Disulfiram Treatment: Disulfiram Medication For Alcoholism

Alcoholism, a pervasive issue affecting millions worldwide, demands effective treatment approaches. Embarking on the journey to overcome alcohol addiction requires the right tools and strategies. One such valuable approach is Disulfiram treatment.

Disulfiram, known by its brand name Antabuse, is one of the few FDA-approved medications that are used to treat alcohol abuse and dependence. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the details of Disulfiram treatment for alcohol use disorder, shedding light on its mechanisms, benefits and more.

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Disulfiram and Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol addiction, or alcoholism, is a chronic disease characterized by the inability to control or stop drinking despite negative consequences. This disorder affects people physically, mentally, and emotionally, often leading to a range of health problems and impaired social functioning.

What is Disulfiram Used For?

Disulfiram, commonly known by its trade name Antabuse, is a medication used as part of a comprehensive alcohol addiction treatment program, which may include counseling, support groups, and behavioral therapies.

How Does Antabuse Work?

Antabuse or Disulfiram operates by inhibiting acetaldehyde dehydrogenase, a key enzyme in alcohol metabolism. When someone taking Disulfiram consumes alcohol, the accumulation of acetaldehyde leads to a range of unpleasant side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, headache, and palpitations. This aversive reaction serves as a deterrent, discouraging individuals from drinking alcohol while undergoing treatment.

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Mild nausea and vomiting

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Metallic taste in the mouth

drug abuse results to allergic reaction

Skin rashes

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Sexual dysfunction

Severe Side Effects of Disulfiram


Disulfiram can rarely cause confusion, hallucinations, and other psychotic symptoms. This is more likely to happen if you have a history of mental illness.

Liver Damage

Although rare, disulfiram can cause liver damage. Tell your doctor if you experience any signs of liver problems, such as fatigue, yellowing of the skin or eyes, dark urine, or abdominal pain.

Severe Allergic Reactions

In rare cases, disulfiram can cause a severe allergic reaction, such as hives, swelling of the face or throat, or difficulty breathing.

Is Disulfiram addictive?

No, Disulfiram itself is not addictive. It doesn’t produce the same kind of euphoria or craving associated with addictive substances. People taking disulfiram typically do not develop a physical dependence on the drug.

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Screening and Assessment

Before starting Disulfiram treatment, it is important to undergo a thorough screening and assessment. During this stage, medical professionals conduct evaluations to address all concerns. This include medical history, pre-existing conditions (diabetes, kidney disease, etc.) alcohol use patterns, and potential contraindications to the drug.

Initiating Disulfiram Prescription

Doctors will prescribe Disulfiram to patients under strict medical supervision. They will also educate patients on potential side effects and severe reactions. The initial dosage may be lower and increase gradually based on individual needs and tolerance. The maximum daily dose for the drug is 500 mg.

Monitoring and Adjusting Dosage

Doctors schedule regular follow-up appointments to monitor the progress and assess any side effects. Monitoring patient progress helps adjust dosage for optimal treatment of alcohol addiction.

Abstinence From Alcohol

To avoid the disulfiram-alcohol reaction, individuals are instructed to abstain from all forms of alcohol up to 14 days after stopping the medication. If alcohol is consumed while taking Disulfiram, the following symptoms can occur within 10 to 30 minutes:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Flushing
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty breathing

Supportive Therapies

Disulfiram treatment is often combined with behavioral therapies, counseling, and support groups to address the psychological aspects of alcohol addiction. When combined into a comprehensive treatment plan, it becomes more effective in in long-term alcohol abuse management.

How long does Disulfiram stay in the body?

Disulfiram itself has a relatively short half-life. This means half of the drug is eliminated from your body within a certain timeframe. The drug’s half-life is around 7.3 hours. So, if you take a single dose, it will take roughly a day and a half for half of it to be eliminated.

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Aside from alcohol, Disulfiram can interact with several other substances, potentially causing serious reactions.

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Alcohol-Containing Medications

Certain medications, such as cough syrups, tonics, and liquid forms of over-the-counter medications, may contain alcohol. This also include some topical preparations like creams or lotions.

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Mouthwash and Dental Products

Mouthwash and some dental products contain alcohol. Individuals on Disulfiram should use alcohol-free alternatives to avoid the risk of a reaction.

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Some Food Products

Cooking extracts and condiments (soy sauces, vinegar) may contain small amounts of alcohol. Other fermented food ingredients may also contain alcohol traces.

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Aftershave and Perfumes

Some personal care products, such as aftershaves and perfumes, may contain alcohol. Opt for alcohol-free alternatives instead.

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Other Medications

Some drugs like Warfarin, Metronidazole, and Metformin can interact with Disulfiram. This can affect its effectiveness and may lead to severe side effects.

Can you drink while taking Disulfiram?

No, you should never drink alcohol while taking Disulfiram. Doing so can trigger a severe and potentially dangerous disulfiram-alcohol reaction. Avoid all alcohol, including even small amounts, while taking Disulfiram.

Disulfiram stands as a valuable tool to fight alcohol addiction and is used to help people maintain sobriety. By following your doctor’s instructions and avoiding alcohol, you can help ensure its safe and effective use in your recovery process.

If you or someone you know is seeking alcohol addiction treatment, Scottsdale Detox is here to help. Our team of addiction specialists can help provide treatment options that are suitable for you. Remember that seeking help for alcohol addiction is a positive and courageous step.

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