What is Acamprosate?

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Formally known as acamprosate calcium or the brand name Campral, this is one of three medicines with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for the treatment of alcohol dependence. 

Below we cover more about how acamprosate is helpful for alcoholism, the side effects, and other things to know about the prescription medication to help with abstinence from alcohol. 


What is Acamprosate Used For?

Acamprosate, or Campral, is one of the most used medicines in the United States to treat alcohol abuse and addiction. The drug is also commonly used in many countries around the world.

Other medications that treat alcohol dependence and addiction will work in one of two ways. Some will reduce the pleasurable effects of alcohol consumption. Others will create uncomfortable side effects to deter drinking any amounts of alcohol. 

Acamprosate works differently and has distinct potential benefits for patients with alcohol dependence. 

  • With chronic alcohol exposure, you can become dependent, which changes your brain’s function and chemicals. 
  • These changes get more severe the worse your addiction is and the longer you have an alcohol addiction.
  • Once someone depends on alcohol but suddenly stops drinking or even reduces how much they drink, their brain can’t function the way it once did. The result is cravings because your body is going through withdrawal.
  • Alcohol withdrawal is one of the most severe types of any substance, and it can be deadly, according to groups like the National Institutes of Health. 
  • Acamprosate affects your brain’s neurotransmitters, helping normalize and stabilize brain activity that’s been disrupted by stopping alcohol following chronic alcohol intake. 
  • Doctors and researchers think the medication especially affects glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid systems.

Taking the medication can also reduce other common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, such as anxiety, restlessness, and insomnia, which has an additional benefit for patients with alcohol use disorder. 

Uniquely the medicine breaks down in the gastrointestinal tract instead of the liver. If someone has long-term alcohol abuse problems, they may have health concerns related to the liver or hepatic impairment, making acamprosate a safer option for alcohol-dependent subjects. 

  • Acamprosate is ideal for people who have gone through the initial detox phase during the treatment of alcohol dependence. 
  • Then, it is usually administered on the fifth day of complete abstinence from alcohol. 
  • The medicine is taken in tablet form, reducing cravings and symptoms. 
  • Some treatment providers might use the medication differently depending on the needs of Campral-treated patients. 


Understanding Alcohol Withdrawal

When you have an alcohol use disorder, it affects your brain and body significantly. Your brain becomes used to the alcohol and thinks it needs it to function normally after a period of time. When you’re physically dependent on alcohol, and you significantly reduce your intake or stop drinking, the common side effects of withdrawal you may experience include:

  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Tremors or shaking
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in mood
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Changes in heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Hyperthermia
  • Rapid breathing
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are a compensation by your brain for disruptions in neurotransmitter activity the alcohol created.

  • Two neurotransmitters, in particular, contribute to the short-term effects of alcohol use and the development of withdrawal symptoms.
  • The first is glutamate. Glutamine is the primary excitatory brain chemical we have. 
  • The second is GABA, which is the main calming or inhibitory neurotransmitter. 

If you drink, it affects the function of GABA receptors and some glutamate receptors. Your brain function slows down. Then, your brain and neurotransmitter systems will react to these effects by slowing the production of GABA and increasing the signaling of glutamate. These functions continue as you develop a tolerance to alcohol.

According to clinical studies, if you have abstinence from alcohol use, your brain goes into hyperarousal or neuronal excitation, leading to withdrawal symptoms. 

These symptoms can start within a few hours after your last drink. The severity of the symptoms depends significantly on the individual and their history of alcohol use.

More than 80% of people with an alcohol use disorder may experience some withdrawal and adverse effects when they stop.



Medication-Assisted Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder

Acamprosate is one type ofmedication-assisted treatment (MAT). MAT is an evidence-based form of treatment for addiction that uses both pharmaceutical medications and behavioral therapy. 

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, there’s research showing MAT can improve outcomes for alcohol-dependent patients. 

Along with acamprosate, two other medicines can be part of an MAT program to help initiate and maintain abstinence. 

  • Disulfiram is a medication for people who have gone through detox and are beginning their recovery journey. 
  • Disulfiram is taken by oral administration as a tablet and is a deterrent medication. 
  • This means disulfiram creates an adverse reaction if you consume alcohol while you use it. For example, if you drink while on disulfiram, side effects can include headache, nausea, and vomiting. 
  • The effects usually begin within 10 minutes after consuming alcohol and can last for an hour or more.

Another option of medication-assisted treatment for the management of alcohol dependence is naltrexone. 

  • Naltrexone works by blocking alcohol’s euphoric effects; this reduces the feelings of pleasure you associate with drinking. 
  • ReVia is a brand name for naltrexone that comes as a tablet you use as an oral dose.
  • Vivitrol is an injectable form used for the maintenance of alcohol abstinence. 
  • Vivitrol can’t be given as an intravenous administration. It has to be given intramuscularly for treatment initiation. 

Again, all three are meant to be used with a comprehensive treatment plan, including behavioral therapy.

You can use medication to treat alcohol-dependent outpatients and inpatients, as long as they’re under close medical supervision with access to medical attention. 


Acamprosate Side Effects

A health care professional prescribes acamprosate calcium after someone has gone through initial early detox. The medicine is only to be used under the supervision of a medical professional. 

  • The medication isn’t advised for use by pregnant women or people with kidney issues.
  • In pregnant women, it could cause unwanted effects and developmental effects. 
  • It’s also important to point out that taking this medication alone isn’t enough as an alcoholism treatment. The medication must be combined with psychosocial treatments, behavioral interventions, and an in-depth treatment plan.
  • You take the medication three times per day by mouth, with or without food. 
  • The drug is usually prescribed for a year, although people can take it for a shorter or longer period.
  • It’s common to take acamprosate with other medications for alcoholism, which can increase its effectiveness.
  • Most side effects in acamprosate-treated patients are mild, although there is the potential for a severe adverse reaction to occur in some people. 

Potential acamprosate side effects include:

  • Drug hypersensitivity
  • Dry mouth
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Itchiness
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Gas
  • Depression
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Suicidal ideation 
  • Vision or hearing problems
  • Reduced urination
  • Renal impairment
  • Feelings of sadness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of strength
  • Irritability
  • Problems concentrating
  • Allergic reaction

Before you take this medicine, you should tell your doctor about any allergies to your medications. You should also go over all medications and non-prescription drugs you take, including vitamins, herbs, and supplements. A doctor might have to adjust the dosage to reduce the risk of adverse effects. 

If you’ve ever had suicidal thoughts or behaviors, health care providers will need to know before prescribing this.

The medication guidelines also state you should avoid operating machinery or driving a car until you know how it affects you. Acamprosate may affect thinking, coordination, and decision-making.


Medication-Assisted Treatment for Alcohol Withdrawal in Orange County, CA

Acamprosate is used to help treat alcohol dependence and alcohol use disorder. As a medication-assisted treatment, taking this drug can improve outcomes and the recovery process for people. The medicine can help you reduce your alcohol intake and stop any alcohol craving symptoms you could be experiencing. The medication isn’t a cure for addiction, however,

Acamprosate needs to be used along with behavioral therapy as part of a rehab program for alcohol-dependent patients to treat alcohol use disorder. 

To learn more about alcohol addiction treatment options available in Orange County, CA, reach out to Opus Health today by calling 855-953-1345.

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