Is Antabuse safe?

Antabuse is a prescription medication intended for the treatment of alcohol dependency. Read more about how to take it safely here.

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Yes, Antabuse is a safe medication.

Antabuse is the brand name of the generic medication called “disulfiram”, which is used to treat chronic alcoholism. Doctors prescribe Antabuse as a part of a complete alcoholism treatment and recovery program that features psychological support, behavioral counseling, and other treatments.

But what are the safe and recommended dosages of Antabuse? Are there any serious side effects from using it? Continue reading to find the answers here. Then, we invite your questions regarding the safe use of Antabuse in the end section. In fact, we try to answer ALL legitimate inquiries personally and promptly.

Antabuse safety

Continuing research and clinical findings have established its safe and effective use in the treatment of alcohol use disorders (AUDs). Basically, this medication works as a deterrent from alcohol consumption by causing unpleasant effects…even when you drink small amounts. While Antabuse does not target the craving to drink directly, making drinking unpleasant can help you keep away from alcohol while you’re concentrating on recovery.

What does it do, exactly? The adverse effects of disulfiram in the body include:

  • anxiety
  • blurred vision
  • breathing difficulty
  • chest pain
  • choking
  • flushing of the face
  • headache
  • mental confusion
  • nausea
  • sweating
  • vomiting
  • weakness

Effects occur about ten (10) minutes after alcohol enters the body and last for one (1) hour or more. You need to keep in mind that Antabuse is not a cure for alcoholism and works by discouraging drinking. For these reasons, only alcoholic patients who are motivated to abstain from drinking and who are undergoing supportive psychotherapeutic treatment in addition to a full alcoholism rehab program are good candidates for Antabuse.

Antabuse may cause side effects and you should tell your doctor or seek immediate medical help, especially if they are severe or do not go away. Seek medical help if Antabuse seems to trigger:

  • acne
  • drowsiness
  • impotence
  • metallic taste or garlic-like taste in the mouth
  • mild headaches
  • skin rashes
  • tiredness

Also, if you experience any of the following symptoms while you are on Antabuse therapy – Call your doctor immediately:

  • dark urine
  • excessive tiredness
  • lack of energy
  • loss of appetite
  • upset stomach
  • vomiting
  • weakness
  • yellowing of the skin and/or eyes

How much Antabuse is safe to take?

The initial dosage is 4 x 200mg tablets (800mg total) daily for 2-3 days. For maintenance doses, your doctor may recommend that you reduce by 200mg daily until a daily dose of 100-200mg is attained. Still, even high doses of Antabuse (up to 6 g daily) are relatively nontoxic in humans (only take as prescribed and instructed by your doctor).

Antabuse should be taken for six (6) weeks to six (6) months as required. Your doctor should do a review on the therapy effectiveness before you are continued on a longer term basis.

What happens in cases of taking too much Antabuse?

There is no specific therapy for acute overdosage with Antabuse and general symptomatic and supportive measures should be managed and maintained for as long as necessary. Symptoms of Antabuse overdose include:

  • apathy
  • ataxia
  • convulsions
  • hallucinations
  • headache
  • irritability
  • loss of consciousness
  • motor restlessness
  • psychosis
  • vomiting

Antabuse safety instructions

To avoid experiencing side effects and to make the most out of this specific type of alcoholism therapy, your doctor will most likely direct you to:

  1. Completely abstain from alcohol for at least twelve (12) hours before Antabuse treatment is initiated.
  2. Avoid drinking for up to two (2) weeks after discontinuing Antabuse. The medication may remain in the body and cause a reaction to ingested amounts of alcohol.
  3. Take Antabuse preferably upon waking up in the morning. Those who experience a sedative effect, may need to take it before a nap or bedtime. Alternatively, to minimise the sedative effect the initial dosage may be reduced.
  4. Antabuse comes in tablets that should be taken by mouth, once a day. For safe use, you need to follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand.
  5. Do not take Antabuse in larger or smaller doses or more often than prescribed by your doctor.
  6. If you cannot swallow the tablets, crush them and mix the medication with water, coffee, tea, milk, soft drink, or fruit juice.
  7. Avoid sauces, vinegars, and all foods, beverages, supplements, and vitamins that might contain alcohol.

How to use Antabuse safely?

Drug manufacturer and FDA warnings suggest that you do not drive a car or operate machinery until you know how this drug affects you. Note that this drug can make you drowsy. Before taking Antabuse you should also follow these special precautions:. Tell your doctor if:

  • you are allergic to disulfiram or any other drugs.
  • you are having surgery, including dental surgery.
  • you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding
  • you have or have ever had diabetes, thyroid disease, epilepsy, brain damage, or kidney or liver disease.
  • you take prescription and nonprescription (over-the-counter and herbal) medications, especially:

………..– amitriptyline (Elavil)
………..– anticoagulants (‘blood thinners’) such as warfarin (Coumadin)
………..– isoniazid
………..– metronidazole (Flagyl)
………..– phenytoin (Dilantin)
…………– any drugs that contain alcohol such as cough syrup

Furthermore, strict caution is advised for prescribing Antabuse in patients diagnosed with:

  • diabetes mellitus
  • hypothyroidism
  • epilepsy
  • renal function impairment
  • advanced hepatic disease
  • cardiovascular disorder
  • pregnancy
  • allergic eczematous contact dermatitis
  • asthma
  • psychosis

NOTE that although Antabuse may be taken without harm in these conditions, strict medical supervision is necessary.

Is Antabuse safe for long term use?

Current studies of long term use of Antabuse suggest that it is safe and efficient in supervised treatment of alcohol dependent people. Antabuse taken under supervision is effective and useful in the long term and contributes to longer periods of sobriety.

Does Antabuse help with alcoholism? Sure! However, Antabuse is not a magic pill that can cure alcoholism by itself. The importance of continued support by addiction professionals and regular appointments with a psychiatrist should not be ignored. Another important factor for the success of overall alcoholism recovery is your compliance with treatment suggestions. If you have a high degree of motivation to stop drinking, the use of Antabuse will further assist your strong internal locus of control and lead you to successful recovery.

How to come off Antabuse safely

Withdrawal symptoms from Antabuse are possible and similar to the symptoms that occur when alcohol is taken along with this medication.

If a person has built up tolerance and physical dependence to Antabuse, the best and safest way to come off is by tapering doses down gradually and slowly. Each tapering schedule is individual and can take several days or weeks, depending on the dose you were taking. Your doctor can help you come off of Antabuse by creating a tapering plan fit for your individual needs, and can also prescribe medications or suggest over-the-counter meds to relieve and treat symptoms.

Still, keep in mind that those who have completed successful treatment with Antabuse might consider taking it again down the road. Antabuse can help those who are facing anticipated high-risk relapse situations such as social events or travel. So, it may be appropriate to restart disulfiram treatment along with behavioral interventions to help remain sober.

Antabuse safety questions

Do you still have questions regarding Antabuse safety? Please post them in the designated section below. We are happy to help answer your questions personally and promptly. If we do not know the answer to your particular question, we will refer you to someone who does.

Reference Sources: NCBI: Disulfiram: What Is Disulfiram?
NCBI: Safety and efficacy of long-term disulfiram aftercare
NCBI:Long-term Antabuse treatment of alcohol-dependent patients
NCBI:Treatment Duration and Discontinuing Disulfiram
Medline Plus: Disulfiram
Med safe: Antabuse
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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