Acamprosate (brand name Campral) is a prescription medication used to help prevent people who are dependent on alcohol from drinking again. Alcohol use disorder is a major problem in the U.S. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 14.5 million people ages 12 and older had an alcohol use disorder (AUD) in 2019. Also, 261 people in the U.S. die every day because of excessive alcohol use and, in Colorado, there are an estimated 1,821 deaths per year due to excessive alcohol use.
These statistics show the importance of alcohol addiction treatment to prevent these deaths. The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake is a licensed rehabilitation facility prepared to help anyone struggling with alcohol use disorder.
What Is Acamprosate?
Acamprosate is a medicine approved by the FDA in 2004 that promotes abstinence from drinking alcohol. It is generally a safe and well-tolerated drug given to combat the global alcoholism crisis.
Of the three medications used to treat alcohol dependence, acamprosate addresses one of the most challenging aspects of recovering from AUD, which is staying sober.
Treating Alcohol Use Disorder With Acamprosate
Treatment with acamprosate is generally started five days after a person has stopped drinking. Although it does not prevent withdrawal symptoms associated with alcoholism, it can be initiated during the withdrawal process under medical supervision, if necessary. The full effect of this medication is achieved in approximately five to eight days.
It is important to point out that acamprosate should be administered along with psychosocial therapy. Acamprosate combined with behavioral support produces better outcomes. This medication poses no known risk for abuse or tolerance. It can be given safely to patients who may have several medical issues because there are no clinically significant drug interactions associated with this drug.
Acamprosate Mechanism of Action
Although the exact mechanism by which acamprosate helps people stay sober is not completely understood, it is believed to work by binding to NMDA receptors in the brain. This is significant because chronic alcohol consumption increases the number and activity of these receptors, which is responsible for producing cravings, sleep disruptions and mood swings from when you stop drinking. By blocking these receptors, acamprosate helps the patient avoid these effects.
Also, this medication helps release a substance in the brain called taurine which lowers nerve excitability. This decreases symptoms linked to relapses such as cravings, anxiety and insomnia.
Acamprosate is available as a 333 mg tablet. The dose to treat alcohol dependence is typically two tablets taken three times daily. The medication can be taken with or without food. The tablets must be swallowed whole and not cut or crushed.
Since the kidneys excrete this medication, dose adjustments may be warranted for elderly patients or patients with reduced kidney function; however, it is not necessary to lower the dose for those with mild kidney impairment.
Acamprosate Side Effects
This medication has a good safety profile. The most common side effect associated with acamprosate is diarrhea. Typically, the diarrhea is mild and only lasts a short time. Other, less common side effects that may occur when taking acamprosate include:
- Intestinal pain
Since acamprosate is not metabolized by the liver, the likelihood of interactions with other drugs is low. Drugs that may be taken by an individual with alcohol use disorder, such as diazepam, disulfiram and antidepressants, do not interact with acamprosate.
One interaction exists between acamprosate and naltrexone, another medicine used to treat alcohol use disorder. Acamprosate can increase naltrexone levels in the body.
Effectiveness of Acamprosate
Although some studies are conflicting, depending on the parameters used, acamprosate is generally considered effective in maintaining sobriety from alcohol. Several different studies have been conducted in Europe and the U.S. to determine how well Acamprosate works.
A review of 24 of these studies showed that acamprosate use paired with psychosocial therapy reduced the risk of resuming alcohol consumption by 86% and increased the number of days a person remained sober by 11%.
Acamprosate vs. Naltrexone
Naltrexone (Vivitrol) works by binding to endorphin receptors in the body, obstructing the pleasant feelings associated with alcohol use. Whereas acamprosate is effective at preventing a relapse from happening, naltrexone helps prevent a slip in drinking from becoming a relapse; if a person consumes alcohol while on naltrexone, they do not experience the enjoyable effects of drinking.
An analysis of varying studies concluded that acamprosate was more effective in maintaining abstinence; however, naltrexone was more effective in decreasing heavy drinking. Your doctor and therapist can analyze your symptoms of alcohol use disorder and decide which medication-assisted treatment is better suited for your situation.
Get Help for Alcohol Use Disorder in Colorado
The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake is an accredited facility offering comprehensive treatment for anyone struggling with alcohol use disorder. We provide multiple levels of care, including medical detox, inpatient rehab, a partial hospitalization program and outpatient rehab. Our state-of-the-art center offers our patients a peaceful environment with serene views of the beautiful Colorado landscape. We have an array of amenities, including a heated swimming pool, basketball courts and walking trails.
If you or someone you love is dealing with alcohol use disorder, contact us today to learn how we can help. Our team of empathetic and expert healthcare professionals is ready to assist you in living a more fulfilling and healthy life on your road to recovery.
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National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics. “Alcohol Abuse Statistics.” 2022. Accessed June 14, 2022.
Mason, Barbar J, and Charles J Heyser. “Acamprosate: a prototypic neuromodulator[…] alcohol dependence.” CNS & Neurological Disorders Drug Targets, March 2010. Accessed June 14, 2022.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). “Incorporating Alcohol Pharmacotherapies […]nto Medical Practice.” 2009. Accessed June 14, 2022.
Yahn, Stephanie L et al. “Safety and Efficacy of Acamprosate for t[…]f Alcohol Dependence.” Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment, January 2013, Accessed June 14, 2022.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). “Naltrexone.” April 21, 2022. Accessed June 14, 2022.
Maisel, Natalya C et al. “Meta-analysis of naltrexone and acampros[…]ations most helpful?” Addiction, February 2013. Accessed June 14, 2022.
The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.