Often sold under the trade name Antabuse, patients taking disulfiram will feel extremely sick if they drink alcohol concurrently with the drug. Disulfiram motivates alcoholics to avoid alcohol out of a fear of experiencing intense and unpleasant symptoms, similar to a severe hangover.

Disulfiram inhibits the body's ability to effectively process alcohol, and when the body cannot break down the consumed ethanol there is a resultant increase in the enzyme acetaldehyde in the blood. Acetaldehyde is the enzyme that creates many of the symptoms of an experienced hangover, so when patients consume alcohol concurrently with disulfiram, the almost immediate sensation is one of a very strong and unpleasant hangover.

The drug is very well tolerated, but can remain active for as long as two weeks after consumption is curtailed, and there are some dangerous drug interactions. The biggest problem with disulfiram therapy for relapse avoidance is that if patients feel sufficient compulsions to drink, they can simply stop taking the medication and can again drink without sickness soon after. Disulfiram is less widely used today than other alternative medications.

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Page last updated Aug 05, 2010

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