Antabuse (disulfiram) was the first drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence. It is an effective deterrent because it causes an extremely unpleasant reaction if a person drinks alcohol while taking Antabuse...
How Antabuse works
When you drink alcohol, your body converts it to acetaldehyde, a very toxic substance that causes many of the hangover symptoms that occur after heavy drinking. Under normal circumstances, your body will continue to oxidize acetaldehyde to acetic acid, which is harmless...
Antabuse disrupts this metabolism. It prevents the oxidation of acetaldehyde to acetic acid and causes the formation of acetaldehyde that is five to ten times higher than what would normally be present after drinking alcohol...
How Antabus can influence you
The high concentration of acetaldehyde that occurs when someone drinks while taking Antabuse causes a very unpleasant reaction. The severity of symptoms, which can range from mild to severe, depends on how much antabuse and how much alcohol is consumed. The symptoms last as long as there is alcohol in the body...
Antabuse starts to work about 10 minutes after alcohol enters the body and can last for an hour or more.
If you drink alcohol while taking Antabuse, the following symptoms may occur:..
- do the washing up
- Profuse vomiting
- Throbbing in the head and neck
- a headache
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain
- Tachycardia (fast heartbeat)
- Hypotension (low blood pressure)
- Syncope (loss of consciousness)
- Obvious discomfort
- Blurred vision
Serious reactions can include respiratory depression, cardiovascular collapse, myocardial infarction (heart attack), acute heart failure, loss of consciousness, arrhythmias, convulsions, and even death...
Who should use Antabuse?
Only someone who wants to try to stop drinking and who is fully aware of the consequences of drinking while taking antabuse should ingest it. Due to possible severe reactions, Antabuse should not be given to anyone with severe heart disease, psychosis, or an allergy to Antabuse...
Antabus should never be given to anyone without his knowledge and consent, nor should it be given to anyone who is drunk.
Pregnant women should not take antabuse. Because there are multiple drug interactions, anyone taking antabuse should consult their doctor before taking any other prescription or nonprescription medication...
What you should know before taking antabuse
When taking antabuse, it is important to avoid sauces, vinegars, and all foods and beverages that contain alcohol. While you are taking Antabuse, do not drink alcoholic beverages (including wine, beer, and drugs containing alcohol such as cough syrup) for 12 hours before first taking it and for a few weeks after you stop taking the drug...
What Antabuse doesn’t do
Antabuse acts as a physical and psychological deterrent for someone trying to stop drinking. It does not reduce the person’s cravings for alcohol, nor does it treat any alcohol withdrawal symptoms...
Antabuse is not a cure for alcoholism. it only advises against drinking. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use or addiction problems, contact the National Drug Abuse and Mental Health Authority (SAMHSA) helpline at 1-800-662-4357 Information about support and treatment facilities in your area.
You can find additional mental health resources in our National Helpline Database.
How effective is Antabuse?
The effectiveness of Antabuse in stopping alcohol consumption depends on continued use of medication. Since antabuse is given in a daily pill, people can simply stop taking the medicine and start drinking a few weeks later.
However, in Europe, where antabuse is much more widely used than the US, research has shown that long-term use of antabuse is very effective in helping people stop drinking and achieve a 50% abstinence rate. Research found that the longer a person takes antabuse, the more effective it is because they develop a habit of not drinking...