Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is an approach that combines medications with counseling and behavioral therapy to treat opioid use disorder. Two of the most popular MAT medications are Sublocade and Suboxone–both of which contain buprenorphine and can promote successful treatment outcomes.

Although similar, there are many key differences between the two medications. Understanding what Sublocade and Suboxone are, how they work, and what makes them different can help you decide which one may be right for you.

What is Suboxone?

Suboxone is a prescription medication used to treat opioid addiction. It is a daily medication that is taken sublingually. It contains two active ingredients: buprenorphine and naloxone.

Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, which means it activates opioid receptors (the same receptors in the brain as opioids bind to) but to a lesser extent, helping to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms without producing the same feelings of euphoria or sedation. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist that is included in Suboxone to discourage misuse. If the medication is crushed and injected, naloxone can precipitate withdrawal symptoms. However, when taken as prescribed, naloxone doesn’t produce any effects.

Suboxone was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in October 2002. Suboxone treatment is ideal for those who have a moderate to severe opioid use disorder and are highly motivated to complete an addiction treatment program.

What is Sublocade?

Sublocade is a medication used for the treatment of moderate to severe opioid use disorder. The FDA approved it in November 2017 as the first injectable form of buprenorphine.

Sublocade contains the active ingredient buprenorphine, which is the same active ingredient found in Suboxone. However, it is formulated as a monthly extended-release injection, while Suboxone is typically administered as a sublingual film or tablet.

The main advantage of Sublocade treatment is the medication’s long-acting nature, which provides a steady release of buprenorphine over a month, eliminating the need for daily dosing. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals who struggle with adherence to daily medication regimens or who prefer the convenience of monthly injections instead of a daily pill.

What is the Difference Between Sublocade and Suboxone?

There are two main differences between Sublocade and Suboxone. The first is that Suboxone contains both buprenorphine and naloxone, while Sublocade only contains buprenorphine. The second is that Suboxone is an oral medication that is taken by mouth while Sublocade is an injection that is given under the skin.

Other differences between the two medications include:

When treatment begins

Treatment with Suboxone typically begins during detox. People may begin taking Suboxone 12-24 hours after their last dose of opioids and it can help alleviate symptoms of opioid withdrawal.

Sublocade, on the other hand, is designed for use in people who have already taken an oral form of buprenorphine for at least seven days.

How often the medication is taken

Suboxone is a sublingual film or tablet. It is placed under the tongue where it dissolves and absorbs into the bloodstream. Suboxone is a daily medication that is usually taken once each morning.

Sublocade is a subcutaneous injection that contains an extended-release formulation of buprenorphine. It is only injected once a month.

Abuse potential

Buprenorphine has a “ceiling effect,” meaning that at higher doses, its effects reach a maximum level, beyond which increasing the dosage further does not produce additional effects. This ceiling effect reduces the potential for abuse.

Additionally, Sublocade comes in the form of an injection only administered in a medical office by a licensed healthcare professional. This type of drug administration is more supervised and carries a lower risk for abuse compared to Suboxone, which is a take-home medication.

Side effects

Both medications share similar side effects, however, injection site reactions may occur when taking Sublocade. On the other hand, some people who take Suboxone complain of its bitter taste. Some individuals also report a tingling or burning sensation in the mouth.


Suboxone is covered by most insurance plans and is more affordable than Sublocade, which is not only expensive but sometimes requires prior authorization from some insurance providers.

Generic options

There are generic options available for Suboxone, but there is no generic form of Sublocade available yet.


While Suboxone and Sublocade are two very different medications, they share the same overall goal: to help individuals achieve recovery from opioid addiction. Both medications are intended to be used in combination with counseling and behavioral therapy.

Other similarities between the two medications include:

  • Both have buprenorphine as the active ingredient
  • Both can cause side effects like nausea, sedation, dizziness, and headache
  • When combined with a complete treatment program, both medications are effective and evidence-based treatments for opioid use disorder

You should never take medications containing buprenorphine that are not prescribed to you. Only take these medications under medical guidance.

Find out if Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is Right for You

At First Step Behavioral Health, we recognize that each person is unique, having their own needs when it comes to treatment and recovery. Our individually tailored treatment plans are designed to consider your unique situation and provide you with the resources you need to be successful in your recovery.

If you or a loved one are struggling with opioid addiction and would like to discuss your treatment options, please contact our team today.

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