Does Antabuse Work? Results & What To Expect


Antabuse is an FDA-approved medication used to treat chronic alcoholism. It is designed to help people abstain from alcohol use whilst in recovery. However, does it really work?

In this article, we will explain exactly how Antabuse was designed to help people maintain abstinence from alcohol, as well as if it’s really as useful as people say it is.

We’ll cover what the side effects are, and what you should know before taking the medication. Read on to learn more about:

  • What Antabuse is used for
  • Whether Antabuse works and how effective it is
  • How Antabuse works
  • Potential risks and side effects of Antabuse.

Let’s get into it!

What is Antabuse Used For?

Antabuse can be prescribed by a medical professional to help maintain sobriety from alcohol.

Its main action is to help people who suffer from alcohol use disorder to abstain from alcohol by making the experience of drinking unpleasant.

It works as a deterrent and can be prescribed to:

  1. Individuals with alcohol dependence who have detoxification from alcohol
  2. Those who have difficulty maintaining abstinence from alcohol
  3. People who are motivated to stop drinking but struggle with relapse
  4. Individuals in a structured treatment program for alcohol addiction, including people in rehabilitation centers.

It is also less commonly used in the treatment of cocaine dependence, as it is thought to stabilize neurotransmitters involved in cocaine addiction.

Does Antabuse Work? Effectiveness of Antabuse

Antabuse is not considered a cure for alcoholism and chronic alcohol dependence, and is often used alongside behavioral theories that target the root cause of alcoholismto help people recover.

However, studies have found that the abstinence rate is higher amongst people who used Antabuse regularlycompared to those who did not.

While the rate of alcohol consumption was lower for these people, the studies found that it only worked if people regularly took the medication.

Studies have also found that people taking Antabuse have a higher rate of alcohol abstinence compared to people who take other medications for the treatment of alcohol abuse, including Naltrexone.

How Antabuse Works

Antabuse contains an active ingredient called Disulfiram.

When taken as a medication, Disulfiram works by stopping the full breakdown of alcohol in the bodyand results in the build-up of a toxic substance which causes unpleasant side effects. This is called the disulfiram-alcohol reaction.

While the medication is in your system, even small amounts of alcohol result in the build-up of this toxic byproductcalled acetaldehyde.

This results in a severe reaction which creates uncomfortable side effects such as nausea, flushing, chest pain, heart palpitations, dizziness, a drop in blood pressure, and thirst.

Antabuse therefore works as an alcohol deterrent and helps to break the cycle of alcoholism by making the act of drinking an unpleasant experience.

While this discourages alcohol use, it does not work to treat alcohol cravings or alcohol withdrawal symptoms and is not considered a cure for alcoholism.

Antabuse is best taken as part of a comprehensive treatment plan for Alcohol Use Disorder that includes therapy and group counseling sessions.

Potential Side Effects and Risks of Antabuse

Like any medication, there are risks of side effects when taking Antabuse.

If alcohol is consumed whilst taking Antabuse, the conversion of alcohol into acetaldehyde can cause serious adverse reactions.

The accumulation of this toxic metabolite can cause serious potentially serious and unpleasant effects, such as:

  1. Flushing and excessive sweating
  2. Nausea and vomiting, resulting in dehydration
  3. Headaches
  4. Dizziness
  5. Fast heartbeat, irregular heart rhythms, and chest pains
  6. Low blood pressure
  7. Shortness of breath
  8. Anxiety and mental confusion
  9. Liver toxicity.

It is important to avoid alcoholand alcohol-containing products such as mouthwash and cough syrup in order to avoid these side effects.

The medication will also remain in yoursystem for 2 weeks after you stop taking it.

This means that if you consume alcohol at any point 2 weeks after you stop taking Antabuse, you will likely experience these unwanted side effects.

There are other side effects that you should be aware of before taking the medication. If you experience any of the following symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention promptly:

  • Headache
  • Sleepiness
  • A metallic taste in your mouth
  • Hepatitis
  • Psychosis if used with cannabis
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Dermatitis, and skin rashes
  • Dark urine.

Final Thoughts

Antabuse is a prescription medication that is designed to act as an alcohol deterrent.

While it is not considered a cure for alcoholism by itself, studies have suggested that it is effective in helping to reduce alcohol consumption rates during recovery.

Alcoholism is a complex disease that often takes multiple approaches to treat.

Behavioral therapies and psychological support are often some of the most useful tools to use alongside medication as they help to treat the root cause of addiction while supporting people to manage cravings and triggering environments.

If you are considering Antabuse treatment, it is important to discuss it with a healthcare professional.

They will help guide you on the right treatment path and can run tests and discuss the pros and cons of Antabuse before prescribing the medication.


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