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American Addiction Centers National Rehabs Directory

Disulfiram Used in Alcohol Addiction Treatment

Disulfiram is a prescription medication that can help individuals in recovery from alcohol addiction avoid relapse during periods of sobriety. It works by employing avoidance conditioning, specifically, by producing adverse effects after one ingests alcohol, giving patients motivation to abstain from drinking. Understanding what disulfiram is, how it works, and how it may factor into your treatment plan can be important for understanding its potential role in your recovery.

What is Disulfiram?

Disulfiram has been used in the treatment of alcohol use disorder and addiction since 1951.1 page 13 When someone who is taking disulfiram drinks alcohol they experience unpleasant adverse effects, as their body will be unable to break down the alcohol molecules. As a result, disulfiram is primarily prescribed to those who are committed to abstaining from drinking as a way to avoid relapse and to maintain recovery.1

How Does Disulfiram Work?

When taken as prescribed, disulfiram works by disrupting the body’s ability to break down alcohol. 1 As a result, disulfiram produces uncomfortable effects when someone drinks alcohol, including: 1

  • Nausea/vomiting.
  • Flushing.
  • Heart palpitations.

These reactions are meant to be a deterrent to alcohol use. 1 If one drinks to excess while on disulfiram, more severe reactions can occur. Some of these may include respiratory depression, cardiovascular problems like a heart attack, convulsions, and unconsciousness. 1

Disulfiram Side Effects

Disulfiram can have a range of side effects, even when one takes the medication as prescribed and avoids drinking alcohol. Common side effects of disulfiram may include:

  • Drowsiness.
  • Headache.
  • Fatigue.
  • Acne eruptions.
  • Metallic aftertaste.

Some more rare and serious side effects of disulfiram could include:

  • Nerve pain or damage.
  • Psychosis.
  • Skin rash.
  • Changes in liver function or liver failure.

Additionally, disulfiram may generate complications if one takes it while struggling with certain heart conditions or severe heart disease. It’s important to discuss one’s medical history with one’s doctor or treatment team before commencing disulfiram treatment.

Who is Prescribed Disulfiram?

Disulfiram is primarily recommended for patients who are attending an addiction treatment program and have achieved a degree of stability and abstinence from alcohol.1 page 14 Disulfiram is primarily administered under medical supervision.

If taking this medication in an alcohol treatment center, medical staff can monitor your reactions to disulfiram and tend to any discomfort or severe side effects when needed. Oftentimes, disulfiram will simply be one aspect of a larger treatment program, typically involving a range of behavioral therapies and counseling, in addition to any medications for addiction treatment.

How to Find Disulfiram Treatment Centers

Since disulfiram is generally prescribed as part of a larger addiction treatment program, it may be beneficial to seek out alcohol addiction rehabs. A good first step may be to reach out to your doctor. They may be able to help determine your medical needs and may be able to refer them to suitable treatment programs.

You may also benefit from visiting the treatment directory. Our treatment directory will not only provide you with the ability to connect with drug and alcohol rehabs across the country, but it can also help you verify your insurance coverage.

Is Disulfiram Covered by Insurance?

Cost of treatment may feel overwhelming but there are various options to help cover rehab. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandates that all insurance plans provide some degree of coverage for the medically necessary treatment of mental health disorders, such as the treatment of alcohol addiction.5 As a result, disulfiram treatment may be covered by insurance. It’s important to reach out to your insurance provider before committing to treatment in order to determine costs and what medications are covered.

If you would like more information about addiction treatment options available in your area, contact American Addiction Center’s helpful admissions navigators at for a free, private conversation today.

American Addiction Centers can help people recover from alcohol misuse and alcohol use disorders (AUDs). If you are unsure about where to start, contact one of our admission navigators and they can help you figure out which program will be the right fit for you. You can also look at some of the facilities listed below to see if they provide the program you are looking for:

American Addiction Centers maintains a strong partnership with a large group of insurance companies at our addiction treatment facilities. Start the journey to recovery and find out instantly using the form below if your health insurance provider may be able to cover all or part of the cost of rehab and associated therapies.

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