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Is Sublocade an addictive drug?

Medically reviewed by Sally Chao, MD. Last updated on Feb 2, 2021.

Official Answer

by Drugs.com

Yes, Sublocade has the potential for physical and psychological dependence. Sublocade is the brand name for the injectable form of buprenorphine, a drug used to treat moderate to severe opioid use disorder.

Buprenorphine is a schedule III controlled substance. This class of drugs has a moderate to low risk of dependence. Buprenorphine can be abused, similar to opioids. It can be attractive to people who abuse street drugs or prescription medications.

Because Sublocade has a weaker effect on the brain than more addictive drugs, it can be used as a replacement for illegal or prescription opioids, such as:

Sublocade can help a person's brain adjust to functioning without these drugs. It is typically one part of a treatment plan that also includes counseling.

Before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Sublocade in November 2017, buprenorphine was only available as a tablet or as a film placed under the tongue. Sublocade is an injectable form of the drug. Sublocade starts as a liquid, then turns into a solid gel, called a "depot," once it is inside the body.

Only a health care provider can legally administer Sublocade. It is injected in the abdominal area monthly, with at least 26 days between doses. This provides a slow, sustained release of medication throughout the month.

The typical dose of Sublocade is 300 mg per month for 2 months, then 100 mg for maintenance in future months. The amount can be increased to 300 mg again if the lower dose does not work.

Initial safety studies have found Sublocade to be comparably safe to other forms of buprenorphine. Side effects can include:

  • Constipation
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Increase in liver enzymes
  • Problems at the injection site

More serious side effects include:

  • Physical dependence
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Liver problems
  • Life-threatening respiratory distress
  • Fertility problems with long-term use
References
  1. Sublocade.com. Administration and storage. Undated. Available at: https://www.sublocade.com/hcp/buprenorphine. [Accessed January 21, 2021].
  2. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Sublocade: highlights of prescribing information. Available at: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2017/209819s000lbl.pdf.  [Accessed January 21, 2021].
  3. Sublocade.com. How Sublocade works. Undated. Available at: https://www.sublocade.com/how-sublocade-works. [Accessed January 21, 2021].
  4. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. FDA approves first once-monthly buprenorphine injection, a medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder. November 30, 2017. Available at: https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-approves-first-once-monthly-buprenorphine-injection-medication-assisted-treatment-option-opioid. [Accessed January 21, 2021].
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Opioids. Available at: https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/opioids. [Accessed January 21, 2021].
  6. Sublocade.com. Frequently asked questions. Undated. Available at: https://www.sublocade.com/frequently-asked-questions. [Accessed January 21, 2021].
  7. Sublocade.com. Sublocade treatment plan. Undated. Available at: https://www.sublocade.com/treatment-plan. [Accessed January 21, 2021].
  8. Andorn AC, Haight BR, Shinde S et al. Treating opioid use disorder with a monthly subcutaneous buprenorphine depot injection: 12-month safety, tolerability, and efficacy analysis. J Clin Psychopharmacol. May/Jun 2020;40(3):231-239. doi: 10.1097/JCP.0000000000001195.

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