Does Antabuse help with alcohol cravings?

Yes and no. While Antabuse does not address cravings directly, it does make alcohol less attractive for problem drinkers. More on how Antabuse works for treatment of alcoholism here.

4
minute read

It is not clear.

Antabuse (disulfiram) can help decrease cravings for alcohol, albeit indirectly. Still, Antabuse’s effects on craving have not been specifically evaluated or evidenced in research. However, disulfiram has been shown to interfere with the metabolism of dopamine, potentially influencing the development of craving.

Here, we explore the science behind alcohol cravings and how can Antabuse help them. Then, we invite your questions about Rx use of Antabuse at the end.

What is an alcohol craving?

An alcohol craving is an extreme desire to drink that can be physical and/or mental. People who are physically or psychological addicted to alcohol can experience cravings for weeks, months, or years after drinking patterns change. Why is this?

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But keep in mind that as you change a drinking pattern, it’s normal and common to have urges or a craving for alcohol. The words “urge” and “craving” refer to a broad range of thoughts, physical sensations, or emotions that tempt you to drink, even though you have at least some desire not to. You may feel an uncomfortably pull in two directions even experience the sense of a loss of control.

Over time, and through practicing new responses, you’ll find that your urges to drink will lose strength, and you’ll gain confidence in your ability to deal with urges that may still arise at times. If you are having a very difficult time with urges, or do not make progress after a few weeks, then consult a doctor or therapist for support.

How can Antabuse help with alcohol cravings?

Antabuse is used to treat chronic alcoholism and is primarily prescribed as an alcohol deterrent. It causes unpleasant effects when even small amounts of alcohol are consumed. These effects begin about 10 minutes after alcohol enters the body and last for 1 hour or more. People taking Antabuse tend to avoid alcohol to prevent the highly unpleasant symptoms it causes. In fact, Antabuse can reduce the desire to drink or lessen the rewarding effect of drinking so it is easier to stop.

How does Antabuse work?

Antabuse interferes with the metabolism of alcohol via the liver, permitting a toxic breakdown product of alcohol to accumulate in the bloodstream. Alcohol consumption following disulfiram treatment results in unpleasant symptoms, such as:

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  • difficulty breathing
  • flushing
  • headache
  • nausea
  • palpitations
  • vomiting

As an adjunct to psychosocial therapy, disulfiram may decrease the quantity and frequency of drinking among recovering alcoholics, but the medication does not appear to increase the proportion of patients who maintain total abstinence. While Antabuse is not a cure for alcoholism, it can discourage drinking.  Antabuse’s effects on craving have not been specifically evaluated. However, disulfiram has been shown to interfere with the metabolism of dopamine, potentially influencing the development of craving.

While Antabuse is NOT A MAGIC PILL , it can help you maintain sobriety in the treatment of chronic alcoholism and is most effective when taken in conjunction with supportive and psychotherapeutic measures.

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Antabuse prescription for alcohol cravings treatment

Antabuse is prescribed as as a white to off-white, odorless, and almost tasteless powder, soluble in water to the extent of about 20 mg in 100 mL, and in alcohol to the extent of about 3.8 g in 100 mL. Each tablet for oral administration contains 250 mg or 500 mg disulfiram, USP.

But keep in mind that Antabuse is not for everyone. Prescription of Antabuse will depend on your personal preferences and goals. Some suggest that you try the medicine for 3 months at first and then your doctor may recommend that you stay on it for a year or longer if the treatment is working. Be flexible and work with your doctor to achieve your goals.

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Antabuse can help alcohol cravings or it may not

Studies concluding that disulfiram is effective in treating alcohol use disorders frequently emphasize the circumstances in which it is administered to people. In particular, the level and quality of supervision a person receives while taking Antabuse are believed to be important elements in its success.

Optimum Antabuse effectiveness requires its use in a specialty substance abuse treatment program. One study suggests that Antabuse might be more effective in promoting short-term abstinence and treatment retention after detoxification than in preventing long-term relapse.

Some experts dismiss Antabuse as a viable treatment option, particularly in primary care settings. This conclusion is based on mixed results with Antabuse in clinical trials and the severe adverse effects that may result from the Antabuse-alcohol reaction, as well as concerns about other potentially serious side effects and “problems with compliance”. The capacity to arrange ongoing supervision of disulfiram ingestion may be limited in a primary care setting.

Antabuse help with alcohol cravings questions

Do you have additional questions about Antabuse as a help aid for alcohol cravings? Feel free to leave them in the comments section below and we will try to answer you personally and promptly.

Reference Sources: NIAA: Handling urges to drink
MedlinePlus: Disulfiram
NIH: Medications and Alcohol Craving
Dailymed: ANTABUSE- disulfiram tablet
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.

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  1. I fell into a habit of drinking about 8 years ago after a succession of several horrific life events. I persuaded my GP to prescribe me disulfiram as I was also being supported with counselling. I didn’t feel comfortable going to Addaction as I work in the public sector and it could have made things very difficult. I wanted to try detox in my own home. That was 5 months ago now and I can easily walk past the wines and spirits aisle without the need to purchase a bottle. I have had moments within the 5 months where life has been very challenging but my immediate ‘go to’ is no longer alcohol, in fact I don’t even think about it now. I’ve also rediscovered my love of art and have been painting when I need to de-stress. Anyone who is having doubts about trying disulfiram I urge you to strongly consider it. I’m a much happier person because of it.

  2. Hi I am coming of librium on Friday and my gp is not prescribing antibuse they are saying it has to be a addiction nhs doctor and not a gp is this correct

  3. I find antebuse does stop my craving or wanting to drink. I take them for a couple of days. Then 2 weeks down the line I go on a binge again? How can I get over this?

    1. Hi Linda. Have you considered enrolling into a rehab program? I suggest that you call the helpline on the website to speak with a trusted treatment consultant.

  4. I’ve been a chronic drinker for fifteen years. I’ve only been sober for 8 months once. I finally convinced a doctor to give me this medicine and so far I’m impressed. It’s only been two weeks but I don’t have the thought/obsessions like I have had in the past and I actually walked by a pub and didn’t salivate or feel bitter that I couldn’t drink. I pray that this works because my drinking is landing me in jails and institutions. The only thing left is death.

  5. I’m taking the medicine because it takes 21 days to to form a habit and that’s all I’ve gotten into is a habit in the cold dead of the winter I come home and have one to three drinks a night by the fireplace it about once every six months I do five drinks and then I have a horrible hangover and then I don’t do any for two weeks. I thought you know, I’ll do like 30 days without alcohol and just see if that helps! That’s how I quit smoking just didn’t associate it with alcohol anymore because I had a boyfriend that did not want me to smoke or have a drink together and he did not over drink! So there you have it I’ll let you know my progression here I’m not going to AAA not yet anyway!

    1. Hi Lisa. Thank you for sharing your experience. Let us know of your progress and feel free to ask anything of you need help along the way. I wish you much success and peace!

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