Sometimes, medical therapy is just funny. Disulfiram, one of the drugs we had to learn for pharmacology months ago, is a treatment for chronic alcoholism.

We’re familiar with antibiotics working with the body’s immune system to destroy bacteria and resolve infections. In this case, antibiotics typically interact directly with the bacterial organism (halting protein synthesis, preventing cell wall formation, etc.) and the body has a chance to “catch up” with its immunological onslaught.

Disulfiram works in an interesting way. Since you can’t “target” chronic alcoholism, it’s mechanism is quite simple – if you’re caught drinking alcohol while on disulfiram, you’re going to regret it. Yes, it’s a drug therapy of intimidation.

Alcohol is metabolized by the liver to acetaldehyde (one of the main culprits of the “hangover”) which is subsequently metabolized to harmless acetic acid through acetaldehyde dehydrogenase. Disulfiram acts by inhibiting said enzyme and effectively raising the levels of acetaldehyde in the blood. The result? If you drink even a little alcohol, you’re going to have a miserably prolonged hangover – based on statistics, this has been a sufficient reason for chronic alcoholics to practice abstinence. 🙂

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