Disulfiram and Alcohol Disulfiram Treatment Explained

Alcohol abuse is a widespread and challenging health concern, requiring effective treatment options. One such treatment that has gained attention is Disulfiram (Antabuse), a medication designed to deter individuals from consuming alcohol.

In this comprehensive article, we delve into the history, mechanism of action, efficacy, administration, potential side effects, and various aspects of Disulfiram treatment for alcohol abuse.

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What is Disulfiram?

Disulfiram (Antabuse) is a medication designed to support individuals in overcoming alcohol abuse. It belongs to a class of drugs known as alcohol sensitizers. Its primary function is to interfere with the body’s ability to metabolize alcohol.

Prior to its use as a medication for alcoholism, it was first used in the medical field for its antiparasitic properties. In 1949, medical professionals first used Disulfiram to treat alcohol dependence.

How Does Disulfiram Work?

The active ingredient in Disulfiram inhibits the enzyme responsible for breaking down alcohol. Consuming alcohol causes a buildup of acetaldehyde in the bloodstream, leading to a range of unpleasant side effects.

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While Disulfiram can be an effective tool in the treatment of alcohol abuse, it comes with its share of side effects. Individuals considering Disulfiram treatment need to be aware of these potential side effects. Seek immediate medical attention if any serious reactions occur.

Disulfiram / Antabuse Side Effects

Common Side Effects

Common side effects include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and skin rashes. These can occur when even small amounts of alcohol are consumed during treatment.

Severe Reactions

More serious side effects such as difficulty breathing, chest pains, and seizures can also occur when taking Antabuse.

Other Serious Side Effects

In rare cases, other serious side effects may occur, which are:

  • Liver damage (including yellowing of skin or eyes, and dark urine)
  • Depression
  • Psychosis
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Vision problems

Despite its potential side effects, Disulfiram offers several benefits in the treatment of alcohol use disorders.

Disulfiram creates a powerful aversion to alcohol by causing unpleasant side effects and discouraging future alcohol consumption.

Disulfiram can assist in reducing alcohol cravings, providing individuals with a better chance of maintaining sobriety during their recovery journey.

Studies show disulfiram can significantly reduce relapse rates when taken consistently and combined with other treatment elements.

Abstinence from alcohol can lead to numerous health benefits such as:

  • Improved liver function
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduced risk of chronic illnesses

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Understanding potential interactions is essential when considering Disulfiram treatment. This drug can interact negatively with various substances, so it’s crucial to be cautious when taking Disulfiram.

Consuming Disulfiram and alcohol triggers a severe disulfiram-alcohol reaction which causes unpleasant side effects within 30 minutes. This reaction can be critical and requires immediate medical attention. People taking the drug should avoid drinking alcohol or using:

  • Beverage products that contain alcohol
  • Alcohol-containing products (mouthwash, dental products, etc.)
  • Alcohol-containing medications (cough syrups, tonics, etc)

Some medications such as benzodiazepines (anxiety meds) and antibiotics (Metronidazole) can interact with Disulfiram, leading to serious side effects.

Food like sauces, vinegars, and cooking extracts may contain small amounts of alcohol which can interact with the drug.

Patients in contact with or breathing in vapors from paint, paint thinners, varnish, and other industrial products containing this compound are also at risk.

Taking Disulfiram

Patients taking Disulfiram should be diligent about checking ingredient labels and consulting with healthcare professionals about potential interactions. The medication requires a period of abstinence from alcohol before starting the treatment to avoid adverse reactions.

It is recommended to wait at least 12 hours after the last alcoholic beverage before taking Disulfiram. Ideally, individuals should abstain for 14 days before starting the medication.

In terms of dosage, a common prescription is 500 mg dose of Disulfiram daily. This dosage has shown efficacy in supporting sobriety and minimizing alcohol cravings.

Is Disulfiram Addictive?

No, Disulfiram is not considered addictive in the traditional sense. Taking the drug doesn’t cause a physical dependence or withdrawal symptoms from chronic alcoholism. However, it is still important to take the drug as instructed by medical professionals.

Disulfiram or Antabuse is not an overall cure for alcoholism. It is a part of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes rehab, counseling, and therapy.

For those considering Disulfiram as part of their treatment plan, finding a reliable and experienced healthcare provider is crucial. Treatment facilities specializing in alcohol use disorders often have professionals who can prescribe and monitor Disulfiram therapy.

If you are residing in Arizona, you may consider our comprehensive treatment program in Scottsdale for alcohol abuse. Let our addiction specialists help you find the support you need. Contact us today and start your journey to sobriety!

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  • According to a 2018 study, using Disulfiram in alcohol recovery treatment has shown an abstinence rate of more than 50% when combined into a treatment program.
  • Around 200,000 people receive Disulfiram prescriptions to treat alcohol dependence.