How Antabuse Medication Helps Drinkers Stay Sober

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Also known as disulfiram or antabus, Antabuse is a medication that helps people stay sober by increasing their sensitivity to alcohol. If you have taken Antabuse (pronounced ant-a-byoos), and you have an alcoholic drink, you will experience the intense negative effects of alcohol.

These symptoms are similar to the ones induced by a hangover, such as nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness, and shortness of breath. Of course, many alcoholics have experienced all of these symptoms after episodes of heavy drinking and continue to drink anyway. Nonetheless, Antabuse is used to help people maintain abstinence from alcohol by pairing these unpleasant symptoms with alcoholic beverages. The goal is to deter recovering alcoholics from drinking and to create negative reinforcement for drinking.


Because the effects of Antabuse are so intense and unpleasant, it is usually only considered an appropriate treatment for people with severe alcohol dependence and who have been unable to maintain abstinence with other treatments. But if you think Antabuse might be the right treatment for you, talk to your physician, counselor or another health provider about whether you might be a good candidate for the medication.

If you do receive an Antabuse prescription, however, remember that you have a greater influence over staying sober than any medication does.

Once you're ready to stay sober, you will commit to making the choice to prioritize your mental and physical health, career and personal relationships over drinking.

Many alcoholics enter recovery and maintain sobriety without ever using Antabuse.

Alternative Roads to Sobriety

Alcoholics and people with other addictions all recover by making the same choice: They decide to examine the mental health issues that led them to develop a substance use problem in the first place. Are you drinking because you come from a long line of alcoholics and likely have a genetic predisposition to alcoholism? Are you drinking because you saw your family members use alcohol to "solve" their problems by numbing their feelings?

Were you emotionally, physically or sexually abused as a child? Are you lonely, depressed or suffering from another (undiagnosed) mental health condition? Reflecting on your formative years, family history and mental health background can help you uncover why you began drinking in the first place.

Joining a 12-step program, entering rehab and signing up for psychotherapy are all moves you can take to get control over your drinking and achieve sobriety. Once you enter recovery, you'll need a strong support system to lean on when times get tough and you're tempted to drink again. If you're religious, your faith in God or in a higher power may help you maintain sobriety.

Making new friends who don't drink or use drugs, staying out of establishments with a strong focus on alcohol and following your passions in life may collectively help you stay on the road to recovery.

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