What is Disulfiram?

Disulfiram is more commonly known by the name Antabuse. It is a preventative measure designed to help those who are recovering from alcohol addiction, and aid them in attempting to avoid relapse. Research is also currently being carried out into using Disulfiram for cocaine dependence.

How does Disulfiram work?

Disulfiram comes in tablet form. If alcohol is used in conjunction with Disulfiram, then a short time after the alcohol is consumed, the person will begin to experience adverse effects similar to that of a hangover. This is because Disulfiram prevents the body from processing alcohol. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, and severe headache. The idea behind Disulfiram is to prevent the person experiencing the pleasurable effects of alcohol and cause them to feel the negative effects, therefore increasing the desire to maintain sobriety.

DisulfiramWho would benefit from taking Disulfiram?

Disulfiram should only ever be used as a preventative measure – it does not reduce cravings in any way. It should be viewed as an additional safety net for those who are already receiving professional alcohol detox support for their alcoholism. It is important to remember that Disulfiram only works if the person chooses to take it and so it is unlikely to work in people who are not motivated to maintain sobriety. There are also some individuals on whom Disulfiram has no effect, or minimal effect, and so it is not suitable for everyone. Disulfiram would not be suitable for those with existing medical conditions such as liver damage, high blood pressure or heart conditions.

Is it safe to take Disulfiram?

As with any medication, there can be side effects to taking Disulfiram (other than the intentional effects mentioned previously). These include drowsiness, headache and a metallic taste in the mouth. In some cases, there have been reports of seizure, jaundice and liver damage. It is always worth discussing the medication with your doctor before making a decision about whether it is right for you. If a decision is made to prescribe, the doctor should arrange regular check-ups to monitor progress.

How can I be prescribed Disulfiram?

This would normally only be prescribed by doctors who specialise in addiction and alcohol detox. The first step would be to see your GP who can then refer you to someone who can help, whether that is the local drug and alcohol team or an addictions psychiatrist.