What is disulfiram?

Disulfiram is a medicine to deter you from drinking alcohol. Its common brand name is Antabuse.

Why have I been prescribed disulfiram?

Disulfiram is used to support you in staying abstinent (clear) of alcohol. Your health care professional should have given you some information to read about your condition and given you a chance to discuss it.

The medication will cause you to have a severe and unpleasant reaction when you drink alcohol. It should be given as part of an overall package of care that also includes attention to psychological and social issues.

Is disulfiram safe to take?

It is usually safe to be prescribed regularly, but as with all medicines does not suit everyone. Let your prescriber know if any of the following apply to you, as extra care may be needed:Ever had an allergic reaction to disulfiram, or any of its ingredients

  • Have or had severe heart disease, high blood pressure, a stroke
  • Suffer from diabetes, epilepsy; kidney, liver or lung disease
  • Have or had a severe psychiatric or personality disorder
  • Pregnant, or planning to become pregnant, breast feeding

You must tell the prescriber about any medications you are taking; this includes any prescribed medication, any medicine you have bought over the counter from a pharmacy including any herbal remedies as disulfiram may interfere with how they work.

Your prescriber will want to carry out some routine blood tests to make sure that there are no problems before starting the medication, and periodically throughout treatment to make sure things are alright.

What is the usual dose of disulfiram?

To start with your prescriber may ask you to take a larger dose (up to four tablets) and then reduce this over a period of a few days to half to one tablet daily. Occasionally the prescriber may ask you to take a larger dose two or three times a week, rather than a daily dose. The health professional looking after you may wish to carry out a breath test before giving you the disulfiram to ensure you have not been drinking.

What should I do if I miss a dose?

If you forget a dose, as long as it is within a few hours of when you normally take it, then take it. If it is longer then miss that day’s dose and continue taking it as prescribed. Do not double up doses.

What will happen when I start taking my disulfiram?

As with all medications disulfiram does have side effects. Side effects are more common at higher doses. Generally side effects are short lived. Not everyone gets the same side effects. Below is a table that list some of the usual side effects and what you can do about them. If you develop any side effects during treatment, that worry you, you should talk to your prescriber, nurse or pharmacist about them.

For details of the side effects table, please follow this link: Disulfiram

This list is not a complete list of all known side effects, if you notice anything else you are not sure of speak to a health care professional.

What about alcohol?

You should not ingest alcohol for a week before starting disulfiram or during treatment. Be aware of the difference between low alcohol and alcohol free drinks. Always read the label.

Disulfiram works by stopping the body breaking down alcohol, causing a severe reaction which normally occurs within 10 minutes and can last several hours. The symptoms normally include: intense skin flushing, headache, palpitations, racing heart rate, low blood pressure (dizziness on standing), feeling or being sick. You may need medical attention in severe cases.

You should avoid any alcoholic drinks, and also foods containing alcohol such as vinegar, some sauces, and certain medicines. Some people may also react to the alcohol in deodorants, aftershaves, perfumes or muscle rubs.

You should avoid these for one week after stopping the disulfiram.

You will be given a card that you can keep about your person to warn people you are taking disulfiram, in case you need emergency medical treatment.

When I feel better can I stop taking disulfiram?

You should always discuss with your prescriber before deciding if and when to stop taking the medication. Disulfiram only works as a deterrent to taking alcohol, the effects stop after one week.

Useful information

talking-shop-leafletPlease click on the image to the left or follow this link to download a copy of our Disulfiram leaflet.