Antabuse (generic name: Disulfiram; brand name: Antabus) is an aldehyde dehydrogenase inhibitor.
Antabuse is used for treating alcoholism, helping recovering alcoholics abstain from drinking alcohol. It serves as physical and psychological deterrent to someone trying to stop drinking.
Antabuse works by interfering with the way the body metabolises alcohol.
Alcohol is broken down in the body to a compound called acetaldehyde. This is then normally broken down further by an enzyme in the liver called aldehyde dehydrogenase. Antabuse stops this enzyme from working. This means that when alcohol is consumed, the body cannot process it normally. Instead, acetaldehyde accumulates in the bloodstream, causing a variety of unpleasant effects (e.g., flushing, dizziness, headache, nausea and vomiting) even when a small amount of alcohol is consumed. This reaction to alcohol, known as the disulfiram reaction is usually enough to deter people from having another drink.
The disulfiram-alcohol reaction occurs within ten minutes of ingesting alcohol and may last for several hours. It can be potentially dangerous. For some people, knowing that they cannot drink alcohol without having this reaction is what is needed to prevent them from being tempted in a weak moment.