Disulfiram (Antabuse)

Disulfiram is commonly known by its Antabuse brand name. This medication is effective in the treatment of alcohol use disorders. When you take it, it can discourage your continued alcohol abuse.

Understanding Disulfiram (Antabuse)

Disulfiram was the first drug that received FDA - Food and Drug Administration - approved for treating alcohol dependence, abuse, and addiction. The drug was discovered accidentally in the 1930s after rubber industry workers found that they became sick every time they drank alcohol.

At the time, they were dealing with the tetraethylthiuram disulfide chemical in the industry. Later in the 1940s, Disulfiram started being prescribed for stomach ailments. Patients who were on this drug found that they also became sick whenever they took alcohol. From then, research studies were conducted. They all confirmed that Disulfiram could not be combined with alcohol.

The FDA officially approved Disulfiram for use in treating alcoholism in the country in 1951. At the time, the drug would be prescribed in high doses. However, these doses often caused severe reactions - some of which proved to be fatal. As a result, the recommended dosage was lowered and the drug started being used as an effective medication to support alcohol abstinence and recovery. Today, Disulfiram (Antabuse) is manufactured by PLIVA in the United States and distributed across the globe by Odyssey Pharmaceuticals.

Disulfiram Uses

When it first got on the market, Disulfiram was typically given to patients who were trying to overcome their alcohol use disorders. These patients ended up suffering such adverse symptoms that they stopped drinking alcohol altogether.

Today, this is no longer the case. However, addiction treatment programs often educate their patients on what could happen if they continued drinking the substance while they are on a regimen of Disulfiram.

If you have been put on this drug, it is also important that you are closely monitored and that you receive ongoing counseling and therapy. This combination of medication assisted treatment and evidence based therapy could provide you with the most effective and successful outcomes in your long term recovery.

But how does Disulfiram (Antabuse) work? Essentially, when you ingest alcohol, it will be converted into acetaldehyde before being turned into acetic acid. The Disulfiram medication can block this last conversion of acetaldehyde into acetic acid.

As a result, you will experience an upsurge in the volumes of acetaldehyde in your system. This chemical is toxic to the human body, and this is why you are going to become sick.

This is because it will cause you to suffer some unpleasant side effects if you ingest even trace amounts of the substance. A few minutes after drinking alcohol when you are on Disulfiram (Antabuse), you will suffer any of the following adverse effects:

  • Abnormal heartbeats
  • Anxiety
  • Blurred vision
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Flushing
  • Headache
  • Heart attack
  • Hyperventilation
  • Hypotension
  • Impaired vision
  • Liver failure
  • Low blood pressure
  • Mental confusion
  • Nausea
  • Palpitations
  • Problems breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Tachycardia
  • Thirst
  • Vertigo
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness

However, Disulfiram does not work in the treatment of alcohol withdrawal. Similarly, it cannot reduce your cravings for alcohol. Instead, it is effective in stopping you from drinking in the future - because you will be aware of the adverse effects of consuming alcohol while you are on this medication.

Even so, it is recommended that you continue taking Disulfiram on a regular basis. By so doing, you will ensure that your metabolic cycle will continue so that it can reduce your desire to consume alcohol.

Disulfiram Dosage

When you are enrolled in an alcohol addiction treatment program and doctors prescribe Disulfiram (Antabuse), they will typically recommended that you take oral pills of this medication once a day.

The drug comes in the form of a tasteless and odorless pill that is whitish in color. It is also available in both 500 mg and 250 mg tablets - but it is recommended that you do not exceed a daily dose of 500 mg of it.

You should also not take Disulfiram for a minimum of 12 hours after you have consumed alcohol. Further, you need to inform your pharmacist and doctor about all the drugs that you might be taking. This is because some of them might have traces of alcohol that could interfere with Disulfiram. Examples of these medications include:

  • Coumadin
  • Dilantin
  • Elavil
  • Every nonprescription drug
  • Flagyl

When you are on Disulfiram, about 80 to 95 percent of it will be slowly absorbed by your gastrointestinal tract before it is filtered through your body. About 20 percent of the rest of the drug will be eliminated from the system.

The elimination of this medication from the human body tends to be gradual. This means that Disulfiram can stay in your system for about 14 days, give or take. To this end, if you take alcohol during this period, you might experience some negative interactions and effects.

Disulfiram in Addiction Treatment

When you combine Disulfiram with a comprehensive addiction treatment program, it can prove useful in your long term recovery. It can also reduce your risk of relapse especially if you have ever experienced any of the adverse effects of drinking while you are on this medication.

You can also continue with your doses of Disulfiram (Antabuse) but under medical supervision and until you achieve full physical stability and are able to sustain your alcohol abstinence in the long term.

At the moment, there is no defined timeframe for long term Disulfiram use. However, this timeframe is currently known to go on for close to 2 years according to reports released by SAMHSA - the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Even after Antabuse has been discontinued, you can still restart it even briefly. This could prove useful in ensuring that you are able to avoid even the riskiest relapse situations that you find yourself in.

The main goal of Disulfiram (Antabuse) is to ensure that you suffer such adverse symptoms when you drink alcohol that you are completely dissuaded from trying to combine alcohol with this drug ever again. When used alongside other evidence based therapies, Disulfiram can prove effective in helping you overcome your alcohol abuse and addiction in the long term.







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