I still remember the night where I was staring down at my half-consumed packet of Antabuse (disulfiram), trying to work out when I had my last dose.
See, this night wasn’t going so good, cravings were definitely high, and I had a slab of Heineken sitting on the kitchen bench, relapse was definitely imminent.
See, Antabuse is an anti-alcoholism drug, and when paired with alcohol, the symptoms that arise aren’t so pleasant.
So, while I was fully aware of the consequences of consuming alcohol with this particular alcoholism medication, I cracked a bottle and the relapse commenced.
This paints a picture and brings us to the question, Is Antabuse (disulfiram) an effective way to quit alcohol addiction? Does this alcoholism medication actually work?
Antabuse (Disulfiram) What is it? How Does it work?
Antabuse (Disulfiram) was one of the first medications brought to market back in 1951 to help with alcohol addiction and dependence.
Some others to note include Naltrexone, Acamprosate (Campral), and Topiramate, which actually work a little differently from Antabuse.
Antabuse (Disulfiram) is believed to assist with alcohol addiction through its ability to block an enzyme known as aldehyde dehydrogenase (Stokes & Abdijadid, 2021).
We actually need this enzyme to metabolise acetaldehyde, a byproduct that is created in the body when we consume alcohol.
Acetaldehyde actually contributes significantly to the symptoms of a hangover.
This means when we consume alcohol while on this drug, we rapidly progress into symptoms such as headaches, nausea, and an increased heart rate.
Antabuse practically makes it impossible to drink alcohol when paired together (Joydip, 2016).
There’s no doubt about it, from my own personal experience, Antabuse (Disulfiram) does make you second guess having a drink when you’re on the medication.
But what if you just, I don’t know, chose not to take it? What is the compliance rate? Is this actually a long-term solution to alcohol addiction?
I mean, I can tell you now, before we go into the research, that it isn’t.
If we look at a study published in 2014 in the Journal of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, the researchers concluded Antabuse (Disulfiram) is effective for the maintenance of abstinence in patients.
On the flip side, if you look into this study a little closer, they also deemed Antabuse (Disulfiram) ineffective for increasing abstinence, making it more of a short-term solution (Yoshimura et al., 2014).
Another study compared the efficacy of Antabuse (Disulfiram) to Naltrexone, another drug that assists with alcohol addiction and dependence.
Naltrexone works a little differently from Disulfiram, working as an antagonist towards our opioid receptors; it essentially blunts the stimulation or “euphoric high” one would usually get from consuming drugs or alcohol, which also means you can still consume booze while on this form of medication.
The study associated Disulfiram with a greater reduction in relapse and better control and reduction in drinking (because you pretty much can’t). Naltrexone, on the other hand, was better at reducing craving, even though patients could still drink (De Sousa & De Sousa, 2004).
Cumulatively, Antabuse (Disulfiram) still has a strong position in stopping alcohol addiction immediately, but this may only be a band-aid solution, like most medication.
Should I take Antabuse (Disulfiram) for Alcohol Addiction?
If you are looking for a solution to get off booze immediately, so you can begin your journey towards integrating long-term sobriety solutions, then this is definitely a viable option.
Keep in mind though; this isn’t something you should rely on long-term, because unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, this is only a band-aid solution, a nudge in the right direction.
If you are going to go down the medication route to get your alcohol addiction in control, I also suggest you read the following articles:
Staying Sober: 5 Simple Habits You Should Be Doing To Sustain Long-Term Sobriety
Nutrition in Addiction Recovery: Understanding Key Nutrients in Early Sobriety
Leaps of Faith and the Importance of Burning Your Bridges
When we look at the evidence, Antabuse (Disulfiram) is a strong candidate for improving relapse short-term, allowing you to integrate long-term sobriety solutions.
Personally, I found Antabuse to be ineffective for me because it was not addressing the underlying cause; it created the illusion that I had quit booze, but without it, I could easily go back (Heck, I did it while on it, and that’s saying something).
Cravings were big for me, and Antabuse didn’t really help me with that, although this simple, relatively affordable nutritional supplement did.
Of course, I would love to hear your personal experience with Disulfiram, other alcohol dependence drugs, or perhaps how you deal with alcohol cravings.
Leave your story in the comments, or if you have a question or concern, get in touch.
- DE SOUSA, A., & DE SOUSA, A. (2004). A one-year pragmatic trial of naltrexone vs disulfiram in the treatment of alcohol dependence. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 39(6), 528-531. https://doi.org/10.1093/alcalc/agh104
- Joydip, D. (2016). Drugs to treat alcohol Dependence-A perspective. Journal of Addiction and Dependence, 2(2), 1-4. https://doi.org/10.15436/2471-061x-16-021
- Stokes M, Abdijadid S. Disulfiram. [Updated 2021 Jul 14]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459340/
- Yoshimura, A., Kimura, M., Nakayama, H., Matsui, T., Okudaira, F., Akazawa, S., Ohkawara, M., Cho, T., Kono, Y., Hashimoto, K., Kumagai, M., Sahashi, Y., Roh, S., & Higuchi, S. (2013). Efficacy of disulfiram for the treatment of alcohol dependence assessed with a multicenter randomized controlled trial. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 38(2), 572-578. https://doi.org/10.1111/acer.12278
Former drinker, Nutritionist, Biohacking enthusiast, self-experimenter, research fanatic, and self-taught writer, Stephen immerses himself deep into the literature of human optimisation and better understand the nature of addiction. His goal is to help people take control of their addiction, reset their cravings, unscramble their broken brain circuitry and use actionable strategies that work ten times better than anything else.