Antabuse is the brand name for the drug Disulfiram, which is used as part of a comprehensive program for recovery from alcohol dependency.
Disulfiram works by interfering with the body’s processing of alcohol. Normally, the body metabolizes alcohol into a substance called acetaldehyde, which is then further broken down into harmless acetic acid. Disulfiram blocks the second step in this process, causing a buildup of acetaldehyde in the bloodstream when a person drinks alcohol.
This buildup leads to a variety of unpleasant symptoms, such as flushing, nausea, headache, rapid heart rate, and a general feeling of illness. These symptoms can begin as soon as 10 minutes after consuming alcohol and last for an hour or more. The idea behind Antabuse is to deter people from drinking by creating an automatic and immediate negative reaction if they do consume alcohol.
Antabuse is prescribed only after the patient has voluntarily chosen this form of treatment and understands the consequences of drinking while on the medication. Before starting Antabuse, patients should be free of alcohol for at least 12 hours.
Like all medications, Antabuse can have side effects, and it’s not appropriate for everyone. Patients should discuss potential benefits and risks with their healthcare provider.