Does Antabuse Work For Alcohol Treatment?

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Disulfiram, more popularly known under the brand name Antabuse, is a physical and psychological deterrent designed for use in conjunction with other forms of treatment and support. Antabuse is shown to be effective when the individual is focused on recovery and would like the additional physical deterrent.

How Antabuse Works

Normally when someone drinks, alcohol is metabolized by their body resulting in a toxin known as acetaldehyde. This metabolic result is responsible for those hangover symptoms following a night of drinking. After the body begins metabolizing alcohol into acetaldehyde, it oxidizes it into acetic acid, which has no adverse effect on the body, so while hangovers are uncomfortable, symptoms do not worsen.

With Antabuse, this oxidation process is halted, so the toxic acetaldehyde builds in the system resulting in an exponentially accelerated onset of progressively more severe symptoms. Any alcohol in the system can result in very displeasing and uncomfortable symptoms including severe headache, vomiting, and heart palpitations.

Aversion or Deterrent Therapy

Antabuse has been in use since the 1930s when the drug was being tested as a method to rid the body of parasites. The side effects when combined with alcohol use were stumbled upon, and soon after doctors began prescribing the drug to people suffering from alcohol addiction.

Unfortunately, the drug was given as a sole means to stop drinking and those abusing alcohol, continued to drink while on the drug. After several deaths were reported in the 1950s, a shift in focus from utilizing the drug to stop the behavior, to treatment plans that included the drug in conjunction with counseling and support began to emerge.

Side effects from drinking while on Antabuse include:

  • Severe headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Accelerated heart rate
  • Dizziness
  • Low blood pressure

The more someone drinks while on Antabuse, the more severe the symptoms, and if in excess, the combination can be lethal.

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Increasing the Chance of Success

Today, Antabuse offers extra protection against relapse. Though study results appear mixed, success does appear to depend on multiple factors including length of use, dedication to recovery, support, and how people are taking the drug.

Those individuals who use Antabuse long-term have shown greater sobriety success rates around 50%. Habitual sobriety emerges as those accustomed to thinking about the negative side effects of alcohol, reinforce the positive habit of not drinking.

Those who have seen successes with Antabuse take the drug when they are least likely to want a drink, like in the early morning. Later, if they have an urge to drink, they’re leveraged to recall the deterrent of harsh side effects and it’s easier to turn away alcohol.

Education is also important. Someone taking Antabuse should be aware of the drug’s impact and moreover, of its delayed response. Onset of severe symptoms can appear anywhere from five to 30 minutes. If the latter, a person who has chosen and continued to drink during that period may experience significant and even dangerous side effects.

Time to Focus on Sobriety

Studies indicate Antabuse acts as an effective tool in helping people who are ready for recovery deal with alcohol cravings and remain focused on sobriety. Though cravings aren’t specifically altered by the drug, the deterrent quality of the consequences of drinking while on Antabuse can redirect attention toward turning to a support person or other aspect of the individual’s treatment plan for additional help, thereby increasing that person’s chance for success.

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If you or someone you know is ready to seek help for their alcohol addiction, is here to connect you with a treatment facility or service that is right for you. Please contact us and begin that journey toward recovery today.

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