Antabuse tablets contain the active ingredient disulfiram, which is a type of medicine called an aldehyde dehydrogenase inhibitor. It is prescribed to recovering alcoholics to help them abstain from drinking alcohol. If someone taking this medicine drinks alcohol, it quickly causes a severe, unpleasant and potentially dangerous reaction and knowledge of this fact can help to stop people from drinking.
Pharmacist - M.B.A. (Public Health) D.I.C.
What is it used for? Antabuse is used in the…
What is it used for?
- Antabuse is used in the treatment of alcoholism. It helps to deter people from drinking alcohol.
How does it work?
- Antabuse tablets contain the active ingredient disulfiram, which is a type of medicine called an aldehyde dehydrogenase inhibitor. It is prescribed to recovering alcoholics to help them abstain from drinking alcohol. If someone taking this medicine drinks alcohol, it quickly causes a severe, unpleasant and potentially dangerous reaction and knowledge of this fact can help to stop people from drinking.
- Disulfiram works by interfering with the way the body metabolises alcohol. Alcohol is broken down in the body to a compound called acetaldehyde. This is then normally broken down further by an enzyme in the liver called aldehyde dehydrogenase. Disulfiram stops this enzyme from working. This means that when alcohol is consumed, the body can't process it normally. Instead, acetaldehyde builds up in the bloodstream.
- High levels of acetaldehyde act directly on the heart and blood vessels, causing flushing, a racing heartbeat and a drop in blood pressure that causes dizziness. Other unpleasant symptoms include a throbbing headache, shortness of breath, palpitations, nausea and vomiting. This reaction to alcohol is often called the disulfiram reaction and is usually enough to deter people from having another drink.
- The disulfiram-alcohol reaction occurs within ten minutes of ingesting alcohol and may last for several hours. It can be potentially dangerous. For some people, knowing that they can't drink alcohol without having this reaction is what is needed to help them not give in to temptation in a weak moment.
- When starting this medicine you must not have drunk alcohol for at least 24 hours. You must not drink alcohol for two weeks after stopping the medicine, as the reaction may still occur in this time.
- It is important that disulfiram is used in combination with other forms of therapy and good social and psychological support to help you remain alcohol-free.
How do I take it?
- Treatment with this medicine is usually started in a hospital or specialised clinic. It is important to follow the instructions given by your doctor regarding how many tablets to take.
- It is important that you have not drunk alcohol for at least 24 hours before taking the first dose.
- Antabuse tablets can be taken either with or without food. They should be swallowed with a drink of water.
- If you forget to take a dose at your usual time and it is more than 12 hours late, you should just leave out that dose. Take your next dose as usual when it is due. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed dose.
Use with caution in
- Liver disease.
- Disease affecting the lungs or airways (respiratory disease).
- Kidney failure.
Not to be used in
- People who have had a stroke.
- Coronary heart disease.
- Heart failure.
- High blood pressure (hypertension).
- People with psychotic illness or severe personality disorders.
- People who are at risk of suicide.
- Hereditary blood disorders called acute porphyrias.
- This medicine is not recommended for children.
This medicine should not be used if you are allergic to one or any of its ingredients. Please inform your doctor or pharmacist if you have previously experienced such an allergy.
If you feel you have experienced an allergic reaction, stop using this medicine and inform your doctor or pharmacist immediately.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
Certain medicines should not be used during pregnancy or breastfeeding. However, other medicines may be safely used in pregnancy or breastfeeding providing the benefits to the mother outweigh the risks to the unborn baby. Always inform your doctor if you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, before using any medicine.
- This medicine should only be used during pregnancy if the expected benefit to the mother and developing baby is greater than the possible risk to the baby. It should be avoided in the first trimester. Seek further medical advice from your doctor.
- There is no information available about the safety of this medicine during breastfeeding. For this reason it should not be used by breastfeeding mothers, particularly if there is a chance that it may have a reaction with any medicines that the baby is taking. Seek further medical advice from your doctor.
- This medication may cause drowsiness. If affected do not drive or operate machinery. Avoid alcoholic drink.
Medicines and their possible side effects can affect individual people in different ways. The following are some of the side effects that are known to be associated with this medicine. Just because a side effect is stated here, it does not mean that all people using this medicine will experience that or any side effect.
- Drowsiness and fatigue (particularly at the start of treatment).
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Bad breath.
- Decreased sex drive.
- Mood changes, strange or abnormal thoughts, paranoia, mania or depression. Tell your doctor if you think the medicine is affecting you in this way.
- Allergic skin rash.
- Liver problems.
- Inflammation of peripheral nerves, causing symptoms such as pins and needles or numbness.
- Inflammation of the optic nerve.
The side effects listed above may not include all of the side effects reported by the medicine's manufacturer.
For more information about any other possible risks associated with this medicine, please read the information provided with the medicine or consult your doctor or pharmacist.
How can this medicine affect other medicines?
It is important to tell your doctor or pharmacist what medicines you are already taking, including those bought without a prescription and herbal medicines, before you start treatment with this medicine. Similarly, check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any new medicines while taking this one, to make sure that the combination is safe.
Alcohol-containing medicines: Certain liquid medicines, remedies, tonics, mouthwashes, toiletries and aerosol sprays may contain sufficient alcohol to cause the disulfiram-alcohol reaction. Make sure you check the ingredients or ask your pharmacist for advice before using any of these.
Disulfiram increases the anti-blood-clotting effect of the anticoagulant warfarin. If this medicine is used in combination with warfarin, your doctor may need to decrease your normal dose of warfarin to avoid bleeding.
Disulfiram can slow the breakdown of the following medicines by the body. It may increase risk of side effects from these medicines:
- benzodiazepines such as chlordiazepoxide, diazepam and temazepam
- tricyclic antidepressants such as imipramine.
If any of the following medicines are taken in combination with disulfiram there may be an increase in confusion and changes in mood:
- Amitriptyline may increase the effect of disulfiram and people taking amitriptyline may experience a more intense disulfiram-alcohol reaction if they drink alcohol.