Antabuse (Disulfuram) Implants – A Plausible Treatment Aid?


As someone who is in recovery and once prayed daily for the strength to resist alcohol, the thought of an Antabuse Implant sounds attractive to me.

Antabuse is a medication that creates in the user an acute sensitivity to alcohol which results in a severe reaction to alcohol including such symptoms as:

  • vomiting
  • throbbing headache
  • fainting
  • rapid pulse

The reaction to alcohol is violent and sudden (within 5-10 minutes of ingesting the alcohol). Antabuse has gotten somewhat of a controversial reputation because it causes a reaction that is potentially fatal and because it does not really treat the person for the cause of the alcoholic behavior, but rather just inhibits their ability to ingest alcohol.

Clearly Not a Solution in Itself

To be sure, any treatment professional who is ethical would quickly point out that a device implanted in the patient that will inhibit their use of alcohol because it will result in violent illness is not a viable long term treatment solution for an alcoholic.

People who arrive here in Newport Beach for alcohol rehab will certainly need to quit drinking to make any progress toward long term sobriety, but there is much more that happens once the chemical is removed from their system.

The difference between getting clean and living a rewarding life in sobriety is what happens at drug treatment centers like ours here in Newport Beach. Once the addictive chemical is removed from the person’s system, the real work begins through therapeutic processes that are guided by clinical professionals. Some examples include:

  • Individual Therapy
  • Group Therapy Counseling Sessions
  • Trauma Therapy
  • Outside 12 step meetings
  • Psychological Testing
  • Educational Lectures
  • Relapse Prevention Workshop
  • Continuing Care Planning for ongoing recovery after inpatient treatment concludess

Of course, since there are only so many hours in a day that one of our clients can sit and absorb the above type of activities productively, then we mix in daily spiritual, esteem building, social, and physical recovery strengthening rehab activities which you can read about here.

A Device Worth Investigating

Still, as science reveals more and more devices that may contribute to the process of getting a person sober and staying that way permanently, I am always willing to open mindedly contemplate new propositions that will may help recovering people through just one more day without using. Just one more day will get them past the only milestone in recovery that matters - today.

For this reason, the Disulfuram Implants that are being used are worth investigating. One of the main weaknesses in using orally administered Antabuse to halt drinking is that the user can quickly discontinue the medication and return to drinking.

Enter the Antabuse Implants. The Antabuse Implants are administered subcutaneously to dissolve slowly and stay in the system of the person for from 12 weeks to 6 months depending on the dosage and the person.

Research in France and Eastern Europe

The Antabuse implants have been mainly used in Poland, France and other parts of Eastern Europe. The results to this point have been promising but not adequately tested. The bodies that administer the medication tend to recommend the Antabuse as an additional measure (to more traditional treatment methods) to help a patient achieve long term sobriety.

The Phenomenon of Craving

My favorite argument in favor of labeling addiction as a treatable disease that warrants humane medical treatment centers around the phenomenon of craving that an addict experiences and that this craving causes the addict to lose the power of choice (for more information visit Kevin McCauley’s website). One thing that really impresses me in what I’ve read about Antabuse Implants is that it reduces the craving that an alcoholic experiences because “you don’t crave what you can’t have.”

While this statement certainly seems like an oversimplification, I do wonder what the effect of the Antabuse Implant would really be on the psychological phenomenon of craving. As someone who has experienced “white knuckle sobriety” which is how we refer to halting the intake of alcohol but not pursuing any other form of treatment (ie. 12-step program, drug treatment, therapy etc.) I know that the craving that ensues can lead to overwhelming suffering.

More will be revealed as the use of Antabuse Implants becomes more common in Europe, Africa, and South America. Currently I would consider myself cautiously optimistic that the implants will have a positive effect in the field of recovery.

 

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