Disulfiram is an antioxidant that is used to treat chronic alcoholism. By clinical description, it is an aldehyde dehydrogenase (liver enzyme) inhibitor. The drug works by producing an acute aversion to alcohol. It hinders the normal metabolic degradation of alcohol in the body so much so that even a small amount of alcohol can cause an extremely unpleasant reaction such as intestinal cramping, profuse sweating, nausea and vomiting. These reactions can be so intense that patients who are administered this drug are warned that the combination of alcohol and Disulfiram can be fatal.
In appearance Disulfiram is a white to off-white, odorless, mostly tasteless powder that is soluble in water. For oral administration, the drug comes in the following formulations:
- 250 mg white capsule-shaped tablet
- 250 mg white round tablet
- 500 mg white eight-sided tablet.
- 500 mg white round tablet
These products are legally dispensed only by prescription and is currently marketed under the trade names Antibuse and Antiban. Disulfiram has also been approved for use by the Federal Drug Administration. It has not been classified as a controlled substance.
History of Disulfiram
Disulfiram’s enzyme inhibiting properties were discovered accidentally while being researched for use as a remedy for parasitic infestation by scientist working for a Danish drug company in 1948. According to research records two physicians acting as test subjects for the drug became sick after drinking alcohol at a cocktail party. This led to a series of pharmacological and clinical studies that confirmed the drug’s effectiveness as a conditioning treatment for alcohol avoidance.
Abstinence of at least 12 hours is recommended before starting treatment with Disulfiram. Initial therapy is usually recommended to commence with a 500 mg dose. This dosing is preferably continued for a period of two to three weeks. For those who find the effects of the drug sedating, it is suggested that the drug be taken in the evening or a few hours before bedtime. However, the ideal time to take Disulfiram is in the morning as a deterrent to drinking alcohol throughout the day.
An average daily dose of 250 mg is usually prescribed as a means of maintaining sobriety until full recovery is achieved. Disulfiram remains active in the body for up to 14 days after halting use. To prevent the unpleasant effects, patients are cautioned to avoid alcohol consumption during this time.
Drowsiness and feelings of fatigue are commonly reported with Disulfiram use. Patients being treated with this drug should receive ongoing evaluation by their physician because the potential for liver damage is always a possibility when using this drug. Some other after effects of Disulfiram use may include:
- Metallic or garlic-like aftertaste
- Blurred vision
- Skin discoloration
- Skin Inflammation
- Rapid heart rate
- Light stools and dark urine
- Severe Liver failure
Disulfiram Treatment Precautions
As an adjunct to detoxification and rehabilitation therapy, Disulfiram has proven effective in treating those suffering from long term alcoholism. Prior to starting treatment however, it is essential that the patient undergo a thorough examination to determine both their physical and psychological capacity to undergo this process. Disulfiram is not recommended for alcoholics with a medical history of mental illness, myocardial disease, coronary occlusion, Diabetes and liver problems. Those with a history of seizures, hypothyroidism or nephritis (inflammation of the kidneys) should also be carefully monitored when using Disulfiram.
Things to Avoid with Disulfiram
Careless or unsupervised use of this drug can lead to serious health risks or death. Risky use of this drug includes taking the drug while intoxicated, ignoring symptoms that developed after using the drug such as obvious mental or physical changes. Drug interactions can also cause problems when taking this drug. Disulfiram can cause some drugs like Statins, antidepressants and Cholesterol lowering drugs toxic when taken together. Always check with your physician before taking any additional medication while being treated with Disulfiram.
Because Disulfiram can react with even small amounts of alcohol those who are being treated with Disulfiram should avoid the use of anything with alcohol such as:
- Over the counter cough elixirs and cold medications.
- Tonics containing alcohol
- Aftershave lotions
- Rubbing ointments containing alcohol.
Alcoholism is a serious debilitating disease that requires treatment to overcome. A treatment program that includes Disulfiram can prove to be most effective for those who medically and psychologically qualify for this type of treatment. If you or a loved one is suffering with alcohol abuse or addiction call our Alcohol Treatment Centers today at 877-855-3470to learn more about Disulfiram or our other customized alcohol rehab programs.