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Antabuse help for alcoholism

Updated on January 25, 2009

Updated: Alcohol-Antibuse

Antibuse is considered a drug of last resort by many, if not most clinicians who work with substance abusers and alcoholics. It is not an easy choice to put a patient on antibuse because of the terrible agony suffered by one who drinks while on antibuse.

A clinician must weigh the damage caused by the alcoholic to family, community, and self, before prescribing antibuse. Antibuse is a very dangerous drug. If drinking, the effects are major skin flushing, respiratory distress or difficulty breathing and swallowing. Convulsions are possible and the individual on the drug may go into cardiac failure.

The best way to deal with the antibuse patient who drinks is to get them to a hospital immediately. It is possible that without medical intervention, the patient will die.

The person who is unfamiliar with alcoholism may consider the risks of antibuse extreme or draconian, hardly worth the risk involved. Consider that the individual has a need to drink that is so compelling the risk of death is ignored in order to drink. Would a normal person take that risk? Of course not. No person in their right mind would. But the alcoholic has lost much of the reasoning ability to make right choices. Those who risk the danger of antibuse and drink anyway are on the very edge between life and death and aren't sure which they want to pursue.


Alcoholics Anonymous may help the most resistant of alcoholics who may return to sanity by going to meetings. It does work for 8 of 10 who have lost control, however, it may take several "slips" before the reality of AA is held on to.

These motivated individuals may be likely candidates for antibuse. It is well to be prepared in the event the alcoholic does drink. The drug has proven to be a lifesaver for some. The majority, however, are likely to do well in alcoholic treatment that emphasizes AA's twelve steps, a realistic outlook on life, love, and work.

It is well for the family and loved ones to get into alanon which teaches about the ways to cope and develop strategies for the future. The emphasis is taken from the alcoholic and put onto the family. the family is taught to get on with life, whether the alcoholic continues to drink or not.

The author admits the AA model is not the only way to get out of the alcoholic trap. He also is very cogent of his bias for AA because he has seen genuine miracles performed for those who sometimes are on the very brink of death. This is another paradoxical illness. The alcoholic, and sometimes his family too. are almost always walking through the valley of death. The paradox is every recovering alcoholic goes into a valley of death. The test is whether the experience will be transformational. The author and many of his colleagues observed many of these miraculous changings.

One day the suffering on the face of an alcoholic is too painful to look at. The depth of despair, along with hopelessness, causes not a few clucks of sorrow from the treatment team. "she or he's gone," may be heard from even seasoned treatment team members. As the suffering alcoholic slogs through that lonely valley, something wonderful and indescribably close to God takes place. The writer can only compare it to St. Paul's miraculous transformation from evil to good. Not all who recover find God, but are satisfied to give themselves up to a power great then self.

Afterwards, the same person resides in the same body, of course. Suddenly he/she is seeing the world that has been ignored. The pain is wiped away, though there may be many tears. It is an effort to hold back the joy. Something else is happening. There is a serene look, similar to that seen in psychiatric patients who have found "insight." It was there all along but the curtain remained closed until the pain causing distressful symptoms is finally confronted. Of course, the alcoholic usually must be at least "dry" for the major change to take place. It takes time for the long-term effects of the drug to wear off. It is important to go to a detox center to neutralize the toxins. The patient who is at home seeing bugs or animals, voices and other horrors is in withdrawal, which may be very dangerous. The advice: Give him/her a drink(not the bottle) and get him/her to a detox center immediately, by ambulance preferablly. If you have decided to stick it out, consider the importance of getting some help for yourself. Alanon and alateen have meetings just about anywhere in the U.S.

The family, and everyone else, may be caught off guard and try to maintain the family as before. Kids may act out where before they had controlled their anger, feelings of resentment, or the role of maintaining the family appearance of solidarity, or, "nuthin's wrong around here."

Remember, athiests too may experience the transformation, in fact it is no more unusal for an athiest to "get it" than a believer who has been given a similar chance at life.

The author has witnessed many new so-called treatments for substance abuse. A cognitive approach goes something like this: Buckets of booze placed before the patient who drinks until uncontrolablly sick as kind of "aversion therapy" was lauded for awhile. Alcoholics are used to drinking until sick and out of control. Naturally, the booze bucket method failed.

Another treatment along the same lines was to give the drinker an elelctric shock each time he/she raised a glass of alcohol to the lips. An elelctric shock is minor compared to some of the negative consequences alcoholics face. They regularly drive their car into things like cars and trees. Passengers and sometimes the alcoholic is killed or crippled for life.

Another researcher was sure he had a new treatment that would allow the alcoholic just two drinks during the cocktail hour. "the old controlled drinking experiment" comers around every few years, giving false hope for a cure that possibly will happen when the correct gene "turn off" is employed to inturrupt the signal that orders the alcoholic gene to turn itself on. Will it work? Alcoholics are adept at getting around locks, rules, and logic to get a drink. the author is taking no bets. When it comes to the disease of alcoholism, all bets are off, except the spiritual healings associated with the disease.

Why try to convince someone with 50 dui's, or a mother drinking cooking wine alone, an alcoholic who forgot he couldn't drink and spenjt 16 years behind bars for killing a pedestrian. the father who burned down the house when he decided to make chili and fell asleep with the burners on high. Luckily his wife and four chilren escaped. He was burned to toast on the sofa. there are thousands of stories like these. the author remembers with sadness the effects alcohol has on a community. It's irresponsible to try and teach an alcoholic how to drink safely. It might work for a few weeks or even a few months. The results of these experiments are usually not good. Why risk it at all?

What do you think? Do you know someone who has kicked the habit.? If so did they do it alone or did they have some help?





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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      antabuse saved my life

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      My husband was obviously drinking and I asked him if he took antabuse today he said no and so I witnessed him taking it. He got a little redness on the arms and legs and that was it! I found the bottle of vodka he was drinking, he was slurring etc.... why didn't it work?

    • chelky profile image

      Shell halpi 

      7 years ago from Queensland, Australia

      This drug contributed to my psychosis ,,, awful

    • profile image

      Darvocet Lawsuit 

      7 years ago

      Hi solarcaptain,

      I haven't heard about this. But thanks anyway, at least now I am informed. ;-) Thanks for sharing. Nice hub.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      My mom is a severe alcoholic. She takes antabuse and has drank while on it and it didn't do anything but give her a mild stomach ache. Is this normal? I was told that if she was going to drink on the drug she should do it in the emergency room parking lot.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      My husband has been taking antabuse for 3 months now. I witness every dose. Yet he has been able to drink. Recently he upped the dose to 500mg. The tablets are crushed before taking so that he can't "cheek" them. Yet he is able to drink. He seems to be improving overall, but the drinking isn't stopping even as he seems committed to attending AA. HELP!

    • profile image


      8 years ago


    • solarcaptain profile imageAUTHOR

      mike king 

      8 years ago from california

      Sadly, some wil never get the message and will die of alcohol poisoning,organ failure, and dementia.I spent many years working with alcoholics in a treatment center. I never once felt guilty going home after a day of dealing with totally irrational, needy, and controlling ingrates. Not that I didn't enjoy watching many of them change back into the human beings they once were. Some were truly miracles and I would never bet on anyone's chances of making it out of their addiction alive. Too many of them, unfortunately do die. Including staff, I must have gone to six funerals the first year on the job.Yes, staff members die of their own addictions, such as food disorders, drugs, smoking and othr dangerous behavior.

      Drug counselors, like most helping professionals don't believe it can happen to them. To prove it they put in an extra 7-10 hours a week at the hospital,and spend all their time at home ruminating over every nuance a patient brought into treatment that day. Mybe her patients don't die(they do, just like every oter counselor's)but she will put herself at major risk through majopr burn outs. when they fall it is very hard for the to give up control,despite behaviors such as dating a former patient, adultry, getting into accidents,making life hell for her family while being all sweet at work.It's all about honesty and that's what the alcoholic doesn't want to face. I gave up drugs myself but later on became involved with a problem gambler. I was a classic enabler,in denial that I covered for her $500. a week habit. One time she made $17,000 and gave it all back in less than a week. I should have known when everyone in the casino was on a first name basis with her. After awhile,

      I gave up looking for her. she wasn't at home and her regular seat was vacant. 45 minutes later she would show up then act like nothing at all had happened. I knew she was messing around with guys to get chips. Whatever your poison,it sure ain't pretty to go through. I finally gave up trying to fix these women (three in row, count em!)and have lived alone for the past nine years. What a relief. I don't get out much but I am satisfied and even happy that I did the right thing by not getting involved again.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I live with a person who is a full blown alcholic. She has been to treatment 3 times& it never worked she has been in jail for it lost numerous jobs from it. It is at the point where I am afraid to leave her alone because she falls frequintly & will hurt herself bad or burn down the house.I have had aheart attack & 2 strokes in the past 3 yrs I dont need this crap anymore I dont know what to do as treatment doesnt seem to work for her who the hell can get through to her?

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      My wife has been on antabuse for six days. Tonight she found a bottle of Vodka apparantly on a back shelf near the stove which I was unaware of. She drank two large swallows or about two ounces.

      I have been online looking for an antidote to the reaction, but there is none. She has been severely sick for four hours now. Vomiting, stomach cramps, heart palpatations, a drop in blood pressure, a severe migrane, convulsions, shaking from head to toe and now shortness of breath. I thought she was dead for a moment when I last checked until I saw the sheets trembling.

      If she does not stop shaking soon, I am calling an ambulance. For God's sake people, get ahold of your lives and quit drinking. Alcohol has ruined her, and for what? If you are going to take antabuse and you decide to drink, I am leaving this comment so you can be prepared for what to expect. This is absolute misery.

    • solarcaptain profile imageAUTHOR

      mike king 

      10 years ago from california

      Antibuse is quite benign unless one who is injesting it drinks even the tiniest bit of alcohol. It is only at this poihnt that the drug becomes toxic. The face flushes, beet red, respiration and heartbeat go completely out of whack, there is an immediate reaction that is not only vile, but leaves the individual who has the foolhardy idera he/she can "beat" the drug helpless and vulnerable.

      Antibuse is usually given only to those who have tried everything without lasting favorable results. the alcoholic who tries to get away with drinking while on the drug is definitely only trying to fool himself.

      Alcoholics, like all substance abusers are narcissistic, however, and are absolutley certain they can control anything despite facts to the contrary. For example, they will crawl to work with an untreated broken leg rather than miss a day of work. They rationalize that their loyalty to a job is an indication they are not alcoholic. somewhere they picked up the notion that one must be on skid row to be an alcoholic. Every alcoholic has a plausable(at least in their mind) reason for drinking. A job or lack of a job, family problems, money problems, and any other excuse are used to drink. for most, the sky beginning to fall around them, such as divorce, job loss, accident, or loss of friends, is a sign to STOP the drinking and create new, healthier recreational activities. While abusing alcohol with only minor consequences, he/she is content to maintain the status quo. When things begin to collapse due to drinking, the behavior stops. The alcoholic, however, cannot stop on his own, even though they stop for brief periods, eventually they are drinking again. If the behavoir associated with the former drinking continues, it is called a dry drunk. Better than drinking, perhaps, but ask a family who has to live with the dry drunk. Especially important, is for the family to seek help through alanon and alateen where the focus is not the drinker but the family members.

    • Teresa McGurk profile image


      10 years ago from The Other Bangor

      I'm glad I've never had to take this drug. It sounds foul, doesn't it?


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