Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on May 6, 2022.
Disulfiram should never be administered to a patient when he is in a state of alcohol intoxication, or without his full knowledge. The physician should instruct relatives accordingly .
Commonly used brand name(s)
In the U.S.
Available Dosage Forms:
Therapeutic Class: Ethanol Dependency
Uses for disulfiram
Disulfiram is used to help overcome your drinking problem. It is not a cure for alcoholism, but rather will discourage you from drinking.
Disulfiram is available only with your doctor's prescription.
Before using disulfiram
In deciding to use a medicine, the risks of taking the medicine must be weighed against the good it will do. This is a decision you and your doctor will make. For disulfiram, the following should be considered:
Tell your doctor if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction to disulfiram or any other medicines. Also tell your health care professional if you have any other types of allergies, such as to foods, dyes, preservatives, or animals. For non-prescription products, read the label or package ingredients carefully.
Studies on disulfiram have been done only in adult patients, and there is no specific information comparing use of disulfiram in children with use in other age groups.
Many medicines have not been studied specifically in older people. Therefore, it may not be known whether they work exactly the same way they do in younger adults or if they cause different side effects or problems in older people. There is no specific information comparing use of disulfiram in the elderly with use in other age groups.
There are no adequate studies in women for determining infant risk when using this medication during breastfeeding. Weigh the potential benefits against the potential risks before taking this medication while breastfeeding.
Interactions with medicines
Although certain medicines should not be used together at all, in other cases two different medicines may be used together even if an interaction might occur. In these cases, your doctor may want to change the dose, or other precautions may be necessary. When you are taking disulfiram, it is especially important that your healthcare professional know if you are taking any of the medicines listed below. The following interactions have been selected on the basis of their potential significance and are not necessarily all-inclusive.
Using disulfiram with any of the following medicines is not recommended. Your doctor may decide not to treat you with this medication or change some of the other medicines you take.
Using disulfiram with any of the following medicines is usually not recommended, but may be required in some cases. If both medicines are prescribed together, your doctor may change the dose or how often you use one or both of the medicines.
Using disulfiram with any of the following medicines may cause an increased risk of certain side effects, but using both drugs may be the best treatment for you. If both medicines are prescribed together, your doctor may change the dose or how often you use one or both of the medicines.
Interactions with food/tobacco/alcohol
Certain medicines should not be used at or around the time of eating food or eating certain types of food since interactions may occur. Using alcohol or tobacco with certain medicines may also cause interactions to occur. The following interactions have been selected on the basis of their potential significance and are not necessarily all-inclusive.
Using disulfiram with any of the following is not recommended. Your doctor may decide not to treat you with this medication, change some of the other medicines you take, or give you special instructions about the use of food, alcohol, or tobacco.
Other medical problems
The presence of other medical problems may affect the use of disulfiram. Make sure you tell your doctor if you have any other medical problems, especially:
- Asthma or other lung disease, severe, or
- Diabetes mellitus (sugar diabetes) or
- Epilepsy or other seizure disorder or
- Heart or blood vessel disease or
- Kidney disease or
- Liver disease or cirrhosis of the liver or
- Underactive thyroid—A disulfiram-alcohol reaction may make the condition worse
- Depression or
- Severe mental illness—Disulfiram may make the condition worse
- Skin allergy—Disulfiram may cause an allergic reaction
Proper use of disulfiram
In addition to beverages, alcohol is found in many other products. Reading the list of ingredients on foods and other products before using them will help you to avoid alcohol. Do not use alcohol-containing foods such as sauces and vinegars.
Before you take the first dose of disulfiram, make sure you have not taken any alcoholic beverage or alcohol-containing product or medicine (for example, tonics, elixirs, and cough syrups) during the past 12 hours. If you are not sure about the alcohol content of medicines you may have taken, check with your health care professional.
Take disulfiram every day as directed by your doctor . The medicine is usually taken each morning. However, if it makes you drowsy, ask your doctor if you may take it at bedtime instead.
The dose of disulfiram will be different for different patients. Follow your doctor's orders or the directions on the label. The following information includes only the average doses of disulfiram. If your dose is different, do not change it unless your doctor tells you to do so.
The amount of medicine that you take depends on the strength of the medicine. Also, the number of doses you take each day, the time allowed between doses, and the length of time you take the medicine depend on the medical problem for which you are using the medicine.
- For oral dosage form (tablets):
- To help overcome drinking problems:
- Adults and teenagers—At first, the dose is 500 milligrams (mg) or less, once a day for one or two weeks. Then, your doctor may lower your dose to 125 to 500 mg (usually to 250 mg) once a day.
- Children—Use and dose must be determined by your doctor.
- To help overcome drinking problems:
Store the medicine in a closed container at room temperature, away from heat, moisture, and direct light. Keep from freezing.
Keep out of the reach of children.
Do not keep outdated medicine or medicine no longer needed.
Precautions while using disulfiram
Do not drink any alcohol, even small amounts, while you are taking disulfiram and for 14 days after you stop taking it, because the alcohol may make you very sick. In addition to beverages, alcohol is found in many other products. Reading the list of ingredients on foods and other products before using them will help you to avoid alcohol. You can also avoid alcohol if you:
- Do not use alcohol-containing foods, products, or medicines, such as elixirs, tonics, sauces, vinegars, cough syrups, mouth washes, or gargles.
- Do not come in contact with or breathe in the fumes of chemicals that may contain alcohol, acetaldehyde, paraldehyde, or other related chemicals, such as paint thinner, paint, varnish, or shellac.
- Use caution when using alcohol-containing products that are applied to the skin, such as some transdermal (stick-on patch) medicines or rubbing alcohol, back rubs, after-shave lotions, colognes, perfumes, toilet waters, or after-bath preparations. Using such products while you are taking disulfiram may cause headache, nausea, or local redness or itching because the alcohol in these products may be absorbed into your body. Before using alcohol-containing products on your skin, first test the product by applying some to a small area of your skin. Allow the product to remain on your skin for 1 or 2 hours. If no redness, itching, or other unwanted effects occur, you should be able to use the product.
- Do not use any alcohol-containing products on raw skin or open wounds.
Check with your doctor if you have any questions.
Some of the symptoms you may experience if you use any alcohol while taking disulfiram are:
- Blurred vision
- Chest pain
- Dizziness or fainting
- Fast or pounding heartbeat
- Flushing or redness of face
- Increased sweating
- Nausea and vomiting
- Throbbing headache
- Troubled breathing
These symptoms will last as long as there is any alcohol left in your system, from 30 minutes to several hours. On rare occasions, if you have a severe reaction or have taken a large enough amount of alcohol, a heart attack, unconsciousness, convulsions (seizures), and death may occur.
Your doctor may want you to carry an identification card stating that you are using disulfiram. This card should list the symptoms most likely to occur if alcohol is taken, and the doctor, clinic, or hospital to be contacted in case of an emergency. These cards may be available from the manufacturer. Ask your health care professional if you have any questions about this.
If you will be taking disulfiram for a long period of time (for example, for several months at a time), your doctor should check your progress at regular visits.
Before buying or using any liquid prescription or nonprescription medicine, check with your pharmacist to see if it contains any alcohol.
Disulfiram may cause some people to become drowsy or less alert than they are normally. If this occurs, do not drive, use machines, or do anything else that could be dangerous if you are not alert .
Disulfiram will add to the effects of other CNS depressants (medicines that slow down the nervous system, possibly causing drowsiness). Some examples of CNS depressants are antihistamines or medicine for hay fever, other allergies, or colds; sedatives, tranquilizers, or sleeping medicine; prescription pain medicine or narcotics; barbiturates; medicine for seizures; muscle relaxants; or anesthetics, including some dental anesthetics. Check with your doctor before taking any of the above while you are using disulfiram .
Disulfiram side effects
Along with its needed effects, a medicine may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.
Check with your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur:
- Eye pain or tenderness or any change in vision
- mood or mental changes
- numbness, tingling, pain, or weakness in hands or feet
- Darkening of urine
- light gray-colored stools
- severe stomach pain
- yellow eyes or skin
Some side effects may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects. Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:
Less common or rare
- Decreased sexual ability in males
- metallic or garlic-like taste in mouth
- skin rash
- unusual tiredness
Other side effects not listed may also occur in some patients. If you notice any other effects, check with your healthcare professional.
Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
More about disulfiram
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