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Acamprosate as a Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT)

Acamprosate is a medication commonly use in the treatment of alcohol use disorder (AUD).1 Acamprosate works by helping to reduce cravings and uncomfortable symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, such as insomnia, anxiety, and restlessness.1 Due to these effects and acamprosate’s low potential for misuse and addiction, it is a common medication for addiction treatment (MAT) for those struggling with alcohol addiction. Understanding what acamprosate is, how it works, and how it can be part of a comprehensive treatment program can help you understand and find an addiction treatment program.

What Is Acamprosate?

Acamprosate, sometimes called by the brand name Campral, is one of three medications approved by the FDA for the treatment of alcohol use disorder (AUD).1 Acamprosate is commonly used to help manage or reduce cravings in those struggling with AUD.1

Many people are prescribed acamprosate after detoxing from alcohol to help reduce their cravings and urges to drink in early recovery.1 Acamprosate is non-addictive and carries very little risk of overdose, making it a safe medication when prescribed by a healthcare provider.1

How Does Acamprosate Work?

The mechanism that makes acamprosate effective in reducing cravings is still not fully understood. Research indicates that it normalizes brain activity that is disrupted by chronic alcohol use.1 More specifically, it appears that acamprosate counterbalances a lack of the neurotransmitters GABA and glutamate in the brain, which then produces fewer cravings for alcohol.2

Acamprosate has been proven effective in people who have completed detoxification. However, its effectiveness has not yet been studied in people still using alcohol or not yet fully abstinent.2

What Are the Side Effects of Acamprosate?

Common acamprosate side effects include:1, 3

  • Diarrhea and cramping of the intestines. This is the most common side effect of taking acamprosate and is present in about 10% to 17% of all patients.
  • Skin itchiness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Flatulence
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle weakness
  • Increased sexual desire3

Overall, acamprosate is generally well-tolerated with a low incidence of side effects in most patients.3 In rare severe cases, some people may experience depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts.1 If you are uncertain if you are experiencing side effects of acamprosate or if your side effects worsen, seek the guidance of your healthcare provider.

Acamprosate for Addiction Treatment

Acamprosate is typically prescribed five days after the cessation of alcohol use, at which point a patient is most likely done with the detoxification process.2 Acamprosate usually reaches its full effectiveness within 5 to 8 days after initiating therapy, and patients typically take acamprosate for up to a year after becoming abstinent from alcohol.1, 2

Treatment providers need to be knowledgeable about acamprosate, its uses, and potential side effects for the purpose of educating their patients and continuously assessing their needs.1 Providing education about acamprosate and helping patients to make informed decisions can be part of a clinical treatment program with their prescribing professional, as well as with a mental health therapist, as motivation for change is a powerful factor in the effectiveness of acamprosate.1 For example, if patients are not motivated to change their drinking behaviors, they may be less likely to take acamprosate as prescribed, making it less effective. As such, Acamprosate is generally considered as part of a larger addiction treatment plan, and typically paired with comprehensive counseling and behavior therapy programs.1

How to Find Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder

If you are considering taking acamprosate for an alcohol use disorder, it may be a good idea to start by consulting with your doctor or another healthcare provider. It is important to assess your physical and mental health and identify treatment options that are individualized based on your needs. Your doctor will also help you determine whether medication-assisted treatment is right for you and recommend what level of care you may need.

After you have talked with your doctor, you may be wondering how to find treatment for alcohol use. Tools like SAMHSA’s Treatment Locator can help you to find different treatment facilities in your area. You may also benefit from reaching out to an addiction helpline. American Addiction Centers (AAC) operates a 24/7 helpline that can connect you with compassionate professionals. Our staff can answer questions you may have about acamprosate and addiction treatment, help direct you to suitable treatment facilities, and verify your medical insurance. Don’t delay a life of recovery, get started today by calling .

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