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What Is the Suboxone Shot?

Everything we know so far about Sublocade, the new monthly buprenorphine injection.

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Everything we know so far about Sublocade, the new monthly buprenorphine injection.

The most popular version of the life-saving opioid addiction treatment buprenorphine is the brand-name Suboxone, familiar to many as strips dissolved under the tongue. But everyone who has taken prescriptions of any sort understands the inconvenience involved — trips to the pharmacy, remembering to take the medication at the same time every day, ensuring that your doctor calls in your prescription correctly.

With medication like buprenorphine, further factors can complicate treatment. Not all pharmacies carry Suboxone, resulting in trips to several pharmacies before you find one that has it in stock. Or, if you’re newer in recovery, taking a medication every day as prescribed might sound daunting.

Enter Sublocade, a new extended-release injection from the manufacturer of Suboxone. We explain the basics:

How does Sublocade work?

Rather than take buprenorphine daily under your tongue, as Suboxone strips work, Sublocade is an extended-release buprenorphine injection administered by a medical professional.

The injection will release a controlled dose of buprenorphine into your system, without you having to worry about refills or daily dosing for the full month. To begin on Sublocade, patients do need to have taken sublingual (under the tongue) buprenorphine for seven days.

How is this different than a Vivitrol shot?

Even though Vivitrol and Sublocade are monthly injections, they include entirely different ingredients. (Learn more about Vivitrol, and how it differs from buprenorphine.) Vivitrol consists of naltrexone, an opioid blocker or what is called an antagonist. Antagonists like Vivitrol require full detoxification from opioids before beginning treatment.

Sublocade is a partial agonist. This means that it blocks other opioids from special receptors in your brain (like antagonists) while also allowing for some opioid effect of its own to suppress withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Suboxone, Sublocade, and other types of the drug buprenorphine are unique in their partial agonist effects.

Both Vivitrol and Sublocade have pros and cons. If you’re struggling to quit opioids but don’t want to take a daily medication, Sublocade may be a great choice. If you’re already in opioid addiction recovery but ready for a medication to help keep your recovery on track, then Vivitrol might be a better option. A trusted medical professional familiar with your history can help you pick the right treatment for you.

Will my insurance pay for Sublocade?

This may depend on what type of insurance you have, and it may require a lengthy pre-authorization process as well as a high co-pay. Sublocade does offer a Copay Savings Program where they say patients can pay as little as $5 per shot.

How can I find a Sublocade doctor near me?

Sublocade isn’t something every doctor can just write a prescription for. It isn’t available at the pharmacy, but is rather an in-office injection given by medical professionals trained and certified in buprenorphine treatment. You can find Sublocade doctors near you on the Sublocade directory.

So what’s the difference between the Sublocade shot and Probuphine?

That is a great question. Probuphine is an implant, whereas Sublocade is an injection. Probuphine consists of implants placed in the arm that release a controlled amount of buprenorphine over six months! Whereas the Sublocade injection lasts about 30 days. The Probuphine implants are placed in your arm at the beginning of treatment, and removed at the end of the six month period. If you’d like to continue treatment, you can receive another Probuphine implant in your other arm. Sublocade requires no removal from the body, as it’s an injection of extended-release buprenorphine that will release into your bloodstream over the month period. If you’d like to continue Sublocade treatment, you head back and get another injection.

In what part of the body is the Sublocade shot given?

Don’t freak out, but the Sublocade shot is normally given in the stomach. It’s a fairly normal size needle, nothing huge. But after that single in-office shot, you don’t have to worry about taking buprenorphine for a month. The medication naturally disperses into your body, and you can just get busy living your life.

How long does Suboxone shot last?

The effects of a Suboxone injection may last for more than eight days, but this period of time is not the same for everyone.

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Kali Lux is a consumer marketing leader with a focus on healthcare and wellness. She has over a decade of experience in building and operating metrics-driven brand, demand generation, and customer experience teams. A founding member of Workit Health’s team and a person in recovery herself, she’s passionate about fighting stigma and developing strategies that allow more people access to quality treatment at the moment they’re ready for help.

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