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Acamprosate (Campral®) is a drug used in the treatment of alcohol dependence, first developed in Europe in the 80s. The safety and efficacy of acamprosate have made it a staple of medication-assisted treatments for alcohol use disorder. However, acamprosate does not cure alcohol dependence. The drug helps currently abstinent alcoholics by lowering alcohol cravings and the risk of relapse during treatment and recovery.

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What Is Acamprosate?

Acamprosate is a delayed-release prescription medication used to help individuals with alcohol dependence maintain abstinence. The drug is also known as “acamprosate calcium” or by its brand name, Campral®.

The drug is one of several medication-assisted treatments (MATs) used to help address withdrawal symptoms or aid in maintaining sobriety. Acamprosate works by decreasing urges and cravings to consume alcohol.

Acamprosate is the third drug to be approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) for alcohol use disorder.

The other drugs to be FDA-approved for treating alcoholism are disulfiram and naltrexone. Many treatment plans pair acamprosate and disulfiram together for better treatment outcomes.

How Does Acamprosate Treat Alcohol Use Disorder?

Certain brain functions may be damaged or changed by long-term alcohol abuse; acamprosate helps balance these functions again.

Acamprosate interacts with GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) neurotransmitters in the brain. These neurotransmitters are associated with slowing certain brain functions related to stress and sleep.

Unlike other MATs, acamprosate does not help with alcohol withdrawal symptoms that many experience when they attempt to stop drinking. However, acamprosate can help minimize alcohol cravings and prevent relapse.

The drug is often included among treatment options for alcohol-dependent patients who struggle to stop drinking alcohol on their own. Acamprosate may be offered during medical detoxification in rehab or as part of an outpatient treatment program.

Acamprosate VS Other Medications for Alcohol Addiction

Acamprosate is not the only medication used to help patients struggling with their alcohol consumption.

There are two other drugs approved by the FDA for treating alcohol dependence: disulfiram and naltrexone.

Disulfiram (Antabuse®) is a prescription drug that causes adverse reactions should a patient drink alcohol while taking it. The reactions vary from nausea and vomiting to shaking and sweating profusely. These symptoms act as a powerful deterrent against drinking alcohol.

Naltrexone, on the other hand, works by binding with specific opioid receptors in the brain to prevent alcohol or opiates from causing euphoric effects.

While all of these drugs are considered safe and effective in treating alcohol addiction, they do carry some risks your healthcare provider can disclose to you.

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Potential Side Effects of Acamprosate Treatment

Although acamprosate is a very safe drug, there are side effects that can occur. Make sure you inform your doctor of your medical history and status to ensure no drug interactions or adverse events are occurring due to existing medical conditions.

Common side effects of taking acamprosate for alcohol dependence include:

  • Headache
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Gas
  • Constipation
  • Stomach pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Drowsiness or dizziness
  • Tiredness
  • Weight gain/loss
  • Changes in sexual desire or decreased sexual ability

Contact your doctor right away if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Increased thirst
  • Fast or pounding heartbeat
  • Fainting
  • Mood changes like worsened depression or  thoughts of suicide
  • Signs of kidney issues like changes in urination
  • Vision or hearing changes

What to Know Before Starting Acamprosate Treatment

While acamprosate does not interact with the effects of alcohol, the drug is intended to be taken once the patient stops drinking alcohol completely. In fact, in patients who are still drinking alcohol, acamprosate appears not to work at all.

Acamprosate will not help addicts who are not committed to abstinence and who are still regularly or heavily drinking. Furthermore, acamprosate will not cure substance use disorders; instead, it helps rebalance brain chemistry that has been disrupted by heavy alcohol abuse.

Acamprosate is safe to use while breastfeeding, but talk to your doctor about whether it is worth the potential risk if pregnant. Acamprosate is also safe to take with benzodiazepines and is safe with alcohol should a relapse occur.

Get Acamprosate Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder

Acamprosate is just one part of alcohol abuse treatment. The drug can help with abstinence, but other measures, such as behavioral therapy and support groups, can help support the benefits gained by taking acamprosate.

If you think acamprosate can help you find recovery, talk to your doctor or addiction specialist about whether the drug could work for you.

If you’re starting your recovery journey and aren’t sure where to start, try SAMHSA’s online treatment locator or call 1-800-662-4357. The treatment locator and helpline can provide a list of addiction healthcare providers in your area that are currently accepting new patients.

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FAQs About Acamprosate Treatment

Is acamprosate bad for your liver?

No. Acamprosate is generally safe for most patients, even those with liver impairments. The liver safety of acamprosate is especially fortunate, considering how destructive alcohol use can be on the liver.

That said, make sure your doctor knows of any liver issues so liver function can be regularly checked.

Does acamprosate help with anxiety?

It can. Acamprosate is prescribed for the treatment of alcohol use disorder and helps rebalance the brain chemistry that alcohol abuse can disturb.

Because acamprosate targets glutamate and GABA neurotransmitters, which are associated with anxiety, it can reduce symptoms of anxiety in patients.

What are the common side effects of acamprosate?

The most common side effects of acamprosate are related to stomach issues like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and gas. Other symptoms like drowsiness, headaches, muscle pain, and sexual dysfunction may occur as well. Talk to your doctor about any unpleasant side effects should they arise.

What is the controversy with acamprosate?

Acamprosate was originally developed and studied in Europe in the 80s, eventually coming to the US and receiving FDA approval in 2004. In the late 90s and early 2000s, controversy in the healthcare community arose due to resistance to using a drug to treat addiction.

The controversy around acamprosate had more to do with the reluctance towards medication-assisted treatments (MATs) to help with substance abuse disorders than the drug itself.

Since the early 2000s, MATs have become widely accepted as effective treatment for serious cases of opioid and alcohol addiction.

How long does it take for acamprosate to start working?

Acamprosate takes several days to a week to take full effect. After about five days of taking the drug, a consistent amount will have built up in the body, and you should begin to experience its full benefits.

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. is a founder of Addiction HelpReviewed by:Kent S. Hoffman, D.O.

Chief Medical Officer & Co-Founder

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. has been an expert in addiction medicine for more than 15 years. In addition to managing a successful family medical practice, Dr. Hoffman is board certified in addiction medicine by the American Osteopathic Academy of Addiction Medicine (AOAAM). Dr. Hoffman has successfully treated hundreds of patients battling addiction. Dr. Hoffman is the Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of and ensures the website’s medical content and messaging quality.

Jessica Miller is the Content Manager of Addiction HelpWritten by:

Editorial Director

Jessica Miller is the Editorial Director of Addiction Help. Jessica graduated from the University of South Florida (USF) with an English degree and combines her writing expertise and passion for helping others to deliver reliable information to those impacted by addiction. Informed by her personal journey to recovery and support of loved ones in sobriety, Jessica's empathetic and authentic approach resonates deeply with the Addiction Help community.

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  2. L Yahn, S. L., Watterson, L. R., & Olive, M. F. (2013, January 31). Safety and Efficacy of Acamprosate for the Treatment of Alcohol Dependence. Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment.
  3. Maisel, N. C., Blodgett, J. C., Wilbourne, P. L., Humphreys, K., & Finney, J. W. (2013, February). Meta-Analysis of Naltrexone and Acamprosate for Treating Alcohol Use Disorders: When Are These Medications Most Helpful?. Addiction (Abingdon, England).
  4. Mason, B. J., & Heyser, C. J. (2010, March). Acamprosate: a Prototypic Neuromodulator in the Treatment of Alcohol Dependence. Cns & Neurological Disorders Drug Targets.
  5. Morrow, D. J. (1998, July 31). Curbing the Urge to Drink; Drug to Treat Alcoholism Sets off Controversy in U.S. The New York Times.
  6. Saivin, S., Hulot, T., Chabac, S., Potgieter, A., Durbin, P., & Houin, G. (1998, November). Clinical Pharmacokinetics of Acamprosate. Clinical Pharmacokinetics and Psychiatry.
  7. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2009). Incorporating Alcohol Pharmacotherapies Into Medical Practice. National Library of Medicine.
  8. Witkiewitz, K., Saville, K., & Hamreus, K. (2012). Acamprosate for Treatment of Alcohol Dependence: Mechanisms, Efficacy, and Clinical Utility. Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management.

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