prevention ingredient, and it’s used orally. Sublocade contains just buprenorphine in injection form.

Key Facts About Suboxone & Sublocade

  • Both medications contain buprenorphine, a partial opioid agonist that suppresses drug cravings and reduces withdrawal symptoms.
  • Suboxone and Sublocade can be more accessible than methadone — another common OUD medication provided only in specialized clinics.
  • Both medications are effective OUD treatments.
  • Suboxone is typically less expensive than Sublocade. Most insurance companies prefer Suboxone over Sublocade for that reason.

Sublocade & Suboxone for OUD Treatment 

Sublocade and Suboxone are administered in Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT) programs. People enrolling in MAT have a documented OUD and need help to quit. Medications ease chemical imbalances caused by drugs, allowing people to focus on therapy and build a sober life. 

Sublocade is an injection-only medication containing buprenorphine. Suboxone is an oral, dissolving medication containing buprenorphine and naloxone. Either could be a good option for people who want to quit misusing opioids for good. 

Bicycle Health makes enrolling in MAT easy. Meet your treatment team online, and get a prescription for Suboxone to fill at your local pharmacy. Get around-the-clock help with cravings and questions. Find out how Bicycle Health helps people just like you.

What Is Suboxone?

Suboxone is a combination MAT option. Each dose contains two ingredients to combat OUD. 

Buprenorphine, the primary ingredient in Suboxone, is a partial opioid agonist. It loosely latches to the same receptors used by drugs like heroin and Vicodin. When active, buprenorphine reduces cravings and withdrawal symptoms. 

Naloxone, another ingredient in Suboxone, is an opioid antagonist. It’s inactive at normal doses. Take too much Suboxone or try to inject oral doses, and it will activate. Naloxone will block the high and prevent a relapse or overdose. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Suboxone in 2002.[1] Both strips and films are available. They dissolve beneath the tongue or between the cheek and teeth. Most people use Suboxone once per day. 

What Is Sublocade?

Sublocade is a single-ingredient MAT injection option. The FDA approved Sublocade in 2017, making it a newer option than Suboxone.[2]

Sublocade contains only buprenorphine. People who have negative reactions to the naloxone in Suboxone may appreciate this option. 

Doctors inject Sublocade once per month. Buprenorphine distributes into the body very slowly over the next 30 days, offering relief from cravings and withdrawal symptoms. 

Sublocade isn’t designed for at-home use. When novices inject the drug, it can form a mass and cause serious harm or death. You must work with a qualified medical professional to get this drug. 

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What Are the Differences Between Suboxone & Sublocade?

It’s important to understand the differences between these two common MAT options. Choosing the one that’s right for you is a critical part of your recovery plan. 

Comparing Suboxone & Sublocade 

Administration routesSublingual Injection 
Frequency takenDaily Monthly
Typical dosage 16 mg buprenorphine/4 mg naloxone100 mg buprenorphine 
Time to workMinutesHours
Side effectsSedation, dizziness, lack of coordination and liver problemsSedation, dizziness, lack of coordination, liver problems and pain at injection site
Cost Covered by most insurance plansMore expensive and may require special approval for insurance coverage
Generics availableYesNo


Similarities Between the Medications 

Suboxone and Sublocade are very different solutions for OUD, but they share some similarities. 

Common similarities between Suboxone and Sublocade include the following:

  • Active ingredient: Buprenorphine is included in both Suboxone and Sublocade. 
  • Side effects: The buprenorphine in both medications can cause side effects like sedation and dizziness. 
  • Effectiveness: The National Institute on Drug Abuse says both combination medications (like Suboxone) and standalone medications (like Sublocade) are effective treatments for OUD.[5]

Both medications can help you overcome OUD. Your doctor can help you decide which option fits your condition, lifestyle and recovery goals. 

How to Choose Between Suboxone & Sublocade

Should you use Suboxone or Sublocade to treat an OUD? Your doctor can help you answer this question. But most people assess a few personal values and opinions when making a final choice. 

Examine the following factors when choosing which option is right for you:

  • Convenience: Is it better to use a medication at home every day? Or is visiting a doctor once per month a better fit?
  • Safety: Can you keep take-home medications away from pets and children? Can your body handle monthly injections?
  • Availability: Can you find a local doctor to administer Sublocade if you prefer it? 
  • Cost: How much will you pay for Suboxone or Sublocade with your insurance plan? Remember that Sublocade is typically more expensive.

The right medication is one you’ll use over an extended period to manage your OUD. There is no right or wrong answer, but be honest about which option seems best when your doctor asks for your opinion. 

Frequently Asked Questions

We’ve compiled some of the most frequently asked questions about Sublocade and Suboxone.

Can I use Sublocade and Suboxone at the same time?

No, most patients choose either one or the other medication to treat OUD.

Can I switch between Sublocade and Suboxone?

Not usually. It’s best to choose one option for your recovery and stick with it. Switching from one option to another and back again could put your sobriety at risk. If your MAT isn’t working well for you, talk to your doctor.

How do Sublocade and Suboxone compare with other OUD treatments?

Sublocade and Suboxone are just two MAT options. Another commonly used medication is methadone. It’s stronger than buprenorphine-based drugs, but you must go to a special clinic to get it. And that means visiting the clinic every day.

Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD

Peter Manza, PhD received his BA in Psychology and Biology from the University of Rochester and his PhD in Integrative Neuroscience at Stony Brook University. He is currently working as a research scientist in Washington, DC. His research focuses on the role ... Read More

  1. Buprenorphine. Drug Enforcement Administration. Published May 2022. Accessed June 27, 2023.
  2. FDA approves first once-monthly buprenorphine injection, a medication-assisted treatment option for opioid use disorder. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Published November 30, 2017. Accessed June 27, 2023.
  3. Suboxone prescribing information. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Published March 2021. Accessed June 27, 2023.
  4. Sublocade prescribing information. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Published November 2017. Accessed June 27, 2023.
  5. How effective are medications to treat opioid use disorder? National Institute on Drug Abuse. Published December 2021. Accessed June 27, 2023.

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