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How does Sublocade work?

Medically reviewed by Melisa Puckey, BPharm. Last updated on April 1, 2024.

Official answer


What is Sublocade?

Sublocade is used for treatment of moderate to severe opioid use disorder, to reduce cravings for opioids. It needs to be taken together with counseling and psychosocial support. Sublocade is partial mu-receptor agonist.

How does Sublocade work?

  • When you take an opioid such as heroin or morphine, the drug binds fully to a receptor (mu-receptor) which gives the pleasure or high that you get when taking that drug.
  • When you take Sublocade it binds to the same mu-receptor more easily than other drugs, but even though the Subocade binds to the receptor really well, it doesn’t work properly to switch it on, so you don’t get the high or pleasure sensation.
  • So instead of giving you a high, the effect of Sublocade is that it prevents your cravings.
  • So the Sublocade works to help stop the cravings, without the high, by binding to the mu-receptor.

Related Questions

Why do you need to take oral forms of buprenorphine before you start Sublocade?

Sublocade (buprenorphine) is an extended-release, once-monthly injection that steadily releases buprenorphine into your bloodstream.

  • You can only start on Sublocade when you are fully detoxified, if you are not detoxified Sublocade will cause precipitated withdrawal, which can be severe and potentially serious.
  • To prevent precipitated withdrawal Sublocade can only be started on people who have been stable for at least a week, on the daily form of buprenorphine that you take under your tongue or inside your cheek.
  • Once stabilized on daily buprenorphine for at least a week, then you can start the Sublocade extended-release injection which is given monthly, so will keep the cravings under long term control.

For more information see our slideshow: Opioid Use Disorder: These Treatments Are Available, Now.


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