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How Can Disulfiram Help to Treat Alcohol Addiction?

Posted on August 18, 2022

How Can Disulfiram Help to Treat Alcohol Addiction?

Disulfiram, known through the brand name Antabuse, is a medication used to treat alcoholism.

It helps to reduce cravings by interrupting the total absorption of alcohol and producing sensitivity to alcohol. It is most often prescribed to those repeatedly struggling to stay sober.

If you are struggling with alcohol addiction or alcohol-related issues, we urge you to seek professional help and reach out today.

Although it can feel daunting, seeking help for your problems can help reduce any further issues in the future.

We can help guide you into recovery at a speed that suits you.

Please call our 24-Hour Helpline on 0800 088 66 86.

What is Disulfiram?

Man looking at computer.

Disulfiram is taken orally and prevents the consumption of alcohol in those that are trying to overcome dependence or addiction.

Simply put, it works by stopping the oxidation of alcohol during the metabolism process.

When the alcohol is blocked, acetaldehyde builds up, causing feelings similar to the effect of a hangover whenever the individual drinks alcohol.

Therefore, if someone who takes disulfiram consumes even a small drink of alcohol, they will feel very unwell.

Disulfiram was not originally developed for the treatment of alcoholism. It was initially developed to harden rubber tyres.

The people working with this compound often reported feeling very unwell after drinking alcohol. However, the correlation between the two was not understood for a long time afterwards.

In 1948, researchers discovered the connection between disulfiram and alcohol consumption when testing to see if the drug was anti-parasitic.

The researchers felt very sick after drinking alcohol, and from here, it was developed into a medication for the treatment of alcohol use disorder. [1]

Fortunately, disulfiram is not considered an addictive substance and has a low potential for abuse.

Please call our 24-Hour Helpline on 0800 088 66 86.

What are the side effects of Disulfiram?

hands on tummy

It is important to remember that disulfiram is not a cure for addiction, as sadly, there is none. However, it is used to discourage further drinking and therefore prevents addictions from worsening.

Because lots of foods and drinks contain small amounts of alcohol, you must check the ingredients of items before you consume them.

Accidentally consuming alcohol whilst taking this medication will make you feel very unwell.

Disulfiram is taken orally via a tablet, and as with any drug, there are side effects.

Some of the most commonly reported side effects of disulfiram are:

  • Eye pain or change in vision
  • Mood swings or a change in mental state
  • Tingling in hands or feet, numbness or pain
  • Change in urine
  • Stomach pain
  • Change in stools
  • Yellowing of the eyes or the skin
  • Drowsiness
  • Decreased libido
  • Skin rash
  • Metallic taste in the mouth
  • Headache

If an individual takes more than the recommended dosage or if they consume alcohol, they will experience unpleasant symptoms.

These symptoms will typically last as long as there is alcohol in the system of the individual and include:

  • Loss of vision
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Breathing issues
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Migraines
  • Chest pain
  • Increased heart rate
  • Redness of the face

As with any medication, there is a risk of reaction; if this occurs, or if you consume a large amount of alcohol, you must seek immediate medical help.

Please call our 24-Hour Helpline on 0800 088 66 86.

How does Disulfiram work, and how do I know if I’m addicted to alcohol?

Man looking at his laptop distressed

Disulfiram is used in Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) alongside therapy to help individuals overcome their alcohol use disorder. It works by blocking the breakdown of alcohol in the body.

Once this breakdown is blocked, a build-up of the alcohol compound acetaldehyde is formed, which causes those who consume alcohol whilst on this medication to feel very ill. [2]

This sudden reaction causes those with alcohol-related issues to stop drinking whilst taking this medication to help them on their recovery journey.

Knowing if you’re addicted to alcohol can be very difficult, especially if you socialise with others who drink a lot.

In the UK, drinking after a tough day or as a celebration is very normalised. Therefore, it can be challenging to acknowledge your issues.

Take a look at the list below. Here we list the most common signs and symptoms of alcohol dependence:

  • You are unable to stop drinking alcohol even though you understand the consequences on your health and relationships
  • You have built up a high tolerance and find yourself needing more alcohol to achieve the desired effect
  • You feel withdrawal symptoms when you can’t consume alcohol
  • You spend most of your time trying to obtain alcohol or drinking it
  • You want to quit again and again but can’t stay sober
  • You have abandoned your hobbies so you can consume alcohol
  • You have found yourself in legal trouble or have lost your job as a result of your alcohol consumption

Ending your relationship with alcohol

man overlooking valley

At Rehab Recovery, we know it can be challenging to make the first step to end your addiction. So all we ask is that you call us on 0800 088 66 86.

Rest assured, this phone call is free, and you are under no obligation to move forward in your recovery journey if you are not yet ready.

When you are prepared to face your addiction, visiting a residential rehabilitation clinic will help you overcome your dependencies safely and effectively.

With around-the-clock care and support, rehab will be your best chance of beginning a life of sobriety.

In rehab, you will be able to begin Medication-Assisted Treatment and start taking disulfiram.

Although the symptoms of disulfiram can be very unpleasant when mixed with alcohol, this medication really does help promote positive change in the lives of those facing alcohol use disorder.

After a short time, many individuals abstain from alcohol consumption entirely as they value their physical and mental health more than a drink.

To begin on your path to sobriety, call us on the telephone number provided or chat with one of our team members on the LiveChat option available across our site.


[1] Does disulfiram have a role in alcoholism treatment today?

[2] Incorporating Alcohol Pharmacotherapies Into Medical Practice.

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