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Who should not use disulfiram for alcohol dependence?

Howard J. Shaffer, PhD
Addiction Medicine
Because disulfiram (Antabuse) combined with alcohol can cause severe symptoms—including chest pain, increased blood pressure, cardiac arrest, and in rare instances death—it is not recommended for use if you have serious health problems in addition to alcohol dependence, such as heart disease, diabetes, or cirrhosis. Disulfiram also can cause liver inflammation, which can go on to produce hepatitis that, in rare cases, is fatal. Therefore, if you are taking this medication, you should have periodic blood tests to monitor your liver enzymes. Because of the risks, doctors tend not to recommend disulfiram if you have little or no control over your drinking. The drug has few side effects in people who are not drinking, however. Consequently, disulfiram is best used as an added motivational resource for people already committed to abstinence.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.