Acamprosate is a pharmaceutical used to treat those with a dependency on alcohol. Learn more about the history of Acamprosate, how it works, and the potential precautions and side effects that may accompany its use.
Background & History
Acamprosate belongs to the group of drugs known as GABA Agonists. Since its development, Acamprosate has been a popular method for treating alcohol dependency after acute withdrawal symptoms have ceased. It has been in use since 1988 in Europe, but was not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in the United States until 2005. It is only the third medication of its kind to be approved in the United States.
At this time, Acamprosate is classified as non-addictive and shows no potential for abuse. Additionally, those who use Acamprosate during the treatment process do not typically develop a tolerance to the drug.
Acamprosate is most commonly prescribed under the brand name Campral. Although treatment for alcohol dependency is Acamprosate’s approved and primary use, it has also been studied as a treatment for tinnitus, a condition that creates a consistent ringing or buzzing in the ears.
Use in Treating Alcohol Addiction
Acamprosate focuses on minimizing the post acute symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, or the symptoms that emerge late into the recovery process. After you have stopped drinking for two to three weeks, it is common to experience insomnia and abnormal mood disturbances even when you no longer have other physical symptoms. By targeting these specific post-acute symptoms, Acamprosate can help someone suffering from a dependency to transition more easily into a lifestyle without alcohol.
Mechanism of Action
Acamprosate’s mechanism of action (MOA), or the process it performs to treat alcohol dependency, is not fully understood. The drug is thought to target the GABA and glutamate neurotransmitters that have adjusted their chemical processes to the presence of alcohol in the system. When alcohol is no longer present, these neurotransmitters are thrown off balance and must readjust. This readjustment period creates the withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting alcohol.
In short, it is believed that Acamprosate normalizes the atypical brain activity in order to reduce the post-acute symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Unlike the detox medication Disulfiram, Acamprosate does not cause sickness and discomfort when you consume alcohol. Additionally, Acamprosate acts differently than the medication Naltrexone and will not make drinking alcohol less rewarding. If you do begin to drink alcohol while taking Acamprosate, it is typically recommended to continue taking Acamprosate; however, you should always talk to your doctor in the event of relapse.
The recommended dosage for Acamprosate depends on your unique physiological needs, as well as the severity of your dependency and the extent of your alcohol use. Therefore, the correct dosage should be determined by your doctor. However, the most commonly prescribed adult dosage is as follows:
Oral tablet: Two 333 mg tablets, taken three times daily
Acamprosate is recognized as a safe prescription that carries little risk of overdose. However, those who suffer from moderate renal impairment may need to adjust their dosage and carefully monitor side effects.
Common Side Effects
Like many medications used in abuse treatment, Acamprosate can create unpleasant side effects in its users. Even when using the proper dosage, you may experience some of the common side effects.
These side effects include:
- Stomach cramps
- Fatigued muscles
Severe Side Effects
Severe side effects may indicate an adverse reaction to the medication.
Seek immediate medical assistance if you experience the following:
- Burning or numbness in extremities
- Kidney failure