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Antabuse

Antabuse (ănˈtəbyōs) [key], trade name for the drug tetraethylthiuram disulfide, used in the treatment of alcoholism. Also called sulfiram, Antabuse is nontoxic, but it alters the metabolism of alcohol in the body, making it impossible for one who is taking the drug to drink without experiencing severe discomfort. When alcohol is present the drug increases the concentration of acetaldehyde in the body, causing symptoms resembling those of a bad hangover: the individual feels hot, the face becomes flushed, the neck and head throb, and nausea, vomiting, and headache may follow. Small quantities of alcohol, such as from food sauces and cough medicines, and even inhaled traces from shaving lotions and varnishes, may induce the same symptoms. The drug Temposil, or citrated calcium carbamide, has the same function as Antabuse, but is weaker and safer. The therapeutic use of Antabuse was discovered in the 1930s when workers exposed to tetraethylthiuram disulfide, a chemical used in the rubber industry, became ill after drinking alcoholic beverages.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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