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Old 04-09-2013, 02:26 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Conflicting advice about antabuse


Hi everyone,

I've been lurking for a while and haven't posted for ages. Today I finally came clean - in all honesty, not sugarcoating - with my doctor about my alcohol problem and low moods. He said that I am depressed, which I have suspected for a while but was too embarrassed to approach him about (he has known me since I was a child) and also says that I am an alcoholic, a 'functioning' one.

Well, I knew this already. I drink about 2 bottles of wine a night, most nights. I know that I have a problem, even though to be honest it feels like it's happening to someone else, not me. The thing was, he seemed to think that the alcohol use is a symptom of my depression. To an extent, I believe him, as when I'm feeling a bit more secure or I know I simply can't drink (e.g. driving early in the morning) I have no urge to drink. But when I feel low and I have the opportunity, I drink.

So he gave me antidepressants, which I will start to take tomorrow. However, as an afterthought, as I was leaving, he said 'Oh, there's a tablet you can take that will stop you drinking, as you'll get really sick if you drink on it. It'll help with the willpower'. I asked did he mean antabuse; he did.

This is where I feel a bit weird. Firstly, even though he said that I'm 'obviously an alcoholic', he said he didn't think I need to stop drinking. (What the hell??!) He said I could plan a couple of nights a week where I have a glass of wine or two by myself, and drink on nights out 'normally'. And he said that I should take the antabuse every morning when I wake up, apart from those couple of days when I've 'scheduled' a drink. He said they're like 'willpower in tablet form'. The idea being that if I'd taken them that morning I wouldn't drink (knowing the consequences) and then the next day, if I'd decided I could drink, I could just not take them.

I'm not asking for medical advice here by any means, I know it's not on. But from what I've read, you just can't take antabuse for one day and drink the next day with no consequences. I think I read it takes 14 days for it to clear your system? This makes me have little faith in my doctor, and I thought I'd ask here where hopefully some people may have some experience with this topic to give me some guidance or to relate their experiences. Is it as simple as 24 hours at a time? I doubt it somehow.

Any advice gratefully appreciated!
Anna xx
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Old 04-09-2013, 02:30 PM   #2 (permalink)
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You need a second medical opinion, for sure.

Meantime, welcome. Glad you decided to get clean.
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Old 04-09-2013, 02:32 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I think I'd ask another doctor, yours seems to be a bit ambiguous about your alcohol problem. He says you're an alcoholic but you don't need to stop drinking?? What kind of advice is that? I'd also be wary of his "off antabuse day" advice as I'm pretty sure it stays in the system enough to make you sick as hell the day after taking it if you drink. I could be wrong but why chance it? I wouldn't risk getting deathly sick by drinking on antabuse. I hear it's horrible.


And no, it is NOT willpower in a tablet.
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Old 04-09-2013, 02:38 PM   #4 (permalink)
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...he seemed to think that the alcohol use is a symptom of my depression.

...'Oh, there's a tablet you can take that will stop you drinking, as you'll get really sick if you drink on it. It'll help with the willpower'.

...he said he didn't think I need to stop drinking. (What the hell??!) He said I could plan a couple of nights a week where I have a glass of wine or two by myself, and drink on nights out 'normally'.

...And he said that I should take the antabuse every morning when I wake up, apart from those couple of days when I've 'scheduled' a drink. He said they're like 'willpower in tablet form'. The idea being that if I'd taken them that morning I wouldn't drink (knowing the consequences) and then the next day, if I'd decided I could drink, I could just not take them.

I doubt it somehow.
I am guessing that your doctor does not understand alcoholism nor its treatment. Because any advice we give might not apply to you, perhaps you should see an addiction specialist.
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Old 04-09-2013, 02:40 PM   #5 (permalink)
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A confusing visit to be sure. Perhaps a 2nd opinion wouldn't hurt if your insurance will allow it. It's very commendable that you've gone so far as to reveal it all with your doc though, and glad you are taking steps to improve.

Regardless of what he said though, only you can make the actual decision to quit -even if he would have recommended cold turkey you'd still have to make the effort to actually do it. What have you decided to do?
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Old 04-09-2013, 02:52 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Unfortunately, when it comes to medication, many Dr's are incredibly ignorant. I've had doctors give me quite a bit of incorrect information about medications and how to use them.

I'm not sure how things work in N. Ireland, but in the US, licensed pharmacists are my go to professional for questions about the use of any medication. I also check reputable websites for information abut the proper use of a medication.
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Old 04-09-2013, 02:53 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Im an RN and as far as I know antabuse does take longer than that to clear your system, I think you need a second opinion. His advice regarding your drinking does seem a little ambiguous and im not surprised your confused. Im guessing if he's been your GP since you were a child he's an older guy and his practice may not be as up to speed as a younger member of the practice fresh out of medical school or a GP a bit more current in updating their practice skills. It is all too common with older GP's in UK practices. All the best xx
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Old 04-09-2013, 02:57 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Alcoholics can't drink not even a little, and while I have no personal experience with antabuse, from stories I've read here - and reading the directions that come with it - I strongly suggest you need a second opinion, K.

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Old 04-09-2013, 03:00 PM   #9 (permalink)
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It is all too common with older GP's in UK practices. All the best xx
And from my experience, the same is true here in the US.
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Old 04-09-2013, 03:10 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Not a fan of antabuse, haven't taken it personally, but my Dad did. On one end, it can be effective, but on the other it's not really treating the problem. My mother would have to convince my Dad to take it every morning, and for awhile he wanted to, but after awhile he fought against it (he wanted to drink again). I think the problem would have been worse if it was left up to him to take it.

Also the idea of something that if you slip up makes you increadibly ill, just doesn't seem like a good choice. (although I must admit, i thought about getting it in my weaker moments) . . .

Also the depression could be a side effect of your drinking.... The antidepressants will take a few weeks to start working, be prepared for that... Also you may feel a little weird at first, but that'll fade with time. I have noticed though, with my anxiety/depression meds, they don't work very well if I'm drinking.
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Old 04-09-2013, 03:13 PM   #11 (permalink)
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I do not have experience with antabuse. I did spend time in a treatment center with alcoholics who have been on it. Some of them said that as alcoholics, they continued to drink even when on antabuse. They became violently ill. Nobody I spoke to ever had positive things to say about it. It was not discussed as a 'quick fix', nor was it recommended as a solution, and obviously did not work for my fellow residents at the in-patient program. This is just my experience. I found a combination of treatment and support helped me get sober. Best of luck!
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Old 04-09-2013, 03:26 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Here's my experience:

About 7 years ago I went into a deep clinical depression. At the same time I went into that depression I stopped my daily habit of 1 - 2 bottles of wine.

I was sober but VERY depressed. My doctor finally talked me into taking an antidepressant - Lexapro. After about six weeks I lifted out of the depression.

End of story? Nope. About 2-1/2 years ago I started back into my drinking routine. Slowly at first but soon I was almost back to my previous levels.

I too thought of antabuse. It's very rough on you physically. Too rough for me to consider.

So, while the antidepressant lifted me out of depression, it in no way led to sobriety.

The red flags for me are his diagnosis of you as an alcoholic but no recognition of a need to stop drinking. And handing out a powerful drug without FIRST explaining, very clearly, what the drug is and what side effects it might have.
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Old 04-09-2013, 03:52 PM   #13 (permalink)
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I took antabuse before. Many times actually and it never helped me get long term sobriety. Let me just say, 2 bottles of wine a night is not normal. Maybe you are alcoholic. But, if you take an antabuse, you will feel like you will die if you drink on it. I tested the limits, of course, when I was an active drinker and when I was trying to quit for someone else. I would take antabuse every day then plan not to take it for a few days so I can drink over the weekend. Depending on how many you've taken and for how long, you can get a reaction. At my worst point, I took ONE SHOT after having taken antabuse 6 days prior and I was on my bathroom floor, read as a beet, heart pounding out of my chest, sweating profusely, ready to dial 911. I thought I was going to die. I would HIGHLY recommend only taking it if you are 100% serious about not drinking.

HOWEVER< I've been taking another deterrent called Naltrexone for the last 6 months and have remained sober. Longest sober time in 10 years. (I'm a 31 year old female). This med blocks cravings...and if you drink, you don't get drunk. I never tried to drink on it though. But these pills once a day plus AA has helped me TREMENDOUSLY. Antabuse doesn't take away the desire to drink, but Naltrexone plus anti-depressants has helped my depression and anxiety so much and I am soooo happy today! Maybe talk to your doc about this possibility?
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Old 04-09-2013, 08:27 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fruitymarzipan
It is all too common with older GP's in UK practices.
And from my experience, the same is true here in the US.
Just wanted to say a word in favor of my older GP, who keeps abreast of the latest information and technology as much as possible... Even if he isn't the hippest thing on the planet next to Tupac Shakur, his assistants certainly are!

And he is always quick to refer me to a specialist when necessary. I have a therapist who prescribes psychiatric medicines.
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Old 04-09-2013, 09:06 PM   #15 (permalink)
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I'm taking Antabuse currently. I'm also on meds for anxiety and depression. I can say that it's no panacea and you definitely should get a second opinion regarding the dosing and drinking pattern your doc recommended. For me it's helped break the cycle only. The cravings are still there and only the fear of being violently ill if I consume anything for up to two weeks after cessation is the primary benefit. As for the side effects if you don't drink, that's another story altogether. As mentioned before, something like Naltrexone might be helpful if you're looking down the medicinal route. Be sure to stay engaged here---a lot of these folks are very supportive!

All the best.
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Old 04-10-2013, 12:26 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Thanks everyone for your replies and advice, it's been very helpful. I'm not going to take the antabuse, and I agree that, although I really respect my doctor, it seems like addictions are not his strong point. He's writing me a letter of referral to a counsellor so that I can go through my private health insurance in work, and I'm going to choose an addiction counsellor. I think that's the best way forward at the moment.

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Regardless of what he said though, only you can make the actual decision to quit -even if he would have recommended cold turkey you'd still have to make the effort to actually do it. What have you decided to do?
I have to admit when he said I could still drink, I felt a conflicting mix of happiness and disappointment inside. I always thought that if I talked to my doctor and he told me to quit, I would, so I was disappointed he didn't say that. At the same time, I thought, yippee, my doctor says I can drink! I must be okay!! I know it's ultimately my decision though and no-one else can make me do it if I'm not ready. And at the moment I'm still finding excuses and reasons why I shouldn't quit entirely. I am my own worst enemy.
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Old 04-10-2013, 12:57 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Bomb,
I went to the pshrynk-shack to fix my marriage and came out with Campral, Librium, Lexapro, and Antabuse. I wasn't depressed, I was drooling. And I drank on Antabuse and it nearly killed me--4 times in about six months. It really screwed up my drinking even though I tried taking them on Monday - Thursday (so I could drink on the weekends). Still screwed me up, and screwed up my drinking, so I quit taking the Antabuse.
When I took the ADs my drinking nearly doubled because the effects were being stifled by them. Nearly killed myself twice doing that with a "Zero-Point-Way-Too-High," BAC. Seems that my hypothalamus was shutting down (regulates the basic functions like temp, heart rate, etc.) and nearly went blind (vision shuts down). I continued.
See, I'm alcoholic. I drink, and when I'm not drinking, I'm thinking about drinking. I couldn't keep solid foods down (except rice and chicken) and wine gave me the skats (I can give you a more poignant description if you need it), but I kept drinking. ADs and Antabuse messed up my drinking, so I stopped taking them. Suicide was an option, but I was too F#!*% up to be able to pull it off and was afraid I'd mess it up and be a vegetable AND unable to drink. See, I wasn't afraid of dying (much), I was afraid to live without alcohol.
Insane? Well, of course! If insanity is doing the same thing expecting different results, than I was a shivering denizen of King Alcohol and a loyal lunatic of his mad realm.
Not sure whether you're alcoholic? Try going to the club and having just two drinks and leave. Don't drink anymore that night. See how long that lasts, and if you're unable to stop once you start, consider AA.
AA saved my life--and there wasn't much left when I got there... It's given me a new freedom and a new happiness completely chemical free for the first time in my life. Try it--what do you have to lose? If you try it for a month and things haven't stopped getting worse, your misery will be waiting for you when you pick up again.
Choose wisely...
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Old 04-10-2013, 01:00 PM   #18 (permalink)
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If you want I'll find my 'story' somewhere online here at this domain (?).

Last edited by skg; 04-10-2013 at 01:03 PM. Reason: misplaced edit
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Old 04-10-2013, 01:06 PM   #19 (permalink)
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I have to admit when he said I could still drink, I felt a conflicting mix of happiness and disappointment inside. I always thought that if I talked to my doctor and he told me to quit, I would, so I was disappointed he didn't say that. At the same time, I thought, yippee, my doctor says I can drink! I must be okay!! I know it's ultimately my decision though and no-one else can make me do it if I'm not ready. And at the moment I'm still finding excuses and reasons why I shouldn't quit entirely. I am my own worst enemy.
I remember the first time I ever talked to anyone about potentially having a drinking problem, it was a counselor available through the place I work. To my surprise, his recommendation was to drink 1 beer ( and only one ) every day for the next 30 days. Which was kind of like - WOOHOO - i get to stop at the brewpub every day for the next month! I actually did it but then proceeded to ratchet back up to several beers a day pretty quickly after that.

You might be your own worst enemy right now, but you can also be your greatest ally with a change of heart and commitment to stop.
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Old 06-09-2017, 03:15 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Your doctor does not understand. Only we alcoholics know what we go through. Do not hang on his idea that you can choose to drink when you wish. We are powerless over alcohol and our only chance is not to have the first drink.
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