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What Does a Disulfiram Overdose Look Like?

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Disulfiram or Antabuse is a drug that is used to treat chronic alcoholism. According to a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, 88 percent of alcoholics on disulfiram remain abstinent. The maximum recommended dose for the drug is 500 mg per day, and anything above that may result in disulfiram overdose symptoms.

Disulfiram is designed to interfere with the metabolism of alcohol by blocking its oxidation. It causes severe toxicity when ingested together with alcohol. The symptoms of disulfiram-ethanol reaction and the symptoms of an overdose on disulfiram are similar and equally dangerous.

Effects of Mixing Disulfiram and Alcohol

  • projectknow-shutter390364285-blue-pillsFlushing
  • Throbbing headache
  • Throbbing neck pain
  • Respiratory difficulty
  • Nausea
  • Copious vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Thirst
  • Chest pain
  • Palpitation
  • Dyspnea
  • Hyperventilation
  • Low blood pressure
  • Weakness
  • Blurred vision

These symptoms are usually directly proportional to the amount of disulfiram and alcohol ingested. They may also differ depending on individual sensitivity.

Typical Overdose Symptoms to Look For

The following are the main signs of an overdose on disulfiram:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Seizures
  • Comas
  • Aggressive and psychotic behavior
  • Ascending flaccid paralysis

What Treatment Options are Available?

“If your friend or family member is experiencing the above overdose symptoms, seek disulfiram addiction treatment immediately. “If your friend or family member is experiencing the above overdose symptoms, seek disulfiram addiction treatment immediately. You can also call the national Poison Control Center helpline at 1-800-222-1222. If the victim has stopped breathing or is in a coma, call 911.

Do not forget to bring the pills that the victim has taken to the emergency room. This will help the healthcare provider to identify the problem and decide on the best course of action in the shortest time possible. The doctor may also ask you questions regarding when the symptoms first occurred or how long the patient has been experiencing the symptoms. For proper detox and withdrawal treatment on disulfiram addiciton, call our helpline today.
Immediately after receiving a patient who is showing disulfiram overdose symptoms, the healthcare provider will provide supplemental oxygen, place the patient on a monitor, and administer glucose and thiamine intravenously. Naloxone may be administered if the patient is experiencing altered mental status. Also, if the patient is in a coma, the doctor will insert a tube into his or her airway to reduce the risk of aspiration as a result of secondary vomiting. Just like the addiction warning signs, overdose on this drug can really be fatal.

The Importance of Aftercare

Symptoms of disulfiram overdose usually occur within three hours of ingesting the drug and could last for up to two weeks even after the discontinuance of disulfiram. Some symptoms, such as those relating to gastrointestinal toxicity, may not show up until after two months. In addition, symptoms relating to neurologic toxicity of disulfiram may need to be treated with other drugs such as dopamine. It’s also important to undergo aftercare treatment to fully recover from overdose symptoms.

After the initial eight to 12 hours of treatment, patients are discharged from the emergency room. They may need to seek additional treatment from private centers that specialize in treatment of disulfiram overdose symptoms. This is especially in cases where signs of an overdose on disulfiram are still present. Regular hospitals are not equipped to deal with patients of drug overdose in the long-term.

What Services are Offered?

Private treatment centers offer a variety of services which may not be available in regular hospitals. First of all, all victims of drug overdose are evaluated by a psychiatrist. This is especially important in cases where the patient has overdosed on purpose. Secondly, the possibility of another overdose is greatly reduced as patients do not have access to drugs unless the drugs have been prescribed by a physician. Finally, patients have unlimited access to several qualified professionals including physicians.


Taking Preventative Steps

According to the American Family Physician Journal, about 200,000 alcoholics in the US take Antabuse regularly. These people can avoid disulfiram overdose symptoms by:

  • Avoiding alcohol at all costs.
  • Not taking disulfiram for at least 12 hours after ingesting alcohol.
  • Avoiding any product that contains ethanol including cough and cold medicines and other food products.
  • Avoiding contact with paint thinners, solvents and lacquers and any other similar products.
  • Exercising caution when using colognes, mouthwashes, perfumes, aftershaves, perfumes and antiseptics.
  • Not breathing the fumes of alcohol-containing products.
  • Avoiding foods that have been prepared with wine. While alcohol evaporates in the presence of heat, even the slightest amount of alcohol can cause a disulfiram-ethanol reaction.

If you’d like help finding a treatment center near you that can help you prevent disulfiram overdose in the future, call today.

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The editorial staff of is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands of pages for accuracy and relevance. Our reviewers consistently monitor the latest research from SAMHSA, NIDA, and other reputable sources to provide our readers the most accurate content on the web.
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