Opioid addiction

About opioid addiction

Opioid addiction is not a weakness, it's a disease.

Living with opioid addiction, also called Opioid Use Disorder (OUD), can leave people feeling trapped. That's because opioids "hijack" the brain and change how it normally functions and processes reward.

Knowing why quitting is so hard can help when you're ready to consider treatment. Learn how opioid addiction can be treated.

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Our brains are wired to seek reward.

When we do something we enjoy, like eating a delicious meal or having a good time with family and friends, a chemical called dopamine is released in our brains and we feel pleasure or a sense of reward.

Everyone's brain is wired to seek rewards. This is how we learn what makes us feel good, and what drives us to repeat naturally rewarding things.

Opioids change the brain

When someone takes opioids, dopamine is released. Opioids trigger a surge of dopamine, causing an increased sense of pleasure compared to “natural rewards.” The desire to either feel pleasure or avoid negative emotions becomes a powerful driver to take opioids again and again. Over time, things that were enjoyable natural rewards can’t compete with the effects of opioids.

This process impacts brain regions that oversee reward, decision-making, self-control, and learning. Together, all of these changes can make quitting seem out of a person's control.

The cycle of opioid addiction

Once the brain is hijacked, these 3 stages can keep people using opioids.


Taking opioids and feeling high, feeling relaxed, or escaping bad feelings.


Experiencing negative physical and emotional symptoms after stopping opioids.


An intense desire for opioids to experience pleasure or feel “normal.” This can become all-consuming.

Getting out of the cycle

While opioid addiction is a chronic disease, it’s possible to stop using illicit opioids and make positive changes in your life. Don’t give up.

There are medications for the physical symptoms, and counseling options to help with emotions and behaviors. Find out about treatment options.

You don't have to manage opioid addiction on your own. Treatment can help. Learn more about it and talk to a treatment provider.

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What is the most important information I should know about SUBLOCADE?

Because of the serious risk of potential harm or death from self-injecting SUBLOCADE into a vein (intravenously), it is only available through a restricted program called the SUBLOCADE REMS Program.

In an emergency, you or your family should tell the emergency medical staff that you are physically dependent on an opioid and are being treated with SUBLOCADE.

Buprenorphine, the medicine in SUBLOCADE, can cause serious and life-threatening problems, especially if you take or use certain other medicines or drugs. Call your healthcare provider right away or get emergency help if you:

These can be signs of an overdose or other serious problems.

Death or serious harm, including life-threatening breathing problems, can happen if you take anxiety medicines or benzodiazepines, sleeping pills, tranquilizers, muscle relaxants, or sedatives, antidepressants, or antihistamines, or drink alcohol during treatment with SUBLOCADE. Tell your healthcare provider if you are taking any of these medicines and if you drink alcohol.

SUBLOCADE is a controlled substance (CIII) because it contains buprenorphine that can be a target for people who abuse prescription medicines or street drugs.

Death has been reported in those who are not opioid dependent who received buprenorphine sublingually.

Do not use SUBLOCADE if you are allergic to buprenorphine or any ingredient in the prefilled syringe (ATRIGEL® Delivery System, a biodegradable 50:50 poly(DL-lactide-co-glycolide) polymer and a biocompatible solvent, N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone (NMP)).

SUBLOCADE may not be right for you. Before starting SUBLOCADE, tell your healthcare provider about all of your medical conditions, including:

Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins and herbal supplements. SUBLOCADE may affect the way other medicines work and other medicines may affect how SUBLOCADE works. Some medicines may cause serious or life-threatening medical problems when taken with SUBLOCADE. Know the medicines you take. Keep a list of them to show your healthcare provider and pharmacist each time you get a new medicine.

The doses of certain medicines may need to be changed if used during treatment with SUBLOCADE. Do not take any medicine during treatment with SUBLOCADE until you have talked with your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider will tell you if it is safe to take other medicines during treatment with SUBLOCADE.

You should not take anxiety medicines or benzodiazepines (such as Valium® or Xanax®), sleeping pills, tranquilizers, muscle relaxants, or sedatives (such as Ambien®), antidepressants, or antihistamines that are not prescribed to you during treatment with SUBLOCADE, as this can lead to slowed breathing, drowsiness, delayed reaction time, loss of consciousness or even death. If a healthcare provider is considering prescribing such a medicine for you, remind the healthcare provider that you are being treated with SUBLOCADE.

You may have detectable levels of SUBLOCADE in your body for a long period after stopping treatment with SUBLOCADE.

What should I avoid while being treated with SUBLOCADE?

What are the possible side effects of SUBLOCADE?

SUBLOCADE can cause serious side effects, including:

These symptoms may start weeks to months after your last dose of SUBLOCADE.

Your healthcare provider may do tests before and during treatment with SUBLOCADE to check your liver.

These are not all the possible side effects. Call your healthcare provider for medical advice about side effects.

To report pregnancy or side effects associated with taking SUBLOCADE, please call 1-877-782-6966. You are encouraged to report negative side effects of drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch or call 1-800-FDA-1088.


SUBLOCADE® (buprenorphine extended-release) injection, for subcutaneous use (CIII) is a prescription medicine used to treat adults with moderate to severe addiction (dependence) to opioid drugs (prescription or illegal) who have received an oral transmucosal (used under the tongue or inside the cheek) buprenorphine-containing medicine at a dose that controls withdrawal symptoms for at least 7 days. SUBLOCADE is part of a complete treatment plan that should include counseling.

For more information about SUBLOCADE, see the full Prescribing Information including BOXED WARNING, and Medication Guide or talk to your healthcare provider. For REMS information visit www.sublocadeREMS.com.