How to Treat Addiction & Abuse with Acamprosate

Acamprosate is a medication that is used as part of the treatment of alcohol dependence. However, rather than a standalone treatment, it is used in conjunction with a programme of rehabilitation to enhance the benefits. As it supports a reduction in alcohol consumption as well as complete abstinence, Acamprosate is a very useful tool when it comes to fighting alcohol abuse and addiction.

Although Acamprosate can help when it comes to reducing alcohol consumption, it does not completely prevent cravings for alcohol and it will not stop you from drinking alcohol. However, it does lessen the positive effects of alcohol, making it overall less desirable.

What Addictions is Acamprosate Used to Treat?

Medications for Abuse and Addiction

While the preferred method for treating many substance addictions is a programme of detoxification followed by rehabilitation, there are certain medications that can be used in conjunction with counselling and therapy to improve results.

For example, some medications can be administered during alcohol detox as a replacement drug to help relieve the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Taking such a substitute drug in tapering doses can help to prevent some of the worst symptoms of withdrawal from occurring or reduce the severity of those that do occur.

Some medications can also be prescribed for use after detox to help prevent a relapse. When it comes to abuse and addiction, there are many types of medication that can help to reduce cravings. Then there are others that decrease the pleasurable effects of certain substances, making it less enjoyable to use them.

How to Choose the Right Medication

When it comes to detox and rehabilitation, you will be provided with a treatment programme that is designed to fit around you and your requirements. Whether medication is a part of that programme or not will be determined by a fully qualified medical professional.

The medical professional taking care of you will take a close look at your personal situation and will provide an assessment of your needs. He or she will determine if medication is appropriate to your situation, depending on the substance you are addicted to and whether you have any other medical health issues. It is important that you tell your doctor about any health problems that you currently have or have had in the past as this could affect the type of medication that you can safely take.

What is Acamprosate?

Acamprosate is a medication that is used primarily to treat those trying to overcome an alcohol problem. It can be used effectively when counselling is also offered to help those who are alcohol dependent to stop drinking. It works by restoring the chemical imbalance in the brain that is caused by chronic alcohol abuse.

It does not get metabolised by the body and is excreted by the kidneys unchanged. It is for this reason that it is not recommended for use in those with severe kidney problems.

Brand Names for Acamprosate



History of Acamprosate

Acamprosate was first synthesised by Lipha and by 1989 was eventually approved for marketing across Europe. The rights to market the drug in the United States were acquired by Forest Laboratories in 2001. In 2004, it was approved by the US FDA for use in the treatment of alcohol addiction. Fast forward to 2013 and generic versions of Acamprosate were launched in America.

Confluence Pharmaceuticals has been developing Acamprosate for use in the treatment of fragile X syndrome and has been doing so since 2015. Fragile X syndrome is a genetic disorder that causes intellectual disability and distinctive physical features such as large ears, a long narrow face, large testicles, and flexible fingers. It can also cause similar characteristics to autism in about a third of sufferers, including social interaction problems.

Is Acamprosate Addictive?

Acamprosate is not classed as an addictive drug and the potential for its abuse is very low.

What is the Mechanism of Action?

Although the exact mechanism of action of Acamprosate is not fully understood at the time of this writing, it is thought that, because chronic alcohol abuse alters the balance of certain chemicals in the brain, Acamprosate can restore this balance. Scientists think that Acamprosate does this by interacting with the GABA and glutamate neurotransmitter systems.

It is thought that it inhibits NMDA receptors and activates GABA receptors and in so doing can restore the normal balance of inhibition and neuronal excitation that is affected by chronic alcohol abuse.

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How Long Does It Take for Acamprosate to Work?

As part of a detox and alcohol rehabilitation programme, Acamprosate is typically administered around five days after the last alcoholic drink. There are some cases though in which it will be administered as soon as detox has begun.

It is designed to be taken on an ongoing basis, and how quickly the effects are noticed will be different for everyone. For most people, it can take up to five days before the effects are fully noticeable.

What are the Side Effects of Acamprosate?

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhoea
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Depression

Facts/Statistics on Acamprosate

Fact #1

Acamprosate is one of two main drugs offered by the NHS for the treatment of alcohol dependence, the other being Disulfiram.

Fact #2

The number of prescriptions for Acamprosate dispensed in 2016 was 2.7 times higher than the number of prescriptions for Disulfiram.

Fact #3

Acamprosate is 58% cheaper than Disulfiram, which may account for the higher number of prescriptions.

Studies Done on Acamprosate
In 2005, a study into the ‘evidence for the effectiveness of Acamprosate in maintaining abstinence in alcohol-dependent patients’ was published in the Psychiatry Journal. Researchers concluded that while the drug had recently been introduced in the US as a treatment for alcohol dependence, there was sufficient evidence to show that Acamprosate was a safe and cost-effective treatment based on studies in Europe and Asia.