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Antabuse® is the brand name of the medicine disulfiram. It’s usually prescribed as part of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for alcohol abuse and dependence.
Researchers have also been looking into using disulfiram as a weight loss drug. Trials have shown disulfiram’s potential to treat obesity.5
However, some pharmaceuticals have discontinued disulfiram tablets, causing a shortage in the market. Current treatment programs may prescribe other types of alcohol deterrent drugs.
Recently, researchers have been trying to repurpose Antabuse as a weight loss drug. One study looked at the effects of Antabuse in obese mice.4 They tried to determine if Antabuse can reduce body weight.
The researchers fed the mice a high-fat diet for 12 weeks to induce obesity. As expected, the mice gained weight and showed other health problems.
Afterward, the researchers divided the mice into four groups:
These mice were observed for another 12 weeks.
Once the 12 weeks were over, the researchers observed the following:4
According to the researchers, the mice's weight loss seems to come from the drug's anti-inflammatory properties. The mice weren't subjected to any exercise. They also didn't show any changes in behavior.
This research shows disulfiram's potential to help reduce body weight. However, there aren’t enough studies to show that Antabuse for weight loss is safe for humans.
The latest FDA notices say that there's a current disulfiram shortage. Some pharmaceuticals have decided to discontinue disulfiram production.
The latest update on the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) website is as follows:6
Antabuse works by binding to and inhibiting an enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). ALDH helps to break down alcohol by converting acetaldehyde into acetic acid.
Since Antabuse blocks the breakdown of alcohol, the body builds up acetaldehyde. This can lead to an unpleasant reaction when an individual drinks alcohol. Healthcare professionals refer to this group of undesirable symptoms as the disulfiram-alcohol reaction.
This reaction will last until the body metabolizes the alcoholic beverage.
The body absorbs disulfiram slowly. It has an approximate half-life of 60 to 120 hours. This is the time it takes to eliminate at least half of the dosing concentration in the body.
Still, the drug does take immediate effects. Within 1 to 2 hours, a single dose can start to affect how the body metabolizes alcohol.
Like any other prescription medication, using Antabuse may cause some side effects. Drinking alcohol after taking Antabuse can worsen some of those side effects.
Some of the more common side effects include:
If anyone experiences the following symptoms, it’s advisable to seek medical help immediately. These symptoms may indicate a more serious health problem:
Antabuse is known to potentially cause liver injury. This can occur within two to 12 weeks after using the drug. Liver injury may arise sooner if individuals have taken Antabuse before.
Healthcare professionals will do the following to prevent serious liver injury:
You must seek medical advice before taking additional medication. Drug interactions may worsen disulfiram’s unwanted side effects.
Individuals receiving treatment with Antabuse should avoid alcohol-containing products. This includes:
People should also consult their healthcare specialists before using any medications. The following drugs can cause unwanted side effects:
Antabuse doesn’t cause tolerance or dependence. The longer an individual takes the drug, the more sensitive the individual becomes to alcohol. Individuals who stop taking Antabuse won’t experience withdrawal symptoms.
Also, cases of disulfiram abuse or overdose are not frequent. Overdose incidents have occurred primarily among younger children due to the drug’s easy access.
Antabuse can treat alcoholism by preventing the body from producing acetaldehyde. It causes unpleasant reactions when someone drinks alcohol. This drug also has the potential to treat obesity.
Research shows disulfiram's potential to help reduce body weight. However, there aren’t enough studies to show that Antabuse for weight loss is safe for humans.
Antabuse isn't addictive, but some precautions must be considered before taking it.
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