Does disulfiram get you high?

No, you cannot get high on disulfiram. More here on how this medication works to stop people drinking.

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You can’t get high on disulfiram because the medication has no euphoric effect. Actually, it’s used in the treatment of chronic alcoholism. In fact, most people probably experience little physical or psychological effects (if they don’t drink alcohol) while taking disulfiram.

In this text, we review the details of disulfiram’s chemical composition, its use and usefulness as a pill in helping alcoholics abstain from drinking. Then, we invite your questions and comments in the section. We do our best to respond to legitimate questions with a personal and prompt reply.

Disulfiram chemistry and use

Disulfiram is sold by the brand name Antabuse. It is a white/off-white substance that has no odor and almost no taste. Disulfiram belongs to the group of drugs called “antidipsotropic medications”, which are anti-drinking medications. How and when it is used?

Disulfiram is used in cases of chronic alcoholism as a deterrent to drinking. When combined with alcohol, it produces side effects and reactions which are very severe and unpleasant; in brief, disulfiram works by making you sick to your stomach even if you consume small amounts of alcohol. The goal is to develop aversion to alcohol and help patients increase the number of sober days. To increase your chances of successful recovery, Antabuse can stay in your system for 1-2 weeks after last dose and will make you physically sick if you drink, even after you stop taking it.

Disulfiram and central nervous system effects

Scientists still haven’t concluded if disulfiram decreases the urge to drink directly, but it is known that it has some central nervous system (CNS) effects. Disulfiram inhibits enzyme dopamine ß-hydroxylase and affects the serotonergic function. Unlike other anti-drinking medications, it does not have a direct effect on the opiate, aminobutyric acid, or glutamate receptors.

How does disulfiram work in the body?

In normal conditions, when a person drinks alcohol, ethanol is metabolized to carbon dioxide and water. However, when you take disulfiram, the enzyme “aldehyde dehydrogenease” is inhibited and the metabolic chain of reaction is discontinued after acetaldehyde is produced. More specifically, disulfiram produces irreversible inhibition of the enzyme responsible for oxidation of the ethanol metabolite acetaldehyde. Blockage of the enzyme leads to accumulation of acetaldehyde in the system, and high amounts of the accumulated metabolite create the clinical disulfiram-alcohol reaction: vomiting and nausea.

Mixing disulfiram with other substances

Mixing disulfiram with alcohol is pointless, since the medication provokes uncomfortable vomiting. This is meant to prevent people from drinking alcohol completely. When alcohol is ingested by someone taking disulfiram, a number of unpleasant symptoms are provoked. Symptoms include:

  • drop in blood pressure
  • fainting
  • heart palpitations
  • intense flushing of the face
  • nausea
  • pounding headache
  • shallow and difficult breathing
  • vomiting

That is why all alcoholic beverages or alcohol-containing products should be avoided while taking disulfiram and for two (2) weeks after diulfiram therapy is discontinued. This is because disulfiram stays in the system for days after your take it.

Products that contain alcohol can include:

  • aftershave
  • amitriptyline
  • certain seizure medications (phenytoin or fosphenytoin)
  • cough and cold syrups
  • isoniazid
  • metronidazole
  • mouthwash
  • theophylline
  • warfarin or other “blood thinners”

…as well as food sauces, vinegars, tonics and many others. So, don’t forget to check the labels of products and be sure that all of your doctors are aware of all medications you are taking.

Disulfiram treatment for alcohol dependence

Although this medication promises many benefits, not all alcoholics can benefit from disulfiram use. In fact, disulfiram is only one option that can help alcoholics stay sober, and should be used along with addiction counseling sessions, self-help groups, treatment programs, and psychological approaches. To help you with decision making regarding disulfiram use, we outline all the pros and cons of disulfiram treatment for alcoholics, below:

+ PRO’s

1. Disulfiram use encourages sobriety and increases chances of abstinence.
2. It has been proven to be an effective deterrent from alcohol.
3. Disulfiram provides the extra motivation to stay sober when cravings occur.
4. It can create an aversion to alcohol.
5. It assists sobriety as a part of a complete addiction treatment program.

– CON’s

1. It doesn’t reduce or stop alcohol cravings.
2. There are possible drug-interactions with medicines containing the least amount of alcohol-containing.
3. Disulfiram interacts with alcohol-containing foods and everyday products.
4. The patient can stop taking disulfiram and start drinking after 2 weeks of discontinuation.
5. Disulfiram can cause side effects on it’s own (without the presence of alcohol).

Questions about disulfiram

Do you still have questions about how disulfiram affects the brain?

If you have any other questions or concerns, you can ask us for help by posting your comment in the section below. You can also share a personal experience with disulfiram treatment for alcoholism. We appreciate your feedback and try to answer all legitimate questions promptly and personally.

Reference Sources: Medline Plus: Disulfiram
NCBI: Incorporating Alcohol Pharmacotherapies Into Medical Practice: Chapter 3-Disulfiram
DailyMed: Antabuse-disulfiram tablet
PubChem: Disulfiram
CDC: OccupationalSafety and Health Guideline for Disulfiram
PubMed: Disulfiram therapy-adverse drug reactions and interactions
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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