Medication Assisted Treatment with Suboxone vs Sublocade

Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) is the use of prescription medications to aid in recovery. Commonly used medications, such as Suboxone and Sublocade, contain Buprenorphine.

Buprenorphine binds to the same receptors in the brain that opiates do. However, buprenorphine does not give the euphoric feeling that illicit substances do. This reduces cravings by tricking the brain into thinking that there are opiates present. 

Suboxone can also be used in the acute withdrawal period to alleviate withdrawal symptoms. A medical taper with suboxone can make the transition from addiction to sobriety much smoother. 

When needed, Suboxone can be used on a long-term basis to aid in lasting sobriety. Consistent craving management with Buprenorphine can be helpful for those with a history of relapse.

When utilizing MAT, it’s important to work closely with a healthcare provider. Using a comprehensive treatment plan alongside MAT has proven to be the most effective approach. Hotel California by the Sea recognizes that MAT can be extremely useful in treating addiction. 

"how buprenorphine affects the brain" infograph with graphs of opioid receptors and buprenorphine

How Do Opioids Affect The Brain?

Opioids bind to specific receptors in the brain that play a primary role in regulating pain, reward, and pleasure. When opioids like heroin, morphine, or prescription painkillers attach to these receptors, they have a variety of effects. When used as prescribed, they block pain signals to the brain.

However, if taken in higher amounts, they trigger the release of large amounts of dopamine. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter associated with pleasure. This flood of dopamine creates a euphoric sensation and reinforces the brain’s reward system.

Over time, the brain becomes accustomed to opioids. This results in the user needing higher doses for the same effect because of an increased tolerance. Prolonged use alters the brain’s function, diminishing the natural production of dopamine. This leads to dependence and withdrawal symptoms when the drug is absent.

The rewiring of the brain’s reward pathways also contributes to the compulsive seeking of the drug. Long term abuse can quickly lead to opioid addiction.

What is Buprenorphine, and how does it work?

Buprenorphine is an opioid used to treat substance use disorder. Buprenorphine attaches to the opiate receptors in the brain, similar to how illegal opioids do. This drug has what’s called a “ceiling effect”. A ceiling effect means that taking more of the medicine after a certain point will not increase the effects of it.

Doctors often use Buprenorphine for the detox phase of opioid dependence treatment. It can bridge the gap between opioid dependence and sobriety.

What is Naloxone?

When administered alone, Naloxone reverses an opioid overdose. It removes opiates from the brain’s receptors during an overdose to restore normal function. This form of Naloxone is commonly known as Narcan.

When combined with Buprenorphine, like in Suboxone, it strengthens the opioid-blocking properties of Buprenorphine. This deters patients from abusing Suboxone.

Differences Between Suboxone vs Sublocade

Both Suboxone and Sublocade contain Buprenorphine. When discussing MAT with your doctor, there are a few key differences to consider.

Infograph of administration of Suboxone vs sublocade administration methods


Suboxone is a combination of the drug Buprenorphine and Naloxone. Doctors administer it as either a strip or pill under the tongue (sublingually) or in the cheek (buccally). Patients take it on a daily basis as prescribed by their doctor. Its effects last approximately 24 hours.

The Buprenorphine in Suboxone has a half life of 12-42 hours. A half life is the amount of time it takes for your body to eliminate half of the drug. The Naloxone in Suboxone has a half life of anywhere from 2-12 hours. It can take up to a week and a half for your body to fully eliminate Suboxone.


Sublocade is an injectable, extended release version of the drug Buprenorphine. Sublocade does not contain Naloxone, unlike Suboxone. A medical provider will administer the Sublocade shot in the abdomen.

Sublocade starts as a liquid, and once injected, it turns into a solid called a “depot”. This depot releases Buprenorphine slowly over the course of a month.

This is especially useful in patients who have a hard time remembering to dose consistently. Additionally, being an injection prevents its abuse. It can help patients slowly taper dosage down to eventually come off Buprenorphine.

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Payment options for Suboxone and Sublocade

When comparing the financial aspects of Suboxone vs Sublocade, several factors come into play. Suboxone, available in various generic forms, is generally more accessible and affordable for many individuals. The price may vary depending on insurance, dosage, and whether it’s a brand-name or generic prescription.

On the other hand, Sublocade, being a newer and more specialized form of medication, could be more expensive.

Monthly injections, healthcare provider fees, and insurance limitations can affect its cost.

Suboxone might be more cost-effective initially because of its wider availability. However, the consistent monthly administration of Sublocade could potentially offer long-term financial benefits. It removes the need for daily dosing. This reduces medication-related costs in the long run.

Without insurance, Suboxone can cost anywhere from $150 a box to over $500.

Sublocade without insurance can cost up to $2,000 an injection. Discount options available to avoid paying the full cost of the Sublocade shot.

Detox Timelines

Detoxing from Suboxone, a medication used in treating opioid dependence, can present unique challenges. The presence of buprenorphine and naloxone in this medication can lead to a different withdrawal process. This is different with full agonist opioids like heroin.

The withdrawal symptoms from Suboxone can include both the physical symptoms common to opioid withdrawal. These can include nausea, muscle aches, and insomnia. It can also have psychological symptoms like anxiety or depression.

The intensity and duration of withdrawal symptoms can vary based on many factors. The duration of Suboxone use and the dosage affects the detox timeline greatly. Doctors recommend medically monitoring individuals as they gradually taper off Suboxone. This is to manage the discomfort and mitigate the severity of withdrawal symptoms.

Detoxing from Sublocade poses different challenges because of its extended-release formulation. Unlike Suboxone, the process of detoxing from Sublocade is often longer. This is because the medication slowly releases buprenorphine into the body over several weeks.

Withdrawal symptoms include physical discomfort like nausea, body aches, and insomnia. Mentally, it can cause emotional challenges such as anxiety or depression. These may persist over an extended timeframe.

A gradual tapering process under medical supervision is recommended to manage these symptoms. Healthcare professionals will typically customize a tapering schedule, slowly reducing the dosage or extending the time between injections. This eases the discomfort and supports the individual through the detox process.

Professional guidance during Sublocade detox is essential to ease the challenges associated with withdrawal and ensure a more manageable transition towards sobriety.

Reach out to Hotel California by the Sea

We specialize in treating addiction and other co-occurring disorders, such as PTSD. Our Admissions specialists are available to walk you through the best options for treating your addiction.

Healthcare professionals should supervise the detox process regardless of it being Suboxone vs Sublocade. Medical professionals can tailor a tapering schedule to the patient’s needs. Gradually reducing the dosage until discontinuation is the best way to transition into sobriety. Proper medical guidance and support are crucial during Suboxone detox.

Comprehensive Treatment with Suboxone vs Sublocade

Comprehensive treatment is the treatment of mental health and the body alongside getting sober from drugs and alcohol. Hotel California by the Sea aims to treat all aspects of addiction as they relate to the patient and their lives.

Both Suboxone and Sublocade can be a part of a comprehensive treatment plan. Patients have a few things to consider when adding Suboxone and Sublocade into treatment.

Infograph showing the "side effects of sublocade and Suboxone" with symptoms of each medication

Patients must take Suboxone on a daily basis. Patients taking Suboxone benefit greatly from comprehensive treatment. They are able to work with physicians closely to adjust their dosage.

Comprehensive treatment also helps build a routine to consistently dose their medication. Patients can receive support from clinical staff and their peers to keep themselves accountable with their medication.

Using Sublocade as part of a comprehensive treatment plan provides the same benefits. This medication aids in controlling cravings, allowing individuals to better focus on their recovery. Sublocade provides consistent medication levels, removing the need for daily dosing and ensuring treatment adherence. Both medications contribute to stabilizing individuals, enabling them to participate more effectively in therapy, counseling, and other aspects of a comprehensive treatment plan. Their assistance in managing the physical aspects of addiction allows individuals to better engage with the behavioral and psychological components of rehabilitation. These aspects increase the likelihood of successful recovery.