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Antabuse – Can It Cure Alcoholism?

Many people are given detox medication during their addiction recovery to ease the withdrawal symptoms and streamline the process.

One of the main forms of detox medicine is Disulfiram, also known as Antabuse. But what exactly is Antabuse, and what does it do? And more importantly, can Antabuse alone cure alcohol dependency?

What Is Antabuse?

Disulfiram (brand name Antabuse) is a form of addiction medication for alcohol. It is a prescription aldehyde dehydrogenase inhibitor that can help you to overcome alcohol dependence.

Antabuse is an alcohol deterrent. It aims at preventing the urge to consume alcohol during AUD (alcohol use disorder) recovery. Disulfiram works by interfering with your body’s metabolic process. When you drink alcoholic beverages, your body ingests it into acetaldehyde. This toxic substance is the main cause of a hangover after binge drinking (for example, headache and dehydration).

When you take Antabuse, this metabolic process is disrupted – it prevents acetaldehyde from oxidising into acetic acid. This causes acetaldehyde to build up, so the levels are more than five times higher than what would usually be there after drinking. This essentially turns the ‘reward’ feeling you get when you drink into a negative feeling, working to reduce alcohol cravings by creating an unpleasant physical response.

The effects of Disulfiram can last up to a week. It is a sensitive drug that can detect even small amounts of alcohol – to the extent that even using mouthwash can cause unpleasant Disulfiram side effects.

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What Happens If You Drink Alcohol While Taking Antabuse?

Because Disulfiram is designed to deter you from drinking, you will experience a range of unpleasant side effects if you drink while taking it – even if you drink a small amount of alcohol.

For example, you may feel drowsy, feel unwell or throw up. Some other effects of Antabuse include:

You may notice these unpleasant effects within 10 to 30 minutes after drinking alcohol. It’s not just alcoholic drinks that you should avoid when taking this medication. Many common household items contain alcohol – for example, mouthwash and certain over-the-counter medications.

It’s important that you avoid anything that contains alcohol while taking Antabuse or you may experience unwanted side effects. Complete abstinence from drinking alcohol is always recommended when taking Antabuse.

Although a minor risk, Antabuse has been linked to liver problems – so make sure you only take Antabuse as prescribed, and discuss it with your doctor or a healthcare professional beforehand. Because Antabuse is long-lasting (lasts for up to a week), you may still feel the Antabuse side effects if you take the Antabuse on Monday and consume alcohol on the following Sunday.

The effects of Antabuse can be very unpleasant – but ultimately, it can help to break your alcohol dependence. By feeling negative effects when you drink alcohol, you’ll no longer associate alcohol intake with pleasant feelings.

How To Take Antabuse

You typically take Antabuse in the form of a tablet. You’ll typically be prescribed 250 mg or 500 mg. If it’s your first time taking the medication, you’ll usually be given a smaller dosage – however, this will often increase to 500mg if you have a severe form of alcohol use disorder.

You can either take Antabuse in the morning or in the evening. However, if you feel tired when taking it, then you may prefer to take it in the evening. Antabuse may cause an upset stomach. If this is the case, take it with food. If you don’t like taking tablets, you could crush them and add them to water to make them easier to take.

Before taking any prescribed medications, ensure that it’s not out of date – and always follow the instructions given by your doctor. This medication isn’t suitable for everybody, and it may have adverse effects if you’re taking other medications. Be sure to consult your doctor before taking Antabuse – especially if you are pregnant or considered ‘high risk’.

Avoid doubling the dosage if you miss a dose – just carry on taking it as normal if you miss a dose. Antabuse starts to act quite quickly – within just a couple of hours. Like any prescribed medicine, Antabuse can cause some side effects.

Can Antabuse Cure Alcohol Dependence?

Although Antabuse is an effective form of treatment for alcohol dependence, it is not a cure – breaking your addiction to alcohol requires hard work, determination, and patience. Unfortunately, as effective as Antabuse can be, there is no guarantee that taking Disulfiram will help your addiction. No medication alone can cure addiction.

Antabuse/ Disulfiram can be extremely helpful in the early stages of sobriety, and act as an aid to encourage you to stop drinking and avoid alcohol.

Research shows that long-term use of Antabuse is effective in helping people stay sober, with abstinence rates of 50%. The same research suggested that the longer you take Antabuse, the more effective it becomes – cementing your sobriety.

The effectiveness of Antabuse can vary from person to person – but it is considered to be much more effective with consistent and continued use of the medication.

Other Detox Medications for Alcohol Withdrawal

As we’ve established, no medication alone can cure alcohol addiction. However, certain medications can help to streamline the detox process.

A medical detox typically occurs in a medical environment such as a rehab clinic. You may be medically supervised by healthcare professionals, and given detox medication.

Acamprosate can help to relieve alcohol cravings by stabilising certain signals in your brain that are impacted during alcohol withdrawal. Acamprosate alters the GABA levels in your brain, ultimately easing the withdrawal process. It is usually given after you have detoxed from alcohol.

Taking Naltrexone can also help to relieve cravings – it is primarily used to help patients manage alcohol use disorder or opioid use disorder.

Detoxification works better as part of a larger treatment program involving therapy and secondary care. This is something we can help with at Help4Addiction.

How Help4Addiction Can Help You

Alcohol abuse and addiction can be difficult to deal with alone – which is why, at Help4Addiction, we can find you the right rehab clinic for you.

We are in contact with clinics around England and Wales that provide professional alcohol rehab to treat alcohol addiction – both NHS treatment and private treatment.

Our addiction experts can find addiction treatment for you on an inpatient basis at a residential rehab facility, as well as outpatient rehab. Chat with us today to discuss your treatment options, whether you’re looking for drug addiction treatment or alcohol treatment.

About Author

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV. He is the founder and CEO of a drug and alcohol rehab center called Help4addiction, which was founded in 2015. He has been clean himself since 2009 and has worked in the Addiction and Rehab Industry for over a decade. Nick is dedicated to helping others recover and get treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. In 2013, he released a book ‘The Thin White’ line that is available on Amazon.

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