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Using Antabuse (Disulfiram) To Treat Alcoholism

According to the National Institute On Alcohol Abuse And Alcoholism, alcohol abuse has become a major problem across the country. They estimate that 16.3 million Americans over the age of 18 abuse alcohol, with only 1.5 million receiving specialized care. Many of those receiving care are receiving doses of Antabuse, otherwise known as disulfiram, to treat their addiction.

What is this substance and how does it help a person fight off the symptoms of alcoholism? Understanding Antabuse, its effects on your body, and the way it helps assist addiction treatment is crucial to gaining a life free from the dangers of alcohol addiction.

Understanding Antabuse

Antabuse is a medicineUsing Antabuse (Disulfiram) To Treat Alcoholism Metabolization that combats the symptoms of alcoholism by blocking the metabolization of alcohol in your body. Basically, when you take Antabuse, your body will be unable to process alcohol and you will suffer from negative side effects. The idea here is to make it impossible to drink and to force a person away from the substance. It’s a kind of behavioral adjustment technique, one that associates alcohol use with negative emotions and sensations, rather than positive ones.

This is important as many people who suffer from alcoholism continue to drink because they associate drinking with positive behavioral rewards. For example, they won’t suffer from negative withdrawal symptoms if they continue to drink and they may feel more “social” and “open” when drinking. Antabuse is designed to break that positive mindset by creating an unpleasant and physically repulsive feeling when you drink.

That said, Antabuse is not designed as a “cure” for alcoholism and must be paired with other treatment methods, such as psychological assessment and physical health treatments. A person taking Antabuse must also make a serious commitment to quitting and must take their Antabuse regularly for it to continue working. There are several important considerations you must make when using this medicine:

  • Avoid using mouthwash, cough medicine, and any other substance that has alcohol
  • Wait at least 12 hours after your last drink before taking Antabuse and don’t drink for at least two weeks after your last dosage of Antabuse
  • Don’t take Antabuse if you suffer from liver disease, kidney problems, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, seizures, if you have a history of psychosis, or have an allergy to rubber
  • Never pair Antabuse with tuberculosis medicine or blood thinners
  • Pregnant women shouldn’t take Antabuse
  • Children under the age of 18 should not take Antabuse

These concerns, as well as the effects caused by Antabuse, make it only appropriate for extreme cases of alcohol addiction. People who have a mild alcohol use disorder or who binge drink but are not addicted should stay away from Antabuse. It is typically only used in cases when a person has failed all other treatment methods and needs something stronger to help them stay sober.

Effects Produced When Taken

When you take Antabuse, you aren’t going to feel anything from it until you drink alcohol. At that point, a series of effects will take place that will be very uncomfortable. It may take up to 30 minutes for these symptoms to occur, but when they do, you’ll know it. The effects will vary depending on how much alcohol you consume. Drinking five to 10 milligrams of alcohol will cause mild effects and at 50 milligrams, you’ll experience the full effects of the medication.

Unfortunately, if you are to drink 125 to 150 milligrams of alcohol during that half-hour period, you are likely to fall into an unconscious state. Thankfully, it’s highly unlikely that a person on Antabuse will be able to consume such high levels of alcohol in such a short time. However, it is important to understand the potential for this type of negative reaction. A better understanding of proper Antabuse dosage has also made severe effects like unconsciousness increasingly unlikely.

Using Antabuse (Disulfiram) To Treat Alcoholism Antabuse Effects

Effects you are likely to feel when drinking alcohol while taking Antabuse include:

  • Sweating
  • Flushed skin on the chest and face
  • Pain in the back and neck
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Temporary vision problems (blurring)
  • Racing heart
  • Excessive thirst
  • Bad breath
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety

Typically, one adverse reaction with alcohol and Antabuse will be generated in you in order to give you an idea of what to expect from it. Obviously, it will be done in a controlled environment and with a very small dosage. Even this will likely cause many of the symptoms mentioned above, giving you a view into what will happen should you decide to drink while on Antabuse. This might seem scary, but it is often necessary in cases of extreme addiction.

Effectiveness Of Treatment

The effectiveness of Antabuse has been tested multiple times, including in a study published by the Journal of The American Medical Association. In this study, they tested a variety of Antabuse dosages in 605 randomly chosen men who suffered from alcohol addiction. They received a variety of counseling methods and were screened every two months for a year. These screenings included interviews with friends and family members and urine analyses.

Their findings were interesting: they discovered that “There was a significant relationship between adherence to drug regimen and complete abstinence in all groups. We conclude that disulfiram may help reduce drinking frequency after relapse, but does not enhance counseling in aiding alcoholic patients to sustain continuous abstinence or delay the resumption of drinking.”

Using Antabuse (Disulfiram) To Treat Alcoholism Alcohol Abuse

What does this mean? Basically, they found that Antabuse often worked best as a relapse prevention method. It didn’t necessarily stop people from taking their first drink again after recovery (or relapsing), but had a definite effect on the halting of the relapse. It cut relapse time down to an absolute minimum and made it easier for people to maintain abstinence and sobriety after that initial drink.

Other studies of this type have resulted in similar results. Antabuse has been used for decades as a treatment for advanced alcohol addiction and is likely to stick around a long time. Understanding the exact treatment method to expect with Antabuse is worthwhile, as it can help you decide if it is right for you or someone you love.

Treatment Method With Antabuse

When you go through Antabuse treatment, you will also be going through the process of rehabilitation, which includes withdrawal treatment and psychological assistance. This helps build up your will to quit abusing alcohol and teaches you coping mechanisms that will ensure you stay sober. Antabuse will work with these treatments to create a comforting and relaxing environment in which you can recover.

You will receive doses of Antabuse that will keep you from turning to alcohol and, when you leave recovery, you will be prescribed it for several months. Aftercare with Antabuse can last six months to a year and is designed to give you a strong supporting hand in sobriety. By the time you finish rehab, you will likely have little to no interest in ever turning to alcohol again.

However, relapses can occur and with Antabuse, they’ll be almost impossible to maintain for very long. The first drink will make you sick to your stomach and make it impossible to continue drinking. The really nice thing about Antabuse is that it stays in your system for close to two weeks. This means you’ll continue to feel that sickly feeling when drinking even if you haven’t taken Antabuse in several days.

As a result, relapses are likely to be very short lived. Bouncing back from these unfortunate experiences will be easier on Antabuse, helping give you the help you need to stay sober. When you finally stop taking Antabuse, you’ll be in a situation where you’ll have been off alcohol for over a year and will have little incentive to continue drinking. Your body will also remember the negative feelings associated with drinking when on Antabuse, making it physically repulsive to drink again.

Get Help Today

Antabuse is a substance that can help many people beat addiction. That said, it’s not something that is appropriate for all people. Please talk to your doctor before taking this medicine and any other replacement treatments during your rehabilitation. They will screen you to ensure that your body can handle it.

Reach out for help overcoming addiction.Please contact us at today. Our experts are waiting to help you learn what you need to know about beating addiction and regaining a sober lifestyle. Help is just a phone call or an e-mail away and we know we can assist you in achieving your dreams.


Sources – Antabuse
National Center For Biotechnology Information – Incorporating Alcohol Pharmacotherapies Into Medical Practice
The Journal Of The American Medical Association – Disulfiram Treatment of Alcoholism
National Institute On Alcohol Abuse And Alcoholism – Alcohol Facts And Statistics
Science Direct – Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry