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.

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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?

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:

  • 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.

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.

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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