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Description of Disulfiram

Disulfiram is an oral drug used for treating alcoholism. Alcohol is converted in the body into acetaldehyde by an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase. Another enzyme called acetaldehyde dehydrogenase then converts acetaldehyde into acetic acid. Disulfiram prevents acetaldehyde dehydrogenase from converting acetaldehyde into acetic acid, leading to a buildup of acetaldehyde levels in the blood.

Why is this medication prescribed?

Disulfiram is used to treat chronic alcoholism. It causes unpleasant effects when even small amounts of alcohol are consumed. These effects include flushing of the face, headache, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, weakness, blurred vision, mental confusion, sweating, choking, breathing difficulty, and anxiety. These effects begin about 10 minutes after alcohol enters the body and last for 1 hour or more. Disulfiram is not a cure for alcoholism, but discourages drinking.

This medication is sometimes prescribed for other uses; ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

How should this medicine be used?

Disulfiram comes in tablets to take by mouth. It should be taken once a day. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Take disulfiram exactly as directed. Do not take more or less of it or take it more often than prescribed by your doctor.

If you cannot swallow the tablets, crush them and mix the medication with water, coffee, tea, milk, soft drink, or fruit juice.

Side Effect

Major and Minor Disulfiram Side Effect

  • Drowsiness
  • Metallic taste
  • Headaches
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Acne
  • Liver toxicity, disease, and failure
  • Hepatitis
  • Optic neuritis
  • Peripheral neuritis and neuropathy
  • Psychosis
  • Delirium
  • Hypersensitivity to the drug
  • Reactions with other medications

Benefits of Disulfiram

Helps alcoholics stop drinking by creating adverse reactions when they drink

Comparatively few side effects present themselves

Many years of successful use means that this drug is very well-studied and documented, with minimal risk

Will cause adverse impacts when only a miniscule amount of alcohol is consumed, making it a successful deterrent for even mild drinking


Before beginning therapy, patients should be carefully evaluated for their intellectual capacity to understand the goal of therapy, behavioral modification with negative reinforcement . Patients with history of psychosis , severe myocardial disease, and coronary occlusion should not take disulfiram. People with diabetes taking disulfiram are at an increased risk for complications. Severe liver failure has been associated with the use of disulfiram in patients with or without a prior history of liver problems. People with advanced or severe liver disease should not take disulfiram. Disulfiram should never be given to patients who are in a state of alcohol intoxication or without the patient's knowledge. Those patients with history of seizures , hypothyroidism, or nephritis need to use disulfiram with caution and close monitoring.

Besides avoiding alcohol, patients should also avoid any products containing alcohol. This includes many cold syrups, tonics, and mouthwashes. Patients should not even use topical preparations that contain alcohol such as perfume and after-shave lotion.

How should I keep this medication stored?

This drug should be stored at room temperature, 20 C to 25 C (68 F to 77 F).