Avisa Recovery

How Long Does Disulfiram Stay in Your System?


Disulfiram, also commonly known under the drug name Antabuse, is one of the drugs used to treat alcohol use disorder (AUD) by the mechanism of aversion, which means discouraging the choice of alcohol. It produces a special action of its own. It omits the usual treatment methods for cravings or withdrawal symptoms, but it creates a super repulsive feeling towards some substances, the most common of which is alcohol.

When you take disulfiram, the drug attaches itself to the receptor on an enzyme known as aldehyde dehydrogenase. This interaction with the ethanol molecules in alcohol causes the enzyme to oxidize. In the liver, alcohol is first metabolized to acetaldehyde, a poisonous agent that is quickly converted to a less toxic acetic acid. Disulfiram deactivates the enzyme that deals with the second step of this degradation process, thus, acetaldehyde accumulates in the blood upon drinking. This can cause discomfort, such as vomiting, headaches, and heart palpitations, if the patient follows the correct advice, and this helps it become an aversive stimulant for the patient, so he/she would not drink.

At this stage, let’s concentrate on how disulfiram works, how long does disulfiram stays in your system, and its dependence on certain factors.

How Disulfiram (Antabuse) Works?

Antabuse prevents this action by hindering an enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). This particular enzyme in the body is responsible for alcohol metabolism. Acetaldehyde is produced if the alcohol you ingest is metabolized into acetic acid. Typically, ALDH radically decreases acetaldehyde to a very safe product called acetic acid (the alcohol in vinegar). Nonetheless, when there is a lot of disulfiram, the enzyme ALDH is at ease, and the mediation in acetaldehyde is hindered, leading to its accumulation in the bloodstream.

This accumulation of acetaldehyde activates a course of miserable side effects, and these are frequently agreed to as the disulfiram-alcohol reaction when you take in alcohol. These reactions can include:

  • Nausea, and vomiting
  • Flushing
  • Headache
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety

The amount of these responses can differ based on the level of alcohol intake. The irritating experience works as a solid disincentive for the consumption of alcohol alongside the disulfiram treatment.

How Long Does Disulfiram Stay in Your System?

The medication disulfiram itself has a relatively short half-life, which is the time it requires your body to excrete 50% of the drug. This half-life is usually about 7.3 hours. However, disulfiram’s effects on ALDH’s effects can be prolonged for a long time.

Following is a description of disulfiram’s presence in your system:

  • Disulfiram: In a few days, the medicine gets eliminated from your body naturally.
  • ALDH Inhibition: Aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) is the enzyme that is inhibited by disulfiram when lost in the system for as long as two weeks after the last dose. This means you may still be subject to the disulfiram-alcohol reaction if you ingest alcohol during this time.

Half-Life of Disulfiram

A medication’s half-life is the time it takes for its bloodstream concentration to drop by half. For disulfiram, the half-life is instead lengthy, ranging from 60 to 120 hours. Thus, it remains in the body for a few days after the last dose due to its extended half-life.

Implications of a Long Half-Life

  1. Prolonged Effects: The long half-life ensures that the deterrent effects of disulfiram last for a while. They persist for a time, even after you stop. This helps to reinforce the commitment to abstain from alcohol. 
  2. Steady Blood Levels: A longer half-life keeps steady medication levels in the blood. This is useful for managing alcoholism.
  3. Extended Period of Caution: Disulfiram stays in the body for a long time. Do not drink alcohol for at least two weeks after the last dose. This precaution helps prevent severe reactions. They are linked to drinking alcohol while on disulfiram.

Understanding the half-life of disulfiram is crucial for both patients and healthcare providers. It helps plan the dosing schedule and ensures the medication is used effectively and safely.

Factors Affecting Disulfiram’s Duration in the System

The duration that disulfiram remains active in your body can vary based on several individual and external factors. Knowing these can help manage the medication. It lets you predict how long its effects might last.

1. Dosage and Frequency

Higher doses and more frequent use of disulfiram can extend the time it stays in the system. The standard dosage prescribed will influence how long the medication exerts its effects.

2. Metabolic Rate

People with a faster metabolism may process and remove disulfiram faster than those with a slower metabolic rate. Factors such as age, health, and activity level can influence the metabolic rate.

3. Liver Function

Since the liver is responsible for metabolizing disulfiram, liver function is critical in determining how long the drug stays in the body. People with impaired liver function may process disulfiram more slowly. This leads to a more prolonged action.

4. Body Weight and Composition

Body weight and fat composition can affect how drugs are distributed and stored in the body. People with higher body fat percentages might retain disulfiram for longer periods.

5. Other Medications

Interactions with other medications can influence how disulfiram is metabolized and eliminated.  Always tell your healthcare provider about any other drugs you are taking. This is to avoid potential interactions.

6. Hydration and Diet

Adequate hydration and a balanced diet can support efficient drug metabolism and elimination. Dehydration or poor nutrition might slow down these processes.

Knowing these factors can help people and healthcare providers predict how long disulfiram will remain effective in the body. This knowledge is key. It lets us safely time alcohol and avoid bad reactions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Que:  Can I drink alcohol shortly after stopping disulfiram?

Ans: No. You should avoid alcohol for at least two weeks after the last dose of disulfiram. This is to prevent adverse reactions.

Que: What happens if I accidentally consume alcohol while on disulfiram?

Ans: If you take disulfiram, drinking alcohol can cause severe symptoms. These include nausea, vomiting, headaches, and chest pain. In some cases, it can be life-threatening, so it’s crucial to avoid alcohol altogether.

Que: Can disulfiram be used for conditions other than alcoholism?

Ans: Disulfiram is primarily prescribed for the treatment of alcoholism. Any off-label use should be discussed with a healthcare provider.

Que: Can I stop taking disulfiram after a few days?

Ans: Disulfiram is most effective when taken consistently as prescribed by your doctor. Stopping it abruptly can leave you vulnerable. It removes the deterrent effect.


Understanding how disulfiram works is vital. So is knowing how long does disulfiram stays in your system. This is vital for those using it in their recovery. Disulfiram’s mechanism deters alcohol consumption. It helps people stay sober.

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcoholism and seeking effective treatment, contact us at the AVISA Recovery Centre. Or call us at 732-236-7234. Our team of experts is committed to helping you achieve a lasting recovery.

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