What is Acamprosate?
Acamprosate is a medication sold under the brand name Campral for the use of treating alcohol dependence. It is most effective when used alongside counseling following a period of detox.
Its chemical name is calcium acetyl homotaurinate and is very similar to a natural chemical in the brain called gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), which regulates and controls the nervous system.
Acamprosate is thought to stabilize the chemical (GABA) signals in the brain that would otherwise be irritated by alcohol withdrawal.
Used alone, Acamprosate is not regarded as being a particularly effective therapy for alcoholism in the majority of patients, but studies have found that when used together with psycho social support it helps to reduce alcohol cravings to promote total abstinence following a detox or period of not drinking.
What are the side effects of Acamprosate?
- Common side effects may include:
- Muscle or joint pain.
- Loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhea and/or excess gas.
- Dizziness or anxiety.
- Itching or sweating;
- Lowered or depressed mood.
- Insomnia or difficulty getting off to sleep.
- Numbness or tingly feeling in one or more limbs.
Most of these symptoms often settle down after a couple of weeks and for the majority of users are not a problem. However, a lowered mood or depression can continue and you should seek advice from your doctor or health expert if it persists.
Other rare but noteworthy reports include:
- A faster heart rate.
- Changes in hearing ability.
- Increased thirst.
- Loss of sexual drive.
Again. it may be worth speaking to your doctor if you experience any of these rarer conditions as Acamprosate might not be suitable and an alternative may be recommended.
Please note, this isn’t an exhaustive list and you should always carefully read the information leaflet supplied with the drug to get a full understanding.
How long does it take for Acamprosate to start working?
The tablets are delayed release in 333mg capsules. They should be taken whole as prescribed and should not be crushed or broken.
It takes five to seven days of taking the drug for it to build up a stable concentration in the body.
When should I start taking Acamprosate?
Acamprosate is normally started within 5 days following a period of abstinence or detox, but can be started sooner.
Acamprosate works by restoring the natural balance of chemicals in the brain (neurotransmitters), and before starting this medication, you should no longer be drinking alcohol.
Is Acamprosate a controlled substance?
Acamprosate calcium is not a controlled substance as it’s not classed as an addictive drug, therefore it’s potential for abuse is regarded as very low.
Does Acamprosate help with anxiety?
Struggling with anxiety, insomnia, and restlessness after giving up alcohol can be normal, often tempting the patient to take a drink again for relief. It is believed that Acamprosate helps restore the balance of the brain’s chemical neurotransmitters easing the symptoms and reducing the cravings.
Can Acamprosate make you gain weight?
As a substance there is no strong evidence that Acamprosate causes weight gain, although some people experience an increased appetite once they begin taking Acamprosate. Research has not yet determined whether the increase in appetite is caused by the drug or whether there is a neurological response to replace the alcohol with something else satisfying, thereby increasing calorie intake.
Does Acamprosate make you tired?
In some people the calming effect of brain’s neurotransmitters can lead to a feeling of drowsiness. If this happens you should avoid driving or operating machinery. Please be aware that it is an offence to drive a vehicle while under the influence of prescription drugs that you know cause you impairment. It may also invalidate your insurance.
Seek the advice of your doctor or professional if concerned about tiredness when taking this or any prescription drugs.
Can Acamprosate really help with your recovery?
Unlike other recovery drugs that you may be familiar with such as Antabuse which make you feel violently ill if you take it with alcohol, Acamprosate does not have that effect. You can take Acamprosate while drinking alcohol and it won’t have a noticeable adverse effect (see note). This makes some people believe that it may be a placebo and that it doesn’t really work.
Of course, as with all drugs, some work better than others on different people. However, Acamprosate’s effect is believed to be powerfully effective by subtly working to calm and balance the neurotransmitters in the brain so that the patient can function normally without obsessing about alcohol all day.
Note. One danger of Acamprosate is its ability to minimise the effects of alcohol consumption. Therefore, if you’re determined to take a drink again with the intention of getting drunk, you may be tempted to drink far more than normal in order to feel the effect. This may lead to loss of consciousness or alcohol poisoning.
Can you suddenly stop taking Acamprosate?
Unlike detox drugs such as LIBRIUM, Acamprosate doesn’t have to be reduced gradually in order to safely stop. Technically, suddenly stopping the drug shouldn’t cause any immediate withdrawal problems.
The biggest danger is that you might not be ready to stop which can cause you to quickly revert back to alcohol cravings.
The course for Acamprosate is typically 6 to 12 months for most people, but unfortunately a lot of users feel they’re OK after a few weeks and can manage without it.
This is dangerous territory and you should always speak to your doctor or professional for advice first before making this decision.
Is Acamprosate the cure for alcohol addiction.
Irrespective of your relationship with alcohol, Acamprosate has been proved safe to assist in recovery following a detox and counseling plan.
However, on it’s own it’s not a cure for alcoholism, one simply doesn’t exist. It needs to be viewed as a tool in your arsenal in the ongoing battle against addiction.
Combined with counseling sessions and group therapy it makes for a very powerful Allie, but at the end of the day it all comes down to wanting to take control of your relationship with alcohol.
If this is where you are now, either starting Acamprosate or considering it as an option to beat your dependence then you must be applauded because it’s taken a lot of courage and realisation to admit you have a problem and seek out the solution.
And if you’ve arrived here because you feel you’ve hit rock bottom, then congratulations! If you’re really at rock bottom it’s a fine place to be, as the only place to go from rock bottom is back up again.
If you’re wondering how to get started with Acamprosate then book an appointment with your doctor for advice and options.
If you live in the England or Wales then you can seek advice and self refer to an organisation called Change Grow Live (CGL).
CGL are a social sector organisation helping people to deal with alcohol and drug use addictions (among other services).
Similar organisations are available in other parts of the UK and throughout the world including Alcoholics Anonymous.
Alcohol Free Me encourages open discussion for the benefit of all. The more this problem is discussed in an open way, the less power and mystique it will hold. If you wish to add your experience then please leave your comments below.
I will moderate and respond as soon as possible and reply to any questions.
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This blog and information is based solely on my experience of coming to terms with my personal alcohol dependence and what I’ve learned since I started my own journey.
The reason for sharing My Story is to benefit and give encouragement to others who may be facing a similar challenge. Even if it gives hope or helps just one person it will be worthwhile. Maybe that person will help another, and that other person help somebody else, and so it goes on.
I’m not a medical person and for that reason I have a disclaimer page which you can read here.
If this information has empowered you to take the next step then I would encourage you to seek medical help from your doctor or professional advice from organisations such as CGL. Wherever you are in the world there will be similar organisations willing to help.
Whichever path you take I applaud your courage and wish you well on your journey towards a new life and vastly improved health.
YOU CAN DO THIS…
World-renowned Professor of Neuropsychopharmacology David Nutt breaks down the science and effect of alcohol on our health, mood, sleep and productivity and how it travels through our bodies and brains and explains on a practical level how we can make changes to positively impact our relationship with it and understanding of it, thereby improving our quality of life for the long-term.