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Is Antabuse addictive?

NO. Antabuse is not an addictive medication.

It belongs to a group of medications called “antidisotropic medications” which are designed to have an anti-drinking effect. When taken in combination with alcohol, Antabuse produces severe and unpleasant reactions: lowered blood pressure, vomiting, and nausea. The main goal is to develop an aversion towards alcohol and help people suffering from chronic alcoholism quit drinking for good.

Read on to learn more, as we explore the issue of alcohol addiction and explain the mechanism of action of Antabuse and its usefulness in treating this disease. At the end, we invite your questions and comments.

What is Antabuse used for?

Antabuse – the brand name for disulfiram – was the first medication to be approved by the FDA for the treatment of alcoholism. It is prescribed to alcoholic patients and is meant to be used in conjunction with other types of treatments, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychotherapy, counseling sessions and support groups. It is used as an alcohol deterrent so that when you take Antabuse, you get physically sick if you drink alcohol.

Antabuse works by interrupting the normal alcohol metabolism in the body, resulting in increased blood levels of acetaldehyde and produces many negative effects. Some of the side-effects experienced from mixing disulfiram and ethyl alcohol include:

  • a drop in blood pressure
  • flushing
  • increased heart rate
  • nausea
  • sweating
  • vomiting

Medical professionals believe that these effects play an important role in preventing a relapse, thus promoting recovery and abstinence from alcohol.

What is Antabuse made of?

The active ingredient contained in Antabuse is disulfiram, which is an alcohol antagonist drug. Each Antabuse tablet is intended for oral administration only and contains 250mg or 500mg of disulfiram. Other ingredients present in Antabuse pills are colloidal silicon dioxide, anhydrous lactose, magnesium stearate, microcrystalline cellulose, sodium starch glycolate, and stearic acid.

Antabuse is not a controlled substance or listed in the Controlled Substances Act, simply because it has no euphoric properties. People who take Antabuse don’t develop dependence or addiction to disulfiram. Further, no withdrawal symptoms have been associated with discontinuing Antabuse.

Alcohol dependence and Antabuse treatment

Alcoholism is a specific type of addiction. A wide range of biological, psychological, socio-cultural, and spiritual reasons help us to understand why people become addicted to alcohol. Alcoholics have an impaired ability to limit alcohol use because they rely on alcohol to function normally and feel physically compelled to drink. Usually, they continue with their habit despite being aware of the harmful and dangerous consequences or long-term, chronic alcohol use. Antabuse makes drinking an extremely unpleasant experience and instead of getting all the good feelings from alcohol, only the toxic reactions of acetaldehyde (a metabolite of alcohol) are felt.

For many alcoholics in recovery, Antabuse has proven to be very helpful. Antabuse is effective in increasing the number of sober days and can help patients quit drinking successfully. However, this medication only deters patients from drinking; positive outcomes in sobriety greatly depend on an individual’s commitment to the recovery process and to continued change through behavioral and psychological therapies.

Antabuse questions? Leave them here

If you are curious about the treatment properties of Antabuse for yourself or for a loved one and would like to know more, feel free to ask us. You can post your questions in the section below the article and we’ll try to get back to you with a personal and prompt response. We also appreciate your feedback and would like to know about your experiences with this medication, if any.

Reference Sources: NCBI: Incorporating Alcohol Pharmacotherapies Into Medical Practice: Chapter 3-Disulfiram
Med Safe: Antabuse (disulfiram) Tablets-Data Sheet
Medline Plus: Disulfiram
NIDA: Alcohol-Treatment Medication May Help Reduce Cocaine Abuse Among Heroin Treatment Patients
LiverTox: Drug Record: Disulfiram
Daily Med: Antabuse-disulfiram tablet

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6 Responses to “Is Antabuse addictive?
2:25 pm April 16th, 2015

This is just a question that I’ve always wondered about due to my (past) many years of various drugs addiction. Let me give an example. Back in the day, when I was injecting heroin, you could have offered me anything, even methadone, to get me to stop and I would have turned you down. I imagine one has to have the internal conflict with themselves about why they are and what they hate about being addicted to alcohol in order for it to work, correct? If you don’t take it one day, can a person drink or does it’s effect last long enough to help prevent them from wanting to. As I said, I’ve always been curious about antabuse. Fortunately, I suffer from major hangovers so alcohol was never a problem for me. Sure, for a time I partied in bars like anyone else, but by my 30’s I just couldn’t take the hangovers anymore.


1:15 pm May 8th, 2015

Hi SR Brickman. Good question. 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. To keep the dose stable it is recommended to take a prescribed dose of Antabuse once a day, usually in the morning. After it’s half life is over and he medication is eliminated the drug won’t be effective anymore. But that’s why it is prescribed as a part of a structured addiction treatment plan.

3:19 am July 15th, 2016

Can antabuse be taken in shot form (time released)? Or is it pill form only. What is the approximate cost? Will it be covered by insurance. What reason would an insurance company deny? Or am I just being lied to?

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
2:35 pm August 5th, 2016

Hi Lynn. Antabuse are available as tablets of 250 mg and 500 mg. Antabuse is covered in some states, and you may find the list here: http://store.samhsa.gov/shin/content/SMA14-4854/SMA14-4854.pdf

9:59 am January 28th, 2017

In the US can you walk into any pharmacy and ask for Disulfiram without prescription?
Thanks Gill

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
6:21 pm February 10th, 2017

Hi Gillian. I suggest that you talk with your doctor or a pharmacist about Disulfiram prescription.

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