Disulfiram

Brand names of disulfiram

  • Antabuse

Disulfiram is used to facilitate the treatment of persistent alcoholism by means of causing a severe susceptibility to alcohol use. Invented in the 1920s, disulfiram works by preventing the treatment of alcohol in our body by means of restraining the actions of acetaldehyde dehydrogenase, thereby resulting in an undesirable effect whenever anyone consumes alcohol. It is important to note that this medication should always be used together with psychotherapy as well as care. Currently, scientists are studying disulfiram as a probable cure for cocaine dependency because this medication puts off breaking down dopamine - a neurotransmitter whose emission is fuelled following use of cocaine. (Neurotransmitters are chemical substances released by the nerves in the brain to communicate with one another). When dopamine is released in excess, it augments nervousness, raises the blood pressure, gives rise to restiveness, and also further horrible symptoms. Findings of numerous studies have stated that disulfiram also has an anti-protozoal action.

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Things you need to tell your physician before taking disulfiram

Prior to starting treatment with disulfiram, you need to tell your physician or pharmacist whether you have any allergic reactions to this medication; to thiuram or chemicals related to thiuram, which are present in rubber and pesticides; or if you have any additional type of allergy. Disulfiram may enclose a number of inactive ingredients that may result in allergies or additional problems. If you are not sure about the constituents of this drug, it is advisable that you ask your pharmacist to provide you with a list of the same.

People suffering from specific medical conditions should never take disulfiram. Before you start taking this medication, it is essential to talk to your physician or pharmacist provided you have any acute disease related to the blood vessels, for instance, coronary artery disease; or psychosis (certain mood/ mental conditions). Prior to using disulfiram, you should also tell your physician or pharmacist regarding your entire medical history, particularly if you have or ever had diabetes; brain disorders, such as brain damage or seizures; hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid); any liver or kidney disorder; and/ or an individual or family history of habitual drug use/ abuse.

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While undergoing treatment with disulfiram for chronic alcoholism, it is absolutely necessary to stay away from all types of alcoholic drinks or medicines and food products that contain alcohol, for instance mouthwash, cough and cold syrups, aftershave, vinegars and sauces. You should not use any product containing alcohol till at least 14 days after you have taken the last dose of disulfiram. If you use even the slightest amount of alcohol while using disulfiram it is likely to result in severe unpleasant reactions, which may comprise an excruciating headache; flushing in the face; breathing troubles like fast breathing or shortness of breath; dizziness; vomiting; nausea; losing consciousness; blurred vision; fast and irregular heartbeat; and intense lethargy. These unpleasant symptoms may continue for about anything between 10 minutes to several hours depending on the amount of alcohol consumed and the dosage of this medication.

Contact your physician right away if you experience these symptoms, particularly if they persist or deteriorate further. A combination of disulfiram and alcohol may result in a graver reaction and the individual may experience seizures, fainting, chest pain, breathing problem, pain in the jaw and left arm. In case you have any of these symptoms get immediate medical help.

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Pregnant women should use disulfiram only when it is absolutely necessary for their condition. Such women should talk to their physician regarding the benefits as well as the potential risks associated with taking this medication during pregnancy. While it is yet to be ascertained whether disulfiram passes onto the breast milk, it is advisable that new mothers should seek the advice of their physician before breast feeding.

Usage

The prescription drug disulfiram is prescribed for treating chronic alcoholism. This medication results in undesirable actions when the individual consumes even the slightest amount of alcohol. These unpleasant consequences may include headache, vomiting, nausea, redness of the face, perspiration, debility, chest pain, mental confusion, blurred vision, breathing problems, nervousness as well as choking. All these consequences set in motion approximately 10 minutes after an individual consumes alcohol and endures for about an hour or even more. It is important to note that disulfiram does not cure alcoholism, but dissuades the person from consuming alcohol.

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How to use disulfiram

Disulfiram is available in tablet form and it is taken orally, once every day. It is important to strictly follow the instructions on the prescription label. In case you find it difficult to understand any instruction or have any questions, ask for the help of your physician or pharmacist. You should only take this medication according to the instructions of your physician. Never take disulfiram in excessive or low dose or more frequently than what your physician has prescribed.

If you find it difficult to swallow disulfiram tablets, you may pound them and take it blended with water, milk, tea, coffee, soft drink or any fruit juice.

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How disulfiram works

Disulfiram obstructs the actions of an enzyme produced by the liver and which is responsible for the metabolism of alcohol, resulting in the build-up of a chemical substance called 'acetaldehyde'. The accumulation of acetaldehyde within the body causes an acutely obnoxious reaction, which also includes vomiting and nausea. Therefore, although disulfiram does not cure alcoholism, this medication definitely restrains consumption of alcoholic beverages.

Side effects

Serious:
Common:
  • drowsiness
Less common:
  • abdominal discomfort
  • bad breath
  • body odor
  • decreased sexual ability in men
  • eye pain
  • headache
  • mood change
  • numbness in feet and hands
  • unpleasant taste in mouth
  • vision changes

Possible interactions

Herbal medicines or minerals:
Specific herbs as well as minerals have the aptitude to interact with disulfiram and, hence, they should never be used in conjunction. Several herbal remedies like Echinacea and ginseng have alcohol, therefore, never use them in combination with disulfiram. In addition, using herbs like ma huang, St. John's wort, and kola while undergoing treatment with disulfiram to stop consumption of alcoholic beverages may further deteriorate some of the side effects of the medication, especially nervousness and restlessness.
Foods:
People taking disulfiram to stop alcoholism should keep away from all foods that are prepared using alcohol, counting vinegars, marinades, sauces, desserts and other similar foods.
Beverages:
While undergoing treatment with this medication you need to stay away from all types of fruit drinks, punches and other beverages that may have alcohol.
Alcohol:
While you are undergoing treatment with disulfiram, it is important that you totally avoid all forms of alcohol and never take alcohol till no less than 14 days after taking the last dose of the medication. The unpleasant reaction sets off about five to 10 minutes after consuming alcohol and includes acute headache, frequent vomiting, nausea, chest pain, extreme flushing in the face, and shortness of breath, perspiration as well as debility. In case large amount of alcohol is consumed while taking disulfiram, the reactions may include vertigo, blurred vision, acutely low blood pressure, and confusion in addition to fainting. These reactions may further lead to convulsions and also death. Such unpleasant reactions may continue for about 30 minutes to several hours, subject to the amount of alcohol consumed and the dosage of disulfiram.
Marijuana smoking:
Smoking marijuana in conjunction with taking disulfiram may potentially augment some of the side effects of the medication, especially tiredness or stupor.
Exposure to environmental chemicals:
Coming in contact with environmental chemicals may have an adverse affect on people taking disulfiram for treating chronic alcoholism. For instance, exposure to a pesticide called thiram and carbon disulfide, an industrial solvent that is also used in the form of a pesticide, may result in toxic consequences. When you are exposed to such chemicals, you should monitor their toxic results on your brain as well as the nervous system.

Discontinuation

Disulfiram should only be a part of your overall medical treatment plan for curing chronic alcoholism. It is advisable that you should not discontinue taking this medication without consulting your physician. Even after discontinuing disulfiram, you should not consume alcoholic beverage for no less than 14 days.

Storage instructions

You should always store disulfiram at room temperature ranging between 20°C and 25°C and kept in a dark and dry place. Never store this medication in your bathroom, which is usually humid. In addition, keep all medications in a place that is beyond the reach of children and pets. Unless you have been told otherwise, when any medication becomes outdated or is needed no longer, do not discard them by flushing down the toilet or pouring into the drain. Always dispose of such medications in a proper and safe manner. If required, consult your pharmacist or any neighbourhood waste disposal firm for further information regarding the safe and appropriate method of discarding these products.

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