What Is Acamprosate?
Acamprosate was approved for the treatment of alcohol dependency disorders in 2004. In 2005, the drug became available in rehab facilities, clinics and pharmacies in the United States. The medication is available in tablet form – sold under the brand name Campral – and is administered two to three times daily.
Similar to other medications used during the alcohol recovery process, acamprosate is administered after a person has completed detox. This is because it is intended to help prevent future urges to drink, rather than curbing any physical symptoms of withdrawal. The detox phase generally lasts about a week to two weeks; however, it varies depending on the amount and frequency of alcohol consumption.
Medications used during treatment, like acamprosate, are not intended to cure alcoholism. Rather, medication-assisted therapy is just one part of a comprehensive recovery plan. These plans focus on the whole person, rather than solely treating a drinking problem. Having a recovery plan will give individuals the tools and resources needed for long-term abstinence.
Comprehensive treatment plans are often made up of:
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Acamprosate In Treating Alcoholism
Acamprosate helps reduce the urge to to drink so people in recovery can focus on their sobriety and getting better. Unlike other medications used to treat alcoholism, this drug is non-habit forming and will not lead to prescription drug abuse.
Within the first few days and weeks after a person quits drinking, they’re likely to experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Since withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe, it’s highly recommended to undergo detox in an inpatient rehab facility. In this type of setting, patients receive around-the-clock care from treatment providers.
Once a patient is no longer physically dependent on alcohol, a treatment professional may administer acamprosate. This drug helps people stay abstinent and prevents them from falling back into old habits. In the event of a relapse, the medication will not cause an adverse reaction or exacerbate withdrawal symptoms.
Medications used during treatment are often an essential part of overcoming triggers and impulses to drink. Talk with your health provider about the benefits of a medication-based therapy and how it can help people stay abstinent during and after treatment.
How Does Acamprosate Work?
Many people start acamprosate therapy in a rehab setting and continue taking it after completing their program. Throughout treatment, the medication targets the brain’s reward system so you no longer experience a “high” from alcohol. A lack of positive reinforcement will decrease the frequency and severity of your urges to drink.
Years of alcohol consumption or frequent binge drinking can change the way your brain functions. Acamprosate works by stabilizing the chemicals in your brain that were damaged due to excessive alcohol use. Because alcohol penetrates the brain’s reward system, there is a greater chance for people to act on impulses when they drink. This can include being careless or risky with money, as well as neglecting home and work responsibilities to drink.
After a while, some people may feel as though they are not able to function without alcohol. When someone compulsively drinks without considering the negative effects of alcohol, it can lead to alcoholism. Trying to detox from alcohol can be life-threatening and should never be attempted alone.
The amount of time it will take for the brain to function normally again depends on several factors. These include how much and how often you drank, as well as if there are any other underlying medical conditions. It can take time for your brain to adjust without alcohol, so it’s important to be patient. People should continue taking the medicine even if they do not see any immediate improvements.
Acamprosate is commonly prescribed for one year, although studies are being conducted to determine the potential benefits of long-term use. Talk with your treatment provider to determine how long you should stay on the medicine, as well as the amount and frequency of doses.
Before discontinuing the use of this medicine, your treatment provider will review your:
- Length of time in recovery
- Weekly/monthly average of cravings
- Short- and long-term goals for sobriety maintenance
- Efforts to establish a support system made up of family members and friends
- Participation in aftercare programs, such as counseling and support groups
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Acamprosate Side Effects
It typically takes several days to a week for acamprosate to take full effect. During this time, you may experience uncomfortable side effects. This is because your body needs time to acclimate itself to the new medication. However, if side effects persist or get worse, notify your medical professional immediately.
Some of the more common side effects of acamprosate are:
- Muscle weakness
- Nausea and vomiting
Although severe side effects are less common, they can include:
- Suicidal thoughts
- Irregular heartbeat
- Vision problems
- Changes in hearing
- Urinating less than usual or not at all
When you’re suffering from an alcohol use disorder, it may seem as though there’s no end in sight. However, millions of people each year seek treatment to overcome a drinking problem.
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