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Uses and side effects of Antabuse medication



Antabuse is also known by the name disulfiram. A very unpleasant reaction occurs when a patient under disulfiram treatment ingests alcohol. Disulfiram plus even small amounts of alcohol produces flushing, throbbing in the head and neck, respiratory difficulty, nausea, vomiting, sweating, thirst, chest pain, blurred vision, and confusion. In severe reactions, there may be acute congestive heart failure, unconsciousness, convulsions, and death. The intensity of the reaction is generally proportional to the amount of disulfiram and alcohol ingested.

Disulfiram blocks the oxidation of alcohol at the acetaldehyde stage. During alcohol metabolism after disulfiram intake, the concentration of acetaldehyde occurring in the blood may be 5 to 10 times higher than that found during metabolism of the same amount of alcohol alone.


As an aid in the management of selected chronic alcoholic patients who want to remain in a state of enforced sobriety so that supportive and psychotherapeutic treatment may be applied to best advantage.

Used alone, without proper motivation and without supportive therapy, disulfiram is not a cure for alcoholism, and it is unlikely that it will have more than a brief effect on the drinking pattern of the chronic alcoholic.


Patients who are receiving or have recently received metronidazole, paraldehyde, alcohol, or alcohol-containing preparations such as cough syrups, elixirs, should not be given disulfiram. Severe myocardial disease or coronary occlusion; diabetes mellitus; hepatic cirrhosis or insufficiency; hypothyroidism; epilepsy; cerebral damage; chronic and acute nephritis; psychoses; and hypersensitivity to disulfiram or other thiuram derivatives used in the manufacture of items such as pesticides or vulcanized rubber.

SIDE EFFECTS of Antabuse

This medication may cause headache, drowsiness, restlessness, skin rash, acne, garlic-like aftertaste, changes in vision. Inform your doctor if any of these effects persist or worsen. Unlikely to occur but report immediately: tingling hands or feet, fatigue, weakness, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, strong stomach pains, dark urine, yellowing of the eyes or skin. If you notice other effects not listed above, contact your doctor or pharmacist.


  • You must not drink alcohol while you are taking this medicine, or for one week after stopping this medicine, as alcohol will cause the disulfiram reaction. Symptoms include flushing, a racing heartbeat, dizziness, headache, shortness of breath, palpitations, nausea and vomiting. The reaction can be potentially dangerous.
  • Certain foods, liquid medicines, remedies, tonics, toiletries, perfumes and aerosol sprays may contain sufficient alcohol to cause a disulfiram-alcohol reaction. You should also take care with low alcohol and "non-alcohol" or "alcohol-free" beers and wines, as these can also provoke a reaction when consumed in sufficient quantities.
  • If you get some of the symptoms of the disulfiram reaction, either from drinking alcohol, or from exposure to a certain amount of alcohol from sources such as those listed above, you should contact your doctor.

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