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Disulfiram oral

Updated 2 Feb 2023 | Alcohol dependence


Oral formulation of disulfiram.

Drugs List

  • disulfiram 200mg tablets
  • Therapeutic Indications


    Alcoholism (adjunctive treatment)



    Initiate treatment with the following dosage regimen at least 24 hours after the last alcohol consumption.

    Day 1 - Maximum of 800mg as a single dose
    Day 2 - 600mg once daily
    Day 3 - 400mg once daily
    Day 4 - 200mg once daily
    Day 5 - 200mg once daily
    Maintain therapy on 100mg to 200mg daily for as long as directed by the physician, but for no longer than 6 months without a review.

    Additional Dosage Information

    The use of disulfiram in the management of alcohol dependence is based on the extremely unpleasant but generally self-limiting, systemic effects which occur when patients ingest even a small amount of alcohol. Reactions can occur within 10 minutes, can last for several hours and may require intensive supportive therapy. These effects include flushing, dyspnoea, headache, giddiness, respiratory difficulties, chest pain, weakness, nausea, vomiting, sweating, thirst, blurred vision, confusion, palpitations, tachycardia, hypotension, arrhythmias, acute heart failure, myocardial infarction, convulsions, cardiovascular collapse and, in severe cases, death. The intensity and duration of symptoms is very variable and small quantities of alcohol may result in alarming reactions.

    Disulfiram is not a cure, and treatment is likely to be of little value unless undertaken with the willing co-operation of the patient and is used with supportive psychotherapy.

    Maintenance therapy with disulfiram may need to be continued for months or years until the patient is fully recovered socially, and a basis for permanent self control has been established.

    Reduce dose and review suitability of treatment if side effects are severe.


    Children under 18 years
    Suicidal ideation
    Acute porphyria
    Cardiac failure
    History of cerebrovascular accident
    Ischaemic heart disease
    Personality disorder

    Precautions and Warnings

    Brain damage
    Diabetes mellitus
    Epileptic disorder
    Hepatic impairment
    Renal impairment
    Respiratory disease

    Advise ability to drive or operate machinery may initially be impaired
    Provide supportive therapy in conjunction with treatment
    Treatment to be initiated and supervised by a specialist
    Treatment to be initiated by specialist
    Establish suitability of patient via tests prior to start of treatment
    Evaluate need for continued treatment after 6 months
    Advise patient of severity and danger from reaction with alcohol
    Reactions to alcohol can occur within 10 mins & can last for several hours
    Advise patient about 'alcohol free' beers and wines
    Advise patient that certain foods, medicines and toiletries contain alcohol
    Advise patient to avoid alcohol during treatment & for2 week after stopping
    Alcohol should not be ingested for at least 24 hours prior to treatment

    All persons involved in administering disulfiram to the patient should be aware of the potentially dangerous consequences of taking alcohol concurrently.

    An alcohol challenge test is not recommended in the routine management of patients with alcohol dependence taking disulfiram - an explicit description of the disulfiram-alcohol reaction is usually sufficient. However if testing is considered essential for the success of therapy, it should be carried out in specialist units with resuscitation facilities. Contact the manufacturer for full information on the procedures and risks involved.

    Alcohol should not be ingested for at least 24 hours before commencing and one week after ceasing disulfiram therapy because of the potentially dangerous disulfiram-alcohol reaction. While on treatment patients should be warned to avoid alcohol in any form e.g. foods, liquid medicines, remedies, tonics, toiletries including mouthwashes, perfumes, and aerosols, as these may contain sufficient alcohol to elicit a reaction. Caution should also be exercised with low alcohol, 'non-alcohol', or 'alcohol free' beers and wines as these may elicit a reaction if taken in sufficient quantities.

    Pregnancy and Lactation


    Disulfiram is contraindicated in pregnancy.

    Briggs suggests the available data in humans and animals do not indicate that disulfiram is a major human teratogen. Some sources suggest high concentrations of acetaldehyde, which occur in the presence of alcohol, may be teratogenic. The manufacturer suggests the use of disulfiram during the first trimester of pregnancy should only be administered if the potential benefit to the mother outweigh any potential risk to the foetus.

    Congenital abnormalities have been reported in infants whose mothers received disulfiram in conjunction with other medicines.

    The molecular weight of disulfiram (about 297) is low enough that transfer to the foetus may occur.

    The use of all medication in pregnancy should be avoided whenever possible; particularly in the first trimester. Non-drug treatments should also be considered. When essential, a medication with the best safety record over time should be chosen, employing the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible time. Polypharmacy should be avoided. Teratogens taken in the pre-embryonic period, often quoted as lasting until 14 to 17 days post-conception, are believed to have an all-or-nothing effect. Where drugs have a short half-life, and when the date of conception is certain, this may allow women to be reassured where drug exposure has occurred within this time frame. Further advice may be available from the UK National Teratology Information Service (NTIS) and through ToxBase, available via password on the internet ( ) or if this is unavailable at the backup site ( ).


    Disulfiram is contraindicated in breastfeeding.

    The manufacturer suggests should not be used in breastfeeding.

    At the time of writing no information is available on excretion of disulfiram in breast milk. The low molecular weight of disulfiram, excretion in breast milk should be expected. Disulfiram could interact with medicines that the breastfeeding infant might be taking.

    Neonates, infants born prematurely, those with low birth weight, those with an unstable gastrointestinal function or who have serious illnesses may require special consideration. For any infant, if a drug is prescribed to the nursing mother, it should be at the lowest practical dose and for the shortest time. When drug administration is unavoidable and breastfeeding is to continue, minimisation of exposure of the infant to the drug may sometimes be achieved by timing the maternal doses to just after a feeding episode. Infants exposed to drugs via breast milk should be monitored for unusual signs or symptoms. Interactions between the drug received by the infant from the mother's milk and medication prescribed for the infant should also be considered, for example, when the drug given to the infant may prevent metabolism of the drug received via breast milk.
    Specialist advice is available from the UK Drugs in Lactation Advisory Service at

    Side Effects

    After taste
    Allergic dermatitis
    Altered liver function tests
    Behavioural disturbances
    Blood dyscrasias
    Disulfiram-alcohol reactions on ingestion of alcohol
    Elevation of liver enzymes
    Hypersensitivity reactions
    Liver damage
    Optic neuritis
    Peripheral neuritis
    Psychotic reactions
    Reduced libido
    Sexual dysfunction
    Upper abdominal pain


    It is strongly recommended that the UK National Poisons Information Service be consulted on cases of suspected or actual overdose where there is doubt over the degree of risk or about appropriate management.

    The following number will direct the caller to the relevant local centre (0844) 892 0111

    Information may be obtained if you have access to ToxBase the primary clinical toxicology database of the National Poisons Information Service. This is available via password on the internet ( ) or if this is unavailable at the backup site ( ).

    Further Information

    Last Full Review Date: September 2016

    Reference Sources

    Drugs in Pregnancy and Lactation: A Reference Guide to Fetal and Neonatal Risk, 10th edition (2015) ed. Briggs, G., Freeman, R. Wolters Kluwer Health, Philadelphia.

    Summary of Product Characteristics: Disulfiram tablets 200 mg. Actavis UK Ltd. Revised December 2011.

    NICE Evidence Services Available at: Last accessed: 18 August 2017

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