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Antabuse For Alcoholism Recovery: Facts And Controversies

Disulfiram is a drug that can be used to treat chronic alcoholism. Sold under the brand name Antabuse, this medication is used to make the effects of alcohol consumption extremely unpleasant, which therefore can deter the use and abuse of alcohol. The medicine works by blocking the body’s reaction to breaking down alcohol and causes the user to feel as though they have a hangover immediately after taking a drink. Antabuse is not a cure for alcoholism. It is used as a motivational tool to stop individuals from drinking alcohol.

History of Disulfiram (Antabuse)

The drug disulfiram was discovered accidentally during the process of manufacturing rubber for tires. The chemical compound was found to cause reactions to alcohol in workers. In 1948, a Danish pharmaceutical company tested a similar chemical compound for use as an anti-parasitic. Instead, they found themselves having miserable reactions to alcohol consumption.

In the early 1950s, the FDA approved disulfiram to treat alcohol dependence for patients in the U.S. Later in the decade, deaths associated with the medication were reported and lower dosing became recommended.

Disulfiram (Antabuse) Side Effects

The entire premise of Antabuse is based on the side effect of alcohol intolerance it causes. Besides the effects the medication is intended to present, other side effects include hepatitis, impotence, fatigue, acne, and allergic dermatitis. Side effects can be severe, as can intended use for the medication, which is why the medication is only used in cases of chronic alcoholism.

Antabuse side effects with alcohol:

  • Sweating and flushing
  • Hyperventilation
  • Throbbing head and neck
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Chest palpitations
  • Vertigo
  • Weakness

How Does Antabuse Work To Treat Chronic Alcoholism?

Each of the above side effects occurs when the medication is combined with alcohol, however minuscule the amount. The effects are meant to be uncomfortable and debilitating to create an aversion to consuming alcohol. The drastic nature of the reaction makes the medication an option only for those with severe, chronic alcoholism who have relapsed. Other diversions and treatment should be considered before resorting to Antabuse as a last option.

Treating Alcohol Relapse with Anabuse

Antabuse works as an aversive treatment for alcohol, which at times can be an effective means to treat chronic alcoholism. The medication is used once an individual has gone through the detoxification stage and has reached the stage of alcohol abstinence. While it does not reduce cravings for alcohol, the terrible effects of alcohol consumption while using the medication deter patients from drinking. Treatment of this type is never allowed to be performed on patients with impaired judgment or mental illness. Patients who are mentally stable and can give consent for Antabuse are the only ones who can legally be treated.

Before treatment can begin, the patient must undergo a physical and standard blood test to determine kidney and liver function. A psychiatric evaluation will also take place to ensure the patient is not suffering from mental illness. Although supervision of treatment is not required, it is highly recommended. The medication will not be used when an individual first starts drinking or during the detox period. Only when the abstinence phase begins can the patient begin to be treated.

Options for Alcohol Addiction Treatment

There are many successful options for treating those who suffer from addictions, including rehabilitation. Countless people have successfully managed to get help for their addiction problems without relapsing. An effective treatment plan will consider all aspects of a patient’s life, not just their addiction. Long-term sobriety can only be accomplished with lifestyle changes and behavior modification.

In-Patient Rehabilitation

Treatment in a rehabilitation facility is a successful way to treat addiction. As an in-patient guest, the individual will spend time within a facility and receive the support needed for a healthy recovery. Group therapy, individual therapy, massage, acupuncture, and other holistic therapies have all been successful in these settings. If someone you know is looking for treatment options, be sure that the facility tends to all a person’s needs, not just their addiction.

Out-Patient Rehabilitation

There is also an option for out-patient treatments for those suffering from alcohol addiction. These treatments include visiting a facility for a set number of hours per day or week. The required hours and therapies received are decided by the clinicians and patients together. This type of treatment is considered a partial hospitalization program.

Ongoing Support

Treatment is a long-term process. An individual will need a lot of time to create a new lifestyle, habits, behavior, and coping mechanisms. To ensure this is successful, there are support groups and long-term out-patient programs to help. One of the keys to recovery is healing in a non-judgmental environment with people who understand your struggle.

Active Rehabilitation Is Key

Rehabilitation from alcohol addiction is only successful when the patient is engaged and active during recovery. Addiction therapies should address the whole body and mind, which is why Antabuse should only be used in conjunction with other therapies. Antabuse alone will not lead to a successful rehabilitation effort, it should only be used as an extra layer of incentive to stop drinking. Playing an active role in rehabilitation is the only way to successfully beat the disease.

At Harmony Place, we know lifelong recovery is within your reach. It takes time and it takes work, but true recovery is possible. By transitioning through our residential treatment programs along with a continuum of care, you never have to do the work alone. You work with the best.

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