Does Antabuse help with alcoholism?

Antabuse (disulfiram) can help during alcohol recovery and prevent relapse by making it really uncomfortable when you drink. More here on how Antabuse helps treat alcoholism, with a section at the end for your questions.

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Antabuse (main ingredient disulfiram) blocks an enzyme that is involved in metabolizing alcohol intake. Disulfiram produces very unpleasant side effects when combined with alcohol in the body. So, when you take Antabuse and drink…you get pretty sick. How, does this effect address alcoholism?

In this article, you’ll learn more about the use of Antabuse in alcohol addiction treatment and how it helps. Then, we’ll invite your questions at the bottom of the page. In fact, we try to respond to all legitimate questions with a personal and prompt reply.

What is alcoholism?

Alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder, occurs when your drinking causes serious problems in your life, yet you keep drinking. You may also need more and more alcohol to feel drunk, as known as increased tolerance for alcohol. Stopping drinking suddenly may cause withdrawal symptoms in people who are alcoholic. But at its heart, alcoholism is a chronic brain disorder which is usually treated by total abstinence from drinking.

How can Antabuse help with alcoholism?

Disulfiram, the main ingredient found in Antabuse, was the first medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat chronic alcohol dependence. Disulfiram, an alcohol-aversive or alcohol-sensitizing agent, causes an acutely toxic physical reaction when mixed with alcohol. Antabuse is prescribed as a way of making drinking less rewarding and, as a result, increasing periods of non-drinking time among alcoholics.

Continuing research and clinical findings have clarified disulfiram’s mode of action and established its safe and effective use in the treatment of alcohol use disorders in some patient groups. It helps with alcoholism by making drinking less appealing, and deterring drinking for a period of time. The idea is that when you take Antabuse, you are also working with a psychotherapist to identify WHY you drink. Resolving the critical traumatic, emotional, and psychological issues which compel drinking can help you reamin sober over the long term.

Antabuse prescription for alcohol treatment

The medication(s) you use for the treatment of alcoholism will depend on your doctor’s judgment and your personal preferences and goals. Be prepared to try a medicine for at least 3 months, although your doctor may recommend that you stay on the medication for a year or longer if the treatment is working. But as each medicine has a different mechanism of action and your response may be better to one type of medication than another, be flexible and work with your doctor to achieve your goals.

In its pure state, disulfiram is a white to off-white, odourless, almost tasteless powder, which is soluble in water and alcohol. Each tablet of Antabuse prescribed for oral administration contains 250 mg or 500 mg disulfiram. Tablets also contain colloidal silicon dioxide, lactose anhydrous, magnesium stearate, microcrystalline cellulose, sodium starch glycolate, and stearic acid.

Antabuse can help alcoholism or it may not

Disulfiram is not suitable for everyone and some people should never use it. Other people should only use it with special care. It is important that the person prescribing this medicine knows your full medical history. Your doctor may only prescribe this medicine with special care or may not prescribe it at all if you:

  • are allergic, sensitive to, or have had a reaction to any Antabuse ingredients
  • are underage
  • have a personality disorder
  • have brain damage
  • have diabetes
  • have epilepsy
  • have had a stroke
  • have high blood pressure
  • have hypothyroidism
  • have kidney problems
  • have liver problems
  • have lung problems
  • have or have had heart problems
  • have or have had thoughts of committing suicide
  • have been diagnosed with psychosis

As part of the process of assessing suitability to take this medicine a doctor may also arrange tests to determine whether or not the medicine is suitable and whether it must be prescribed with extra care.

Over time, it is possible that disulfiram can become unsuitable for some people, or they may become unsuitable for it. If at any time it appears that disulfiram has become unsuitable, it is important that the prescriber is contacted immediately.

Antabuse help with Alcoholism questions

Are you unsure about alcohol treatment with Antabuse and would like more information? Do you have information or expertise on other ways to help alcohol withdrawal? Please leave a question or comment below and we will do our best to answer your question personally and promptly.

Reference Sources: MedlinePlus: Alcohol use disorder
NCBI: Disulfiram
MedlinePlus: Disulfiram
Dailymed: ANTABUSE- disulfiram tablet
NIAAA: Medications To Treat Alcoholism
Pubchem: Disulfiram
NHS: Disulfiram (Disulfiram 200mg tablets)
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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