Amid the ongoing battle against opioid abuse in the United States, some public health officials have pointed Sublocade as the new FDA-approved silver of light medication for opioid treatment. Opioid addiction affected more than 2.5 million people in 2015, the most recent year figures were available, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine. Public health officials worry that the data are still higher, as addiction to opioids including heroin and prescription painkillers continues to rage out of control in many communities.
What is Sublocade™ (Buprenorphine Extended-Release)
Sublocade is the first extended-release monthly injection for the treatment of moderate to severe opioid use disorder. On November 30, 2017, the Food and Drug Administration announced its approval of a new tool for opioid treatment: sublocade, a monthly injection to treat opioid abuse. Although this medication promises to be a long-term opioid treatment, many addiction experts are concerned that it represents a continuation of the problem.Sublocade is not a new addiction fighting molecule. Instead, it is a new formulation of the medication buprenorphine, which has been available to treat opioid addiction for years. Buprenorphine is also in other applications, such as an implant or a dissolvable film. Now, sublocade allows people recovering from opioid addiction to receive a monthly injection of buprenorphine. This long-acting formulation has been seen, as one more tool added to treating providers’ arsenal against opioid addiction and abuse.
What Is Buprenorphine?
Buprenorphine is a semi-synthetic opioid molecule that is similar to the opioid molecules derived from poppies. Also, the drug is a partial opioid agonist that has a high affinity to opioid receptors in the brain and throughout the body. An agonist drug means that primarily, buprenorphine molecules bind tightly to receptors, knocking competing molecules (such as opioids from heroin or prescription painkillers) from the sites.
Sublocade ™ Recommendations
Doctors often recommend Sublocade for adults who have been on a stable dose of buprenorphine treatment for at least one week. The prescription could include the tablet or film versions of buprenorphine. After the 7-day period, patients can begin to receive their monthly injections of sublocade.
Why Sublocade ™ can be an Ineffective Long-Term Strategy for Opioid Dependence
Although there has been much enthusiasm surrounding the FDA approval of sublocade, it is important to understand; this is not a miracle drug. This drug can additionally present challenges for those individuals wishing to become opioid-free. The effects of buprenorphine are similar to those of more potent opioids, although they are lower in intensity. Thus, buprenorphine does not “cure” opioid addiction; instead, it replaces opioids drugs with another opioid medication that causes less euphoria.
The drug also has a lower potential for misuse, and risk of physical dependence. Soblocade is designed to provide a long-acting form of buprenorphine to individuals struggling with opioid addiction. However, this also means that it effectively replaces one source of opioid dependence with another. Rather than being dependent on heroin or prescription painkillers, individuals will develop a physiological dependence on buprenorphine instead. This short-term treatment strategy can have long-term consequences. This drug might prevent individuals from undergoing detoxification and receiving the lasting opioid freedom they need.
Unfortunately, sublocade is likely to join other forms of buprenorphine (e.g., tablets, suboxone film) as a contributor to opioid dependence. Unlike more efficient types of treatment, sublocade replaces merely one form of dependence with another. Although the effects of buprenorphine may be milder than heroin or potent synthetic opioids, the drug is not without risks. At the Waismann Method, we frequently see patients who are struggling with dependence on suboxone or other formulations of buprenorphine. The emphasis on opioid maintenance therapies such as sublocade rather than true detoxification and recovery is troubling.
A Better Solution: Medical Detoxification for Opioid Dependence
Instead of relying on sublocade to address opioid addiction, many addiction experts agree that full detoxification is the first step before undergoing additional treatment. Detoxification is the process by which the body becomes free of opioid molecules. This process, allows the body to “reset” before undergoing further treatment. Because detoxification can be challenging for your body, triggering a cascade of withdrawal symptoms, it is best to experience detox in a medically supervised setting. A place like a hospital sets the stage for a successful detox, after which point behavioral therapy and other interventions can begin and address the psychological and emotional factors underlying the addiction.
The Waismann Method offers individualized detoxification treatment protocols based on individual health factors. Operating in a full-service hospital, the Waismann Method places patients first. By understanding the unique physical, emotional, and psychological factors perpetuating your opioid addiction, our professional treatment team works with you to come up with a treatment plan that makes sense for you. We offer rapid detox protocols that include anesthesia-assisted detoxification as well as other medical detox procedures. Additionally, our supportive aftercare allows you to focus on your physical and mental health recovery, facilitating lifelong sobriety.