Can You Drink Non Alcoholic Wine On Antabuse (disulfiram)?

I know many people who have decided to switch to non alcoholic and alcohol free wine and there is usually a deeply personal choice as to why. Alcohol can ruin lives and many want to move away from it but still want to enjoy the taste of wine. Some people need a helping hand to quit alcohol and this can come via drug called Antabuse (disulfiram). However, this is designed to react badly with alcohol so… can you drink non alcoholic wine on Antabuse?

Can you drink non alcoholic wine on Antabuse?

You can drink up to 6 5fl oz glasses of non alcoholic wine before you would reach the minimum blood alcohol concentration where a reaction with Antabuse might occur. Initial symptoms would be very mild so more severe symptoms would not occur until after many more.

Can you drink alcohol free wine on Antabuse?

You can drink up to 60 5fl oz glasses of alcohol free wine before you would reach the minimum blood alcohol concentration where a reaction with Antabuse might occur. You would been to drink more than 120 glasses of alcohol free wine to get any more severe symptoms.

What is Antabuse?

Antabuse is the trade name for Disulfiram. 

Disulfiram works by inhibiting (stopping) the enzyme acetaldehyde dehydrogenase. This causes many of the effects of a hangover to be felt immediately, as soon as you drink alcohol.

This doesn’t really sound like a nice drug, so the question is, why would you be prescribed disulfiram? The answer lies in the trade name “Antabuse” – it is an attempt to stop alcohol abuse.

Why might you been prescribed Antabuse?

Antabuse (Disulfiram) is used to treat chronic alcoholism. It causes unpleasant effects when even small amounts of alcohol are consumed.

These effects include flushing of the face, headache, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, weakness, blurred vision, mental confusion, sweating, choking, breathing difficulty, and anxiety.

These effects can start to begin about 10 minutes after alcohol enters the body and worryingly, can last for 1 hour or more.

What happens when you drink alcohol on Antabuse?

The purpose of Antabuse is to cause you to feel so unwell when you drink alcohol that you physically can’t. The more you drink, the worse the symptoms are.

Below are all the symptoms you can expect as you drink more alcohol when taking Antabuse.

Body Part AffectedModerateSevere
Body skinSweating
Warmth and flushing, particularly on upper chest and face
Respiratory systemHyperventilation
Respiratory difficulty/dyspnea
Respiratory depression
Head, neck, throatAcetaldehyde breath odor
Blurred vision
Head and neck throbbing
Stomach, digestive systemNausea/vomitingNone
Chest, heart, circulatory systemChest pain/palpitations
Cardiovascular collapse
Myocardial infarction (in individuals with preexisting coronary artery disease)
Acute congestive heart failure (in individuals with preexisting myocardial dysfunction)
Brain/ nervous systemVertigo
Marked uneasiness
Antabuse effects with alcohol 

How much alcohol is needed to cause a reaction with Antabuse?

The reaction is generally proportional to the amounts of disulfiram and alcohol ingested.

Mild effects may occur at blood alcohol concentrations of 5 to 10 mg/100 mL. At 50 mg/100 mL, effects usually are fully developed. When the concentration reaches 125 to 150 mg/100 mL, unconsciousness may occur.

How many glasses of wine is 5mg/100ml or 0.005% BAC?

The CDC state that it takes the average 160lb, adult male, 4 standard alcoholic drinks to get drunk. That means to get a BAC of 0.08%, which is also the usual drunk driving limit. 

A standard glass of wine is 12% ABV and 5fl oz.

That means that at 1/16th of the amount of alcohol needed to get drunk, you might start to develop unpleasant symptoms. That equated to about a quarter of a 5fl oz glass of wine.

At just over half the alcohol needed to get drunk, you would have fully developed symptoms. That is a little under 2 standard glasses of wine.

As you can see, this really isn’t a big margin for error. A few sips of wine and you might start to develop symptoms.

How much alcohol is in non alcoholic wine?

Non alcoholic wine is still called wine and it has a certain percentage of alcohol by volume on the can, so just how much alcohol is in it?

There are lots of different names and labels in the non alcoholic wine world. Ive written a full article on what all the names mean and how to find your way around it, you can read it here.

A non alcoholic wine has an ABV of 0.5% or less.

An alcohol free wine will have an ABV of less than 0.05%.

To get a clearer idea of just how low 0.5% ABV actually is, you can look at some common foods and drinks that contain similar amounts of alcohol. Fruit juices have more alcohol by volume than non alcoholic wine and even some breads do!

To read more about the surprising alcohol in common foods, you can read more about it here.

How much alcohol is in alcohol free wine?

An alcohol free wine has to have an ABV of under 0.05% compared to a non alcoholic wine at 0.5%. That means the average non alcoholic wine has x10 the alcohol that an alcohol free wine has.

How much non alcoholic wine can you drink before a reaction with Antabuse?

I have calculated that it would take you to drink 96 5fl oz glasses of non alcoholic wine to get drunk. You can read all about the calculations here.

Dividing 96 by 16 will give the non alcoholic equivalent of the minimum BAC you start to get symptoms at.

This means you can drink 6 5fl oz glasses of non alcoholic wine before you might start to get any symptoms with Antabuse.

How much alcohol free wine can you drink before a reaction with Antabuse?

Due to the fact alcohol free wine only have 10% of the alcohol of a non alcoholic wine, there is much more room to play with.

Using the same math, you would be able to drink 60 alcohol free wines before any risk of symptoms with Antabuse.

Should you drink non alcoholic wine on Antabuse?

Probably the more difficult question to answer is should you drink non alcoholic wine on Antabuse.

The “can” just involves math but the “should” requires some deeper thinking and is best left for a separate article. Is non alcoholic wine a gateway for alcoholics back to alcohol? Is it safe for recovering or recovered alcoholics to drink and not relapse? These are difficult questions to answer.

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