Acamprosate (often referred to by the brand name Campral) is one of three medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of alcoholism. Acamprosate is likely the most used medication in the United States for alcohol abuse treatment and is even more common in dozens of countries around the world.
Unlike other alcohol treatment medications which either reduce the pleasurable impacts of alcohol or create deterring side effects from alcohol use, Acamprosate reduces the brain’s dependence on alcohol. Alcohol use changes the chemistry and functioning of the brain, and these changes become more severe the longer an addiction lasts and the more severe it becomes. When alcohol is no longer entering the body, the brain is no longer able to function in the same way that it has. This leads to cravings as the body enters alcohol withdrawal. Alcohol withdrawal can be extremely painful, and in some extreme cases, even fatal.
Acamprosate reacts with the neurotransmitter systems in the brain. Although the exact mechanism by the which Acamprosate works is not fully understood, the drug helps modulate and normalize brain activity that has been thrown into disarray by the cessation of alcohol use. In particular, Acamprosate impacts the glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) systems. Some of the other benefits of Acamprosate are that it reduces symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety, and restlessness.
Unlike alternative alcoholism treatment medications, Acamprosate is broken down by the digestive tract instead of the liver. This makes the drug advantageous to those dealing with liver-related health concerns caused by alcoholism.
Proper Use of Acamprosate
Acamprosate should be prescribed only after the patient has ceased alcohol use and gone through initial detox. As a prescription medication, Acamprosate should only be used under the guidance of a physician. It is not advisable to take Acamprosate while pregnant, or if you suffer from kidney issues. Acamprosate alone is not enough to treat alcoholism, and it should be combined with therapy and potentially other medications.
Acamprosate is taken orally three times a day. It can be taken with or without food, although many users choose to take it with meals because it easier to remember to take if it is part of the breakfast, lunch, and dinner rituals. Acamprosate is most typically prescribed for a period of one year, although many users take it for shorter or longer periods of time.
Acamprosate is often taken in conjuction with other alcoholism medications such as Naltrexone and Disulfiram. Studies have shown that this increases the effectiveness of Acamprosate, though not necessarily the effectiveness of the other medications.
Side Effects of Acamprosate
Most side effects of Acamprosate are mild and subside the longer treatment continues. It is this comparative lack of side effects that make the drug a more popular choice than alternatives. This is especially the case when it comes to liver related side effects. However, there are a number of side effects, some of which are potentially very serious.
- Hypersensitivity to the drug
- Anxiety and nervousness
- Muscle weakness
- Suicidal thoughts
- Irregular heartbeat
- Vision problems
- Hearing changes
- Reduced urination
- Potential fetal risk
- Severe renal impairment
- Extreme feelings of sadness/emptiness
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loss of strength