How long does Antabuse stay in your system?

Following a single dose Antabuse, the body may react to any amount of alcohol for up to 14 days. Plus, Antabuse can stay in the body for a long time. More on the metabolism and excretion if Antabuse from the system here.

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Reviewed by: Dr. Dili Gonzalez, M.D.

Antabuse (disulfiram) is an alcohol antagonist drug used in the management of chronic alcoholism. It one of a handful of medicines to help you stop drinking that has been designed to act as a deterrent to alcohol consumption. Antabuse works by making you feel physically nauseous, provoking vomiting if you drink. But how is disulfiram metabolized in the body? How long will it stay in your system?

Continue reading here to learn more about the use, mechanism of action, elimination, and possible side effects of Antabuse. If you have any questions after reading the text, we invite you to ask questions and share comments at the end of the page. We do our best to respond to all questions about what happens when you quit alcohol…personally and promptly.

Main Antabuse uses

Antabuse is prescribed for people who suffer from chronic alcoholism. It works as a deterrent to drinking by making you feel nauseous any time you consume alcohol. While not prescribed for people who want to try controlling their drinking, it is an excellent option for those who would like to abstain. How does it work exactly?

The main ingredient in Antabuse, disulfiram, produces an irreversible inhibition of the enzyme responsible for oxidation of the ethanol metabolite called “aldehyde dehydrogenase”. By blocking oxidation of alcohol and allowing the enzyme to accumulate in blood concentrations 5-10 times higher than normal, it produces a very unpleasant side effects if the person taking Antabuse also consumes alcohol. The disulfiram-alcohol reaction provokes the following number of unpleasant symptoms:

  • intense flushing of face
  • difficulty breathing
  • heart palpitations
  • pulsating headache
  • nausea
  • vomiting

Antabuse produces best results if/when used together with behavior modification, counseling sessions, psychotherapy, and when you have an adequate support system. It is not, however, a cure for alcoholism.

How Long do You Have to Take Antabuse?

Antabuse can be administered after at least 12 hours of alcohol abstinence. At the beginning of the course of treatment, Antabuse is usually taken only once a day, preferably in the morning, at a maximum dose of 500 mg. After the first 1-2 weeks of Antabuse treatment, patients are usually given a single daily dose of 125-500mg. The duration of Antabuse therapy may be several months (or sometimes even years), or simply until the patient has established a solid recovery from alcoholism and has established period of a long term sobriety.

What is the half-life of Antabuse?

Antabuse is slowly absorbed by the body. Likewise, it is also eliminated from the system at a very slow rate. Upon administration, about 80-90% of a single oral dose makes it into the blood system, while the rest are quickly eliminated. Disulfiram is metabolized in the liver and is excreted primarily through the kidneys, while some metabolites are exhaled as carbon disulfide. The half life of Antabuse is 60-120 hours and up to 20% of a single dose may remain in the body for a week or more.

Antabuse starts to affect ethanol metabolism within 1-2 hours after administration. Following a single dose of the medication, the body may react to any amount of alcohol for up to 14 days.

Antabuse drug testing: How long does Antabuse stay in the body?

Antabuse is not a narcotic and IS NOT subject to the legal restrictions of the Controlled Substances Act. But, doctors will probably be scheduling frequent blood tests if you are taking Anatabuse. Regular blood check-ups are important for monitoring the liver function and checking for side effects.

Note here that Antabuse (disulfiram) may also interfere with certain laboratory tests, including urine VMA/HVA tests. Since it can cause a false positive on drug test results, it is important that you notify the laboratory personnel and all your doctors that you are using Antabuse.

Antabuse Pill and Therapy

Antabuse tablets contain the active ingredient disulfiram, which is an aldehyde dehydrogenase inhibitor. This medicine is a tool to keep alcoholics away from drinking. If someone who is taking Antabuse drinks alcohol, a severe, unpleasant and potentially dangerous reactions occur quickly. This is achieved because disulfiram interferes with the way the body metabolizes alcohol.

It is important that Antabuse therapy is used in combination with other forms of therapy and good social and psychological support. After all, alcoholism is not only a drinking problem, it’s also a thinking and social problem. A recovering person needs to implement many new and positive changes in life, in order to remain alcohol-free.

Who should not have Antabuse in their system?

Some people may experience unwanted reactions to disulfiram (the active ingredient in Antabuse) that may require medical attention. If this medication causes any severe or persistent physical or mental problems you should notify your healthcare professional as soon as possible.

For safety reasons, Antabuse should not be administered by intoxicated patients, or if a person hasn’t abstained from alcohol for at least 12 hours. It shouldn’t be used by patients allergic to disulfiram or by pregnant women. Further, Antabuse should be prescribed and used with great caution in the populations who are diagnosed with:

  • cerebral damage
  • chronic and acute nephritis
  • diabetes mellitus
  • epilepsy
  • hepatic cirrhosis or dysfunction
  • hypothyroidism

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Antabuse questions about length in system

If you or a loved one are suffering from alcoholism and are looking for medications that can help you quit, Antabuse is one of several meds that can help. We suggest consulting your family doctor or a medical professional who specializes in addiction treatment to be screened for treatment.

If you have any questions, feel free to share them in the comments section below. Or if you are someone who succeeded in recovery with Antabuse, share your story with others. We appreciate your feedback and try to answer all legitimate enquiries in a personal and prompt manner.

Reference Sources: Sultan Qaboos University: Disulfiram
Medline Plus: Disulfiram
NCBI: Incorporating Alcohol Pharmacotherapies Into Medical Practice: Chapter 3-Disulfiram 
MedSafe: Antabuse (disulfiram) 200mg Tablets-Data Sheet
PubMed: The efficacy of disulfiram for the treatment of alcohol use disorder
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.
Medical Reviewers
Dr. Dili Gonzalez, M.D. is a general surgeon practicing women's focused medici...

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a licensed medical professional.

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