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Sublocade vs. Suboxone: Which Option Is Right for You?

Sublocade and Suboxone both contain the same active ingredient: buprenorphine. These medications are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment. However, they are very different options for people in need.

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When considering Sublocade vs. Suboxone, think about how much you’re willing to pay, where you want to use your medication, and how likely you might be to abuse the drug. We’ll walk through your options and give you some information you need as you decide. 

Understanding Sublocade & Suboxone 

Sublocade and Suboxone are both FDA-approved medications that can help you deal with OUD. They’re typically provided during the maintenance phase of care when you’ve already finished an opioid detox program and are ready to keep working on building a healthy life. Here’s what you need to know about how they work. 

How Does Sublocade Work?

Sublocade is a prescription medication that contains buprenorphine. Once each month, people go to their doctors for an injection of this medication. It’s not a prescription people can fill and use at home.[1]

Any doctor can administer Sublocade, but pharmacies must participate in a special program to order it from the manufacturer. Once it’s delivered in time for your appointment, your doctor will place the liquid medication into your abdomen in one shot. In a few minutes, the dose will solidify as it connects with the water in your body. Over the next several weeks, it will slowly dispense buprenorphine into your bloodstream.[1] 

Since Sublocade can only be administered by a medical professional in an appointment, it’s very difficult to abuse. It’s also a safe choice for people who live with small children or others who might take or abuse their medications. 

How Does Suboxone Work?

Suboxone is a prescription medication that contains buprenorphine and naloxone. It’s designed as a daily dose, typically used in the morning.[2] Both Suboxone pills and strips are available.[3] They dissolve inside your mouth within a few minutes, delivering your dose throughout your day. 

The naloxone inside each dose is inert unless you attempt to inject the medication in some way. If you crush your pills, add them to water, and try to inject the substance, or you try to extract the medication from the strips, the naloxone will block the drug’s action and cause withdrawal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and pain.[2]

Since Suboxone comes with abuse protections, it’s approved for at-home use. You can fill your prescription at almost any pharmacy and use the medication in the comfort of your home.[2] 

While Suboxone is safe and effective when used properly, it can be dangerous for people who have never used opioids before or who take large doses of the drug. It’s critical for anyone using Suboxone to keep their doses safe from others. If you’re tempted to abuse your drugs, you should talk to your doctor about it and get help. 

Comparing Sublocade & Suboxone 

This chart can help you understand the differences between these medications at a glance:[1-6]

Sublocade Suboxone 
Active ingredientBuprenorphine Buprenorphine 
FDA-Approved Use Opioid use disorder Opioid use disorder 
Drug Schedule Schedule III Schedule III 
Formats Available Injection Sublingual film or pill 
Typical Dosage100 mg every 4 weeks 16 mg buprenorphine every 24 hours 
Common Side EffectsConstipation, headache, nausea, injection site reactions, vomiting, and fatigue Oral side effects, headache, nausea, vomiting, sweating, constipation, insomnia, pain, and swelling in the hands and feet 
Safety Concerns Withdrawal when the medication is discontinued, and  liver problems Withdrawal when used too early, respiratory depression, and neonatal withdrawal 
Addiction Potential Low, due to the drug’s administration format Low, due to the addition of naloxone to each dose 
Cost$2,000 per injection (or higher) Generic: Between $57 and $183 for the strips; between $65 and $85 for the tablets  
Covered by Insurance?Typically The generic version is often covered, but the brand name may not be
Generic Available?NoYes
EfficacyIn a head-to-head study comparing Sublocade with oral medications (like Suboxone), Sublocade was more likely to result in clear urine screens in weeks 4 to 24 In studies, Suboxone is much more likely than placebo drugs to produce negative urine tests, and participants tolerated the medication well

Key Differences Between Sublocade & Suboxone 

While Sublocade and Sublocade contain the same active ingredient, they are very different medications. These are some key characteristics that set them apart from one another: 

Administration Method 

Sublocade is an injectable-only format. Your doctor orders the dose from a registered pharmacy, and it comes in a preloaded syringe. Your doctor puts the contents of the syringe into your abdomen. 

Suboxone is an oral medication that comes in strips or tablets. Both forms are placed inside your mouth once per day, and they dissolve within a few minutes. You can take this medication at home and order it from a pharmacy with a doctor’s order. 

Take-Home Status

Medical professionals must administer your Sublocade dose. No pharmacy will dispense the medication directly to patients. Instead, you must make an appointment with a clinician to get your dose every month. 

Suboxone can be used at home with no supervision or appointments required. 

Side Effects 

Sublocade can cause injection-based side effects, such as swelling where the needle is placed or pain and bruising after the shot. 

Suboxone can cause oral side effects, such as burning sensations or swelling inside your mouth. 

Cost

Suboxone is much less expensive than Sublocade. Generic forms of the medication are available, and they can cost as little as $57. 

Sublocade has no generic alternative, and without insurance, it can cost thousands for a shot. You may also face costs associated with visiting your doctor and the professional’s time to place the medication in your body. 

Choosing the Right Medication for Opioid Use Disorder 

If you’re worried about someone in your home stealing or abusing your medications, Sublocade can be a good option. You’ll never have supplies at home that someone could tap into.

If you’d like to take your medication in the privacy of your home with no appointments to administer your doses, Suboxone can be a good choice. You’ll take a daily dose as part of your wake-up routine. 

Talk to your doctor about your preferences. Together, you can find the right medication for you and your recovery.

If you think you could benefit from any form of medication-assisted treatment (MAT), reach out for help today. We’re here to answer any questions you have and help you get started.

Updated March 16, 2024
Resources
  1. Sublocade prescribing information. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Published March 2021. Accessed March 1, 2024.
  2. Suboxone prescribing information. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Published March 2021. Accessed March 1, 2024.
  3. Poliwoda S, Noor N, Jenkins J, et al. Buprenorphine and its formulations: A comprehensive review. Health Psychology Research. 2022;10(3):37517.
  4. Buprenorphine. Drug Enforcement Administration. Published May 2022. Accessed March 1, 2024.
  5. Pricing. Sublocade. Accessed March 1, 2024.
  6. Buprenorphine/naloxone prices, coupons, and patient assistance programs. Drugs.com. Accessed March 1, 2024.
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