Is Antabuse Generic? Uses and Side Effects


Antabuse, also known as disulfiram, is a medication that can be prescribed to people who suffer from alcoholism to help them maintain sobriety from alcohol.

The medication works by causing unpleasant side effects when alcohol is consumed, thereby working as a deterrent.

In this article, we will cover what Antabuse does and how it works. We will also discuss the uses of disulfiram, as well as some common and more serious side effects you should be made aware of.

Let’s get into it.

What is Disulfiram (Antabuse)?

Antabuse is an FDA-approved medication that is prescribed to help people with alcoholism or Alcohol Use Disorder remain abstinent from alcohol after successfully undergoing medical detoxification.

It is a medication that must be prescribed by a doctor and taken at least 12 hours after you have stopped drinking.

The aim of the medication is to help people maintain sobriety from alcohol. The medication works by causing undesired effects if alcohol is consumed.

Although it is not considered a cure for alcoholism, it is designed to interrupt the reward system that occurs after someone ingests alcohol.

 Disulfiram is available in two doses and is taken as a tablet once daily. It is usually prescribed together with psychological treatments such as counseling and therapy.

Generic versions of the medication are sold at pharmacies and are cheaper than branded versions of the medication.

How Does Disulfiram Work?

When alcohol is consumed, disulfiram causes a reaction called the disulfiram-alcohol reaction which stops the full breakdown of alcohol in the body, resulting in a buildup of toxic byproducts in​​ the body.

This toxic product called acetaldehyde causes unpleasant side effects such as nausea, flushing, chest pain, dizziness/low blood pressure, and thirst in people who have consumed alcohol.

This stops the reward or positive feelings that are usually associated with drinking alcohol from being experienced and helps work with other tools to overcome addiction.

Disulfiram discourages alcohol use but does not treat alcohol cravings for alcohol or alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Because of this, it is not designed to be a cure for alcoholism but rather a tool that is used with other treatments such as therapy and group counseling sessions.

Uses of Disulfiram (Antabuse)

Antabuse is FDA-approved for people who suffer from Alcohol Use Disorder.

Once you have undergone medical detox and have not consumed any alcohol for at least 12 hours, you can be prescribed the medication.

Disulfiram can also be prescribed for cocaine dependence, though this is not a common use for the medication. Disulfiram is thought to help balance the levels of neurotransmitters thought to be involved in cocaine addictions.

The medication comes in a tablet form which can be taken with liquid, and crushed if necessary. It is available in two doses – either 250 mg or 500 mg – to be taken once a day.

Side Effects of Disulfiram (Antabuse)

Common Side Effects

There are some common, mild side effects that you may experience if you are taking the medication.

For most people, they are mild. However, it is important to report any serious adverse reactions to your healthcare professional.

These may include:

  • Headaches
  • Sleepiness
  • Metallic taste (halitosis)
  • Unpleasant side effects if accidentally taken with alcohol-containing products.

Antabuse can interact with other prescription medications along with recreational drugs such as cannabis and produce undesirable side effects.

It is important to avoid any medications that may contain alcohol such as cough syrups to avoid any unpleasant side effects.

It is also important to know that the medication will stay in your system for about 2 weeks.

This will mean that even if you have stopped taking the medication, you will likely experience unpleasant side effects if you ingest alcohol within this time frame.

Serious Side Effects

Although rare, there is a risk of some serious side effects, especially in people who have underlying health conditions.

Serious side effects include:

  • Hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) and hepatic impairment
  • Peripheral neuropathy (disease of the nerves in the extremities)
  • Dermatological side effects such as rash, potentially due to an allergic reaction
  • Psychosis, especially when taken with cannabis or other drugs
  • Chest pain and a risk of heart attack when taken with alcohol.

If you experience any symptoms, such as fatigue, weakness, yellowing of the skin and eyes, dark urine, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, chest pain, or abdominal pain, it is important that you seek medical advice.

It is also vital that you discuss any underlying health conditions with your doctor before being prescribed the medication, as these may increase the risk of serious side effects.

Your healthcare provider may ask to run some tests on you before prescribing this medication to make sure it is safe for you to take.

Final Thoughts

Generic Antabuse refers to the non-branded form of disulfiram, the medication used to deter people with chronic alcoholism from ingesting alcohol during​​​ their recovery process.

The medication works by causing unpleasant symptoms in people who use alcohol, encouraging people to maintain their sobriety.

It is important to be aware of the potential for side effects and to report any of these to your healthcare provider.

Like any medication, some people will find Antabuse a great tool while for others it may not be suitable for their needs.

It is important to discuss your options with your doctor before you start the medication, to ensure a successful recovery from addiction.


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