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What Is Acamprosate?

Acamprosate is a medication taken by mouth by those looking to maintain long-term sobriety from alcohol; it is also sometimes known by the brand name Campral. It should be taken regularly and can be paired with meals — but does not have to be.

The medication was recognized by the FDA as being appropriate for the treatment of alcohol misuse; it is joined in this category by the medications Disulfiram and Naltrexone.

It is quite similar to GABA, which is an important chemical that travels within the brain; GABA is affected heavily by alcohol use, which may have something to do with the effectiveness of Acamprosate. The specific way that Acamprosate functions within the body and the mind, however, has not yet been discovered.

How Can Acamprosate Help?

One of the hardest obstacles that anyone recovering from alcohol use disorder faces is the persistent craving for alcohol that tends to appear during periods of abstinence; intermittent urges to drink again, which can resemble physical hunger, are a big part of why so many relapse — especially in the early stages of sobriety.

Acamprosate is one way to cut down on these cravings. The medication helps to relax the brain, lessening the “hunger” that recovering alcohol users may feel for a drink.

Additionally, the medication may provide a kind of protective shield around the brain of recovering alcohol users — who may be in a state of vulnerability and hyper-excitability. For those who are attempting to get over an alcohol addiction, and whose brains may have been affected negatively by alcohol (with complications such as cell death being possible), Acamprosate may be able to mount a strong defense against any further damage.

Are There Risks?

There are some risks to taking Acamprosate, but they are likely vastly outweighed by the risks of continuing to drink alcohol. Side effects of Acamprosate may include but not be limited to:

  • Fatigue
  • Gastrointestinal distress
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Excessive perspiration
  • A “pins and needles” feeling in extremities

Furthermore, Acamprosate may increase the likelihood of suicidal thoughts. It is worth nothing, however, that a peer-reviewed study that covered the safety of Acamprosate found that “The safety profile of acamprosate is quite favorable…new adverse events were unlikely to emerge after the first 4 weeks of treatment.”

Which Modalities Pair Well With Acamprosate?

It’s important to combine Acamprosate with other treatment modalities so that the individual recovering from problematic alcohol use is able to be as healthy as possible and have as many resources as possible to support long-term sobriety.

One of the most important modalities to pair with Acamprosate is that of psychosocial support. This essentially means that it is crucial to receive a sense of encouragement, belonging, and compassion from a group of which one considers oneself a member; family members and friends can provide psychosocial support, but may not be available or may be unqualified to provide the exact advice or demeanor that a recovering alcohol user may need or want.

Therapy, especially provided by practitioners who have worked with others struggling with alcohol addiction and abuse, can be a very valuable modality to combine with Acamprosate. So too can support groups, which may be based on the so-called 12 Steps (groups like Alcoholics Anonymous fall into this category) or may not revolve around such a philosophy at all (groups like SMART Recovery fit this bill).

Support groups are typically free, and usually do not turn away members; some exceptions may be made for entrants who arrive at a session drunk and disorderly or who are distracting other group members with maladaptive behavior.

Where Can Alcohol Users Get Assistance?

More information on therapy, support groups, and other forms of psychosocial support is available — and local chapters of support groups can be found with an internet search.

If someone is currently in the grips of an alcohol addiction, however, and is using the substance heavily to the point where such modalities may not yet be possible, then a different kind of assistance may be needed.

In this case, seeking help from a rehabilitation center that specializes in helping people recover from alcohol and addiction could be the right move.

If you have questions about any aspect of alcohol addiction or the treatment process, you can contact a treatment provider.

They may be able to answer your questions and steer you toward a rehab — you or your loved one deserves help; with the right combination of treatment modalities and resources, alcohol addiction can be beaten for good.