Antabuse



Antabuse, also known by its scientific name disulfiram, medication was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USDA) in 1951 for the treatment of alcoholism. Antabuse discourages a drinker's desire for alcohol by causing extremely unpleasant symptoms when a drink is taken.

Disulfiram was discovered by accident in 1947 at the Royal Danish School of Pharmacy in Copenhagen, Denmark, by Danish researchers Eric Jacobsen (1903-) and Jens Hald. The duo was studying compounds for possible use in treating parasitic stomach infections. One of the compounds was disulfiram. As was common among researchers at the time, both men took a small dose of disulfiram to check for possible side effects. At a cocktail party several days later, Jacobsen and Hald became very ill after having a drink. Because each man experienced the same symptoms at the same time, the researchers concluded that the disulfiram, triggered by the alcohol, was responsible for the illness. They quickly conducted a study to confirm their findings, publishing it the same year.

Antabuse disrupts the body's processing of alcohol in the liver. Normally, certain enzymes (proteins produced by living organisms) break down alcohol into acetaldehyde, while other enzymes break acetaldehyde down into acetate (a salt of of clear, colorless organic liquid). Disulfiram blocks the breakdown of acetaldehyde, resulting in a rapid rise of this chemical in the blood. A patient experiencing an disulfiram-ethanol reaction can develop a severe headache, difficulty in breathing, chest pains, vomiting, and a drop in blood pressure. Very rarely, the reaction can result in death. The severity of symptoms depends in large part on the amount of alcohol taken.

Ruth Fox, a New York City psychoanalyst, was the first American to use antabuse for the treatment of alcoholism. She began treating 50 patients with the drug in 1949, but had to reduce the dosage after her patients reported serious side effects. Fox cut the dosage and counseled patients on the severe reactions that could result from drinking. She found that antabuse was effective in deterring drinking among alcoholics and went on to treat about 2,500 patients with it. Today, approximately 200,000 people take antabuse daily in the United States. A 1980 study reported, however, that alcoholics taking antabuse could get a euphoric reaction if they consumed small amounts of alcohol, thereby conditioning them to continue their addictive behavior. More recent research has indicated that the drug is most effective for older patients who tend to relapse more frequently, and that the patient's motivation to take antabuse is very important to its effectiveness.



User Contributions:

Sue
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Jun 15, 2006 @ 11:23 pm
My husband also died of an overdose of alcohol and darvon. He wasn't on antabuse. This happened in 1975. I have known people that have taken antabuse and drank with it. It can be very dangerous as my brother in law's blood pressure dropped dangerously low. My personal opinion is that people shouldn't take it unless the drinking is killing them
JoeG
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Feb 3, 2009 @ 9:21 pm
My wife has been on antabuse for six days. Tonight she found a bottle of Vodka apparantly on a back shelf near the stove which I was unaware of. She drank two large swallows or about two ounces. She has been severely sick for four hours now. Vomiting, heart palpatations, drop in blood pressure, severe migrate and now shortness of breath. If she is not better in 30 minutes, I am calling an ambulance. For God's sake people, get ahold of your lives and quit drinking. It has ruined her life. If you are going to take antabuse and decide to drink, better be prepared for what happens.
Michelle
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Feb 18, 2009 @ 3:15 pm
I am rather young, but am having a very difficult time quitting. Though I don't want to, and I do something stupid, regrettable, or illegal and get myself into trouble every time I drink, I still do it. I have a very strong desire to stop drinking, because I know it is hurting me, and it'll only get worse. I have asked my doctors to put me on Antabuse for this reason. I think if the patient (this instance being me) knows the possible reactions and has a strong desire to quit despite the lack of ability to do so, they should be allowed to take this drug. It is one that each person must decide for themselves, and be very responsible about, but if it helps someone stop drinking in the end, it is a wonderful thing and possibly a lifesaver. I'm going to use it until not drinking and doing sober, fun activities is my norm again, and I feel no desire to drink. Until then, I fear the exorcist-like reaction! It's a healthy fear.
Victor
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Aug 19, 2009 @ 5:05 am
Hi Michelle - your situation sounds very similar to me - have you started taking it? Would you recommend? Im due to see my doc on friday to get a prescription...
Vic
Jeromo
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Nov 30, 2009 @ 4:04 am
antabuse helped me. But everyone shoul try to stop drinking without any medications
e-boy
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Jan 30, 2010 @ 9:09 am
I been taking it for almost 2 months, and if you are motivated enough to be honest with yourself then take it. I have been fine and it has helped with my completely irrational and impulsive decision-making that often lead to me drinking despite my efforts to quit. Just get in the habit of taking it the same time everyday. For example, take it first thing in the morning if your cravings tend to come around lunchtime, and you will not be able to. Go ahead and try drinking on it once; you'll NEVER do that again. Of course, a true addict will plan ahead enough to know when to stop taking your pills so that you can drink, but again, I say to you considering or already on it: Be honest with yourself!
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Jun 29, 2010 @ 5:17 pm
I HAVE BEEN ON ANTIBUSE SINCE the 28th of may .i am 33 and have struggled with alcohol all my life. its great for me i would never ever drink on it as am too scared .I cant believe anyone would drink on it what would be the point - u are likely to throw it up anyway and would feel ill and anxious for hours .It has enabled me to get my life back and be able to not worry about drinking and socialising. i WAS so sick of the constant battle with alcohol . i try so hard but always used to end up drinking . i AM a binge drinker and the binges got worse every time i went back to it. I now love going out and alcohol - i cant have it .its easy and brilliant.I know i would have drank by now .
it has saved my life
xxx
John
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Nov 28, 2010 @ 12:12 pm
Can you start taking Antabus today if you drank any alcohol yesterday ?
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Jan 2, 2011 @ 12:00 am
I have a friend who is an alcoholic/addict and on Christmas day I supervised him taking Antabuse in water. By lunchtime he was drinking alcohol with no other side effects other than red eyes and a headache. From what I have read of Antabuse on the net this seems to be a unique outcome although some people reprot feeling euphoric if they consume small amounts of alcohol whilst on this medication. I am thinking he needs a higher dosage of Antabuse. Any comments?
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Jan 11, 2011 @ 9:21 pm
I made a decision last night that I need antabuse. For all the thoughts, talk and trying to give up alcohol I always go back after 3 weeks or so. I have not been able to hold down a job due to my hangovers causing me to struggle to get through the day and function normally. I have been through 3 jobs in the last 6 months! Up until 2 days ago I have been drinking about 1 and half bottles of wine every night, sometimes with shots of spirits in between glasses to get a better “buzz” as my resistance has gone up so much to get the effect I like. Went to doctor today and I am getting liver, pancreas, kidney tests etc. tomorrow and then I want to start taking antabuse. I used to think this was a scary sounding thing to take, but now I know that even if there are side effects they can’t be any worse than what the amount of alcohol is doing to me physically and emotionally.
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Jul 1, 2011 @ 8:08 am
With rehab and Antabuse, my mom who drank for 30 years quit. She was given benzos too initially to avoid DTs, but I think a mild drinker probably doesn't need them. It stays in your body for days and possibly longer, so be serious about not drinking if you take it or you will be miserable. Definitely try quitting with will power first, but if that doesn't work, go talk to a doctor. Drinking gave my mom neuropathy, so she lives in constant pain. Alcohol will ruin your f'ing life folks, be serious about moderation or sobriety.
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Jul 7, 2011 @ 6:18 pm
I am a 26 year old musician, my alcoholic career has been going for 8 years now. When I stay away from alcohol I am in every way normal, respective, and stable living on my own contributions. I am married and want nothing more than to live a good life. I am sometimes more afraid of living a long life of misery than killing myself on a night of drunken madness. Ive been sober before and I built a wonderful life, I dont know why i threw it all away again. Quite the Dr. Jekyll Mr. Hyde. They are going to lock me up for being stupid for those few moments, all the good things i did before that doesnt count. Will this medication help me?
Robert
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Dec 1, 2011 @ 2:14 pm
The most unexpected benefit of antabuse is that, for me, it stifled cravings. On Antabuse, I don't think about alcohol very long. I might see someone at a restaurant having a glass of wine, but whereas that used to send my mind into a spiral of debating back and forth for hours on whether I should drink again, now (on Antabuse) I'll see the wine, crave it for about two seconds, then rememember that if I drink it I'll become violently ill. I've heard from enough people who have tried to drink on Antabuse to believe that it doesn't just cause a little bit of vomitting, but terrible sickness similar to food poisoning (which I've had and don't want to ever experience again).
Also, although the severe alcoholic like myself might decide to relapse and stop taking the drug for a week before drinking, at least the person on Antabuse is forced to premedidate a bender for a whole week. If at any point in that time the alcoholic like myself decides that maybe a relapse isn't such a great idea, going back on the Antabuse will prevent relapse. It takes serious thought and consideration about whether one wants to drink or not once you are on Antabuse. I love the medicine.
Mike
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Dec 2, 2011 @ 10:10 am
I have been on for 2 weeks now. I was an in between drinker. Never drank enough to be a menace or get myself sick and only wine, but a bottle an a half every day starting at 10am I knew was affecting my body not too mention my life after 12 years. I hate being sick, so that is why I never drank so much I would make myself sick, other than the occasional hangover when I did not drink enough water or lost sleep, but this also helped with Antabuse since I have no desire to be sick. I cannot say I crave alcohol being off it, but I will say that my body misses the habit. Antabuse will help me break the habit as I learn new habits. I am not sure how it would be if I craved it like many alcoholics, but like an earlier poster said, taking the drug does not do as much damage as taking the alcohol, so try it and get support.
Dee
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Dec 23, 2011 @ 1:13 pm
I started taking Antibuse about a week ago. I have 18 days clean and sober. I do think about alcohol a lot after I get off work. I work swing shift and sometimes nights and used to drink when I got home every night. Now, I just have a couple pieces of chocolate and a glass of milk and my cravings go away. The last time I drank, I overdosed myself on Xanex in a blackout and woke up in ICU, so, I simply cannot drink. Just remember, you need to be off alcohol for a while before you start taking it, I think 3 days or so. Ask your doctor.
mark
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Dec 25, 2011 @ 10:22 pm
Alcohol cost me my family, friends, career and finally my freedom when I got into legal trouble for the first time at the age of 48. I had been to detox, rehabs, counseling and finally prison. I got out of prison and drank. I went on Antabuse to not drink so I wouldnt do something stupid and get arrested and violate my parole, thus going back to prison. I have now been on it for 4 months and it has taken away my preoccupation with getting my next drink. I know I will get sick if I drink. Mine is monitored 3x weekly. I feel more relaxed just knowing I wont drink. People trust me again as they know they wont see the ugly person that comes out when he drinks. I get off of Antabuse in 3 days. Little anxious about that, but confident I have develope good habits now and am enjoying activities that I quit doing when I was drinking. Life is better. Do this if you are serious about stopping drinking so you can get you life back. If you plan to drink, dont do the Antabuse, way to dangerous. Good luck!
KC
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Mar 8, 2012 @ 4:04 am
I am supervising a friend taking antabuse and he already has "cheated" by hiding the pill in his cheek. I heard that putting the crushed pill in boiling or hot water/juice can diminish or eliminate its effect. Is this true?
Hazel
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Jun 11, 2012 @ 5:17 pm
This weekend I found out my perfect daughter has beem an alcoholic for atleast 7 years..I had NO clue . She is on Antabus now. Is this something she will be on forever or will she be weened off?
liz/geoff47
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Jun 27, 2012 @ 10:10 am
I've been on and off drink for more than 40 years. I find antabuse helps SO MUCH because it stops me thinking about alcohol, therefore there's no serious temptation to do it. I don't want to be SO ILL, and, believe me, I know about it. About 30 years ago, I left off my my antabuse for a couple of days (or 3? can't remember), then had whisky. I felt terribly ill, and also very depressed. This lasted from one evening till well into the next morning. I vowed I'd never do it again, and never have.
However, since then, I have had many long periods of drinking to excess, especially when my husband died 4 years ago. Living in the UK, it's not easy to get it (only by presciption after you've convinced a doctor {or two} that you need it, after waiting possibly several weeks).
I've started drinking early in the morning (sometimes 6 a.m), and continued all day, or for days. I've vomited, then instead of cleaning it up, poured another glass.
I can't really understand where the desire (irrational desire) for alcohol comes from. I know I'm building a good life (and good for ME, not just for my family, much as I love them); then the desire for booze seems to drop into my head from nowhere. Once it's 'dropped into my head', it seems there's nothing I can do - regardless of the harm, pain, regret, misery I know this is going to cause me and my family, to stop it.
So, the ONLY thing that's really helped so far is ANTABUSE.
I said 'so far', and that's correct. But, as a footnote, I've recently started doing transcendental meditation (having taken a 4 day course) and it's really helping. So I recommend it, very much, but TAKE ANTABUSE FIRST!
kevin
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Aug 26, 2012 @ 7:07 am
I've been antabuse for two weeks now and feel great iv been sobber for three month s I just want to know if it is safe to go jogging.
Joseph
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Oct 30, 2012 @ 11:11 am
Hi all, I have been taking antibuse for 26 days now and it's worked perfectly. ot so much as a sip due to the unhealthy fear of serious sickness. I've also noticed a significant reduction in the amount of time I think about drinking alcohol as I now know its not an option. I train 6 times a week MMA so Kevin providing you have no other health issues I would say taking antibuse wiont prevent you doing any exercise you want.
Good luck everyone. X

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