Where is the Antabuse?

April 21, 2020

While we are all facing the limitations of our health care system during this pandemic, some people suffering from alcohol use disorder have been struggling unnecessarily for months due to a sudden and unexplained shortage of a life saving medication, disulfiram. 

Alcohol use disorder is a medical condition that kills thousands of people every month in the US,  more than double that of opioids every year. Disulfiram has proven to be effective for many people suffering from this condition and it has been readily available for decades. Suddenly, it is unavailable and no one seems to understand why or when it will be available again. Almost every pharmacy you call says it’s unavailable. Pharmaceutical companies and the FDA provide no explanations, and dates provided for the next expected delivery keep advancing forward each month.

If we didn’t have a slew of cultural biases about alcohol problems (compared, for instance, to problems like migraines, hypertension, or asthma), would we be making greater demands of our healthcare system to provide more treatment options and make sure availability of those options remains accessible?  If not for the shame, fear, and isolation that social stigma provokes in people with Alcohol Use Disorders and their families, how else do we explain the fact that this “shortage” has gone on for months without public recognition or outrage?

There is no ONE answer to Alcohol Use Disorders.  Antabuse is not the answer for everyone. Different people need different treatments, and in fact there are several behavioral treatments, self-help supports, and medications available.  But we do not have so many options that we can afford to lose one with decades of proven effectiveness. And it seems obvious that if this were a medication for a disorder WITHOUT the same kind of social stigma attached to it, we would be reading articles and hearing about public outrage.  And pharmaceutical companies would feel more pressure to be accountable with explanations (if not results!) to its consumer base.

We cannot afford to lose one of the limited weapons in our arsenal against this serious disorder.

If you have been negatively affected by the lack of Antabuse or concerned about the impact of fewer options for addressing this serious problem, you can speak past the isolation and shame, and voice your concerns to your medical providers, the media, or share them with us!


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