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How Long Does Antabuse Last?

Antabuse can effectively deter someone from consuming alcohol by causing a highly unpleasant reaction if they drink. Antabuse is taken daily to maintain maximum effects, though traces of it can remain in the system for up to two weeks. 

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How Long Does It Take for Antabuse to Kick In?

Antabuse, which is the brand name for disulfiram, is prescribed for the treatment of alcohol use disorder. It discourages alcohol consumption by producing seriously uncomfortable effects, such as nausea and vomiting, when a person is on Antabuse. If you consume alcohol while on Antabuse, negative effects begin within 10 minutes and last for at least one hour.[1]

You will know the Antabuse is working if you begin to experience adverse effects after drinking alcohol, such as the following:[1]

  • Flushing of the face
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Chest pain
  • Weakness
  • Blurred vision
  • Mental confusion
  • Sweating
  • Choking
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Anxiety 

Antabuse is meant to be taken once a day, and you should only take the dose prescribed by your doctor. It is available as an oral tablet, but it also works when crushed and mixed with fluids, such as water, coffee, tea, or juice. Almost as soon as you take it, Antabuse will begin working, so it is important to avoid any alcohol or the effects noted above will occur.[1]

Short-Term vs. Long-Term Maintenance

Antabuse is FDA-approved for both the short-term and long-term maintenance of AUD. As a form of medication-assisted treatment (MAT), it has been shown effective in deterring rates of relapse for those with AUD.

For the short-term maintenance of alcohol addiction, Antabuse can be taken when you have not consumed alcohol for at least 12 hours. Doses can be increased to 500 mg/day as needed, but there are no added benefits of the medication beyond that maximum dosage level.[2]

Use of Antabuse for the long-term maintenance of AUD should be coupled with behavioral therapy. Antabuse alone does not treat the underlying causes of addiction, and it does not prevent cravings for alcohol. It can help someone stop drinking alcohol, but it cannot treat the reasons they began drinking in the first place. For long-term effectiveness of Antabuse and MAT in general, therapy should be a part of the treatment plan. [2]

How Long Does Antabuse Stay in Your System?

Traces of Antabuse may stay in your system for up to 14 days. Generally, people are told not to consume any alcohol for at least two weeks after their last dose of Antabuse in order to avoid severe reactions. 

When consumed with alcohol, Antabuse can cause dangerous side effects, including heart attack.[2] Because of the potential for severe reactions (though they are rare), Antabuse is not as commonly used as it once was in addiction treatment.[2]

What if I Miss a Dose?

If you forget to take a dose of Antabuse, take the dose as soon as you remember unless it is almost time for your next dose. Any traces of Antabuse in your system will discourage alcohol consumption, so you do not need to worry too much about a missed dose. Continue your regular dosing schedule as soon as you can.[1]

For up to two weeks following your last Antabuse dose, it is important to avoid alcohol as well as any products that contain alcohol, such as cough syrups or food items that feature trace amounts of alcohol. Products containing alcohol, such as paint, varnish, lotions, sprays, and rubbing alcohol, can also cause harm to someone who has become highly sensitive to alcohol due to Antabuse use.[1] 

If you have any questions or concerns about the medication, talk to your prescribing doctor promptly.

Updated April 10, 2024
  1. Disulfiram. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Published August 15, 2017. Accessed March 28, 2024.
  2. Stokes, M. and Abdijadid, S. Disulfiram. StatPearls. Published January 2024. Accessed March 28, 2024.
  3. Lanz J, Biniaz-Harris N, Kuvaldina M, Jain S, Lewis K, Fallon BA. Disulfiram: Mechanisms, applications, and challenges. Antibiotics. 2023;12(3):524.
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