How does disulfiram help treat alcohol abuse?

Howard J. Shaffer, PhD
Addiction Medicine
Disulfiram (Antabuse) is a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved medication for treating alcohol abuse. This drug blocks an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase, which helps break down acetaldehyde, a chemical produced when alcohol is metabolized. If you drink alcohol while taking disulfiram, acetaldehyde builds up in your bloodstream, causing distressing side effects such as flushing, headache, nausea, and vomiting. Although this medication discourages alcohol use by making you ill if you drink, it doesn't eliminate your desire for alcohol.

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