Antabús: uses and effects

The antabús is a medicine whose active substance is disulfiram. It is used for the treatment of chronic alcoholism.

This medicine produces an acute reaction to the consumption of ethanol which is known as "antabús effect". The reaction occurs because disulfiram blocks an enzyme that participates in the metabolism of ingested alcohol.

When is antabús used and what effects does it have?

Disulfiram, as we have said, is used to treat chronic alcoholism. It should not be administered for at least 12 hours after drinking alcohol, since it produces unpleasant effects, even when small amounts of alcohol are consumed.

Among the effects it produces are:

When antabús is administered, the effects will begin after 10 minutes after drinking alcohol and could last up to 1 hour or more.

How should it be taken?

It comes in the form of tablets to be taken orally. It should be taken once a day and according to the doctor's instructions. You should not take more or less of the indicated dose, nor for more time than prescribed.

In case you have difficulty taking the tablets, can be crushed and mixed with juice, water, coffee or tea.

You may also be interested in: Alcoholism: causes and consequences

And if I forget to take a dose, what do I do?

If you forget to take a dose, try to take it as soon as you realize. However, if you remember when it is time for the next dose, you should continue with the regular dosage. It is important that you do not take a double dose to make up for the one you forgot.

What are the special precautions of the antabús?

Before you start taking this medicine, It is important to know if you have an allergy to its active ingredient.

On the other hand, you must inform your doctor if you are taking other medicines, since they may contain alcohol. It is also important to know if you are diabetic or have diseases related to the thyroid, liver and kidney.

In the case of women, you have to know if the patient is pregnant, have plans to get pregnant or if you are breastfeeding. If you become pregnant while taking this medicine, you should go to the doctor quickly.

Further, If you are going to undergo any surgery, including dental surgery, you must inform the specialist that you are being treated with disulfiram.

Do you have to follow a special diet?

While you are taking antabús you can not drink any type of alcoholic beverage, or medications containing alcohol, for a period of 12 hours before taking the first dose and for several weeks after stopping the medication.

As well you must be careful with the consumption of sauces, vinegars and all foods and dishes that may contain alcohol.

What side effects does it have?

Among the side effects of this medication are the possible appearance of acne, headache, drowsiness, tiredness and impotence. Further, some patients may experience a certain metallic taste or similar to garlic in the mouth.

However, You should see a doctor if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Excessive fatigue and weakness.
  • Loss of appetite
  • Yellow coloring of the skin and eyes.
  • Dark coloration of the urine.

Other recommendations if you take antabuses

It is advisable that you always carry an identification card to indicate that you are taking this medication. It is also convenient that the card shows the name of the doctor or the center where you are being treated to contact in case of emergency.

You must avoid having contact or breathing any type of products that contain alcohol as gases of paints, dyes, varnish and lacquers.

Further, Be careful when using products that contain alcohol such as aftershave lotion and colognes. These products, in combination with disulfiram, can cause headache, nausea, redness, or local itching.

Before using a product that contains alcohol on the skin, try it. To do this, apply a little on a small area of ​​the skin for 1 to 2 hours. After this time, if there is no redness, accompanied by itching or other unwanted effects, you can use the product safely.

Read also: The effects of alcohol on the fetus


Antabuse is not a cure for alcoholism, but it diminishes the need to drink. However, it is used together with behavior modification, psychotherapy and counseling to try to stop the affected person from drinking.