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Antabuse disulfiram-Buying time when stopping drinking

Updated on November 1, 2011

buying time

I had originally intended calling this medication or meditation, but while putting my thoughts down I came to realise, that in my case you can’t have one without the other. I need the medication, but I also need the help of counselling and group therapy.

The main two medicines to help someone who is alcohol dependant (these words are used for someone who doesn't want to admit to being an alcoholic. Personally I don’t see the difference) are campral and antabuse.

Acamprosate brand name campral. This is to be taken after detox, and is to help with the cravings for alcohol; I believe it only works in about 50% of cases. I personally took it but had to stop because of side effects.

The second is antabuse which is used as a deterrant. Here are some facts about antabuse.


How does it work?

This medicine contains the active ingredient disulfiram, which is a type of medicine called an aldehyde dehydrogenise inhibitor. It is prescribed to alcoholics to help them abstain from drinking alcohol. If you drink while taking antabuse it causes a severe, unpleasant and potentially dangerous reaction.

Disulfiram works by interfering with the way the body metabolises alcohol.

The disulfiram-alcohol reaction occurs within ten minutes of drinking alcohol and may last for several hours. The severity of the reaction depends on who much disulfiram is in your system and who much alcohol is taken. For me, knowing that I cannot drink alcohol without having this reaction is what is needed to help me being tempted 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 one week after stopping the medicine, as the reaction may still occur in this time.


Side effects

Like any drug antabuse has side effects. These include vomiting and nausea, drowsiness, mood changes, and decreased sex drive. (When the nurse told me this I laughed and said, when I am drinking the wife won’t speak never mind sex.) There are more serious side effects but you will be told about these during counselling.


Using antabuse

Only if you want to quit drinking and are fully aware of the dangers of drinking while on antabuse should you take it, it should never be given to anyone who is intoxicated.

Research has shown that long term use is helping people stop drinking, because you develop a habit of not drinking.


How it works for me

The drug antabuse has had a lot of controversy but for me it was a godsend.

I have tried and struggled for years to stop drinking, on my own, and with the help of AA. I have never had more than a few weeks total abstinence before I would try to be a social drinker again, with the inevitable consequences. My willpower and inner strength where about as much good as a chocolate teapot. Or as they say in my neck of the woods, as much use as a one legged man at an arse kicking party.

I have heard fellow drunks say, imagine giving an alcoholic something that could kill him if he took a drink; it’s like giving someone who is suicidal a loaded gun. But for me I begged to be put on it.

This is I choice I didn’t take lightly. I knew the dangers, but was very well counselled. In the UK before you can be prescribed antabuse you have to go through a detox and education programme. I had to have an ECG to make sure my heart and blood flow where ok, my blood was taken and tested for more than things than I knew existed, I felt like I had a better MOT than my car.

I went to the alcohol unit, got breathalysed, and the nurse would witness me taking my pills. After 8 weeks my wife was allowed to supervise my medication, I feel I am now in control of my own life.

I take my pills without thinking, and there is no option available to drink, I cannot take a drink on impulse. The time required for the drug to be out my system, gives me time to think again of my choices for a better life.

I am not claiming this to be a wonder drug for alcoholism, but as the heading says, it buys me the time to think. It is another tool in my toolbox to help me fight my addiction…

To my fellow alcoholics who read this be open-minded I am not trying to preach but give my honest account of how antabuse helps me.



15 months later


I am revisiting this article to give you an update. After 14 months without a drink, the longest spell in 40 years, I decided I could be a social drinker (who many fellow alcoholics recognise this). I was working overseas and stopped taking my antabuse.I convinced myself I could go out and have a couple of drinks and be okay.

Four days and a few litres of vodka later I managed to go cold turkey and get back on my meds.

Somewhere along the way I had forgotten the bad times, and more importantly the fact that I am an alcoholic and can never drink safely. That is why as I have mentioned previously, antabuse alone will not stop me drinking, but can be a useful tool if used properly.



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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      So I was on antabuse for a few weeks and I had 3 drinks one evening. I felt fine after the first beer. I had a tequila and started feeling flush but still okay. By the third drink I knew I was going to be really sick and wasn't going to be able to stop it. My heart felt like it was going to explode. I immediately stopped drinking and went to the bathroom to vomit. I was able to vomit but I was still sick for several hours. Basically feeling fluish, body aches, nausea, dizziness, just horrible. I wouldn't wish it on any other human being. What I would say is that I will never drink while on this medication again. I don't know if it is deadly but I felt like I wanted to die. In that way it is helpful for me. I will not stay on antabuse the rest of my life but it will help me for the next few months while I get back into AA and reach out to my sponsor and pick up with my step work. I agree it is one tool in my toolbox. But it can be a powerful tool for those of us who know what it feels like to have the antabuse/alcohol reaction.

    • how-to-make profile image


      6 years ago from India

      One of my friend used to take it. But when he went to a party with us he consumed alcohol which forced him to vomit. And he than swear not to drink alcohol the next time. Its nice medicine to treat drunkards, I think.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Your article is very informative. I just had to kick my guy out because of drinking. It's the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life and I've had two kidney transplants. I wish he would go to treatment and start Anabuse. It sounds like a good option. Good luck.

    • lorlie6 profile image

      Laurel Rogers 

      7 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      What a crazy road sobriety can be, lyndre! I've never taken Antabuse, but my mother did back in the 80's. I'm not sure it really helped her-she quit drinking when she received a cancer diagnosis, believing the cancer was due to drinking. Logic? There's no logic behind drinking, but that's okay, she did succeed.

      I'm very glad to know that the Antabuse has been so good to you, however sobriety is achieved doesn't matter!

      Keep on truckin', my friend-good thoughts are coming your way!


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