Acamprosate, marketed in the United States by Forest Laboratories under the brand name Campral, is a drug that is sometimes used to help recovering alcoholics to abstain from drinking. Campral is not a substitute for more traditional forms of treatment such as counseling and attendance of support groups. Rather, Campral should be used in conjunction with standard treatment techniques and may increase their effectiveness. Campral has demonstrated effectiveness in helping those who have already detoxified from alcohol to abstain from drinking, but has not shown effectiveness in helping those who continue to drink or in helping those with multiple addictions.
How Does Campral Treat Alcoholism?
Regular long-term use of alcohol, especially in large amounts, results in chemical changes in the neurotransmitters in the brain. Campral’s exact mechanism of action is not fully understood, but in simplest terms it is thought that the drug counteracts the effects of alcohol in the neurological pathways and helps to restore the brain’s chemical balance. Campral helps in recovery from alcohol addiction primarily by reducing cravings for alcohol once the recovering alcoholic has stopped drinking. Campral will not cause a negative reaction in case of relapse.
Campral may have additional benefits as well. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Campral will not eliminate withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting drinking, but it may reduce the severity of the symptoms as well as the cellular damage caused by withdrawal. For example, alcohol withdrawal results in a surge in the neurotransmitter glutamate, which then may cause symptoms of withdrawal such as the delirium tremens (DTs). Campral reduces the surge of glutamate, thus counteracting DTs. Campral also seems to have a neuroprotective effect, protecting neurons from damage caused by alcohol withdrawal.
Possible Side Effects of Campral Use in Treating Alcoholism
Campral was approved for use in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in July 2004. The FDA concluded that Campral is safe, effective and non-addictive. However, use of Campral is not without drawbacks. Campral may cause side effects, most of which are merely unpleasant but some of which may be more serious. Possible side effects of Campral use include but are not limited to the following:
- Upset stomach
- Loss of appetite
- Dry mouth
- Burning, tingling or numbness in the hands, arms, feet or legs
Campral may impair cognitive and motor skills and the ability to drive or operate machinery safely. Campral will not reduce the depression associated with alcoholism and withdrawal and in fact may increase or trigger depression and suicidal thoughts, especially in patients with a history of or predisposition to depression; be sure to inform your doctor if you suffer from depression or have suffered from it in the past, or if you have a history of suicidal thoughts or attempts. Be sure to inform your doctor of any and all side effects you experience while taking Campral.
Questions about Campral and Alcohol Addiction?
Campral is not a substitute for traditional methods of treating alcohol addiction but may be an effective part of an overall treatment strategy that includes counseling and social support.
If you would like more detailed information about Campral and its use in helping to treat recovering alcoholics, or if you would like assistance in finding treatment for alcohol abuse or addiction, please call our toll-free helpline today. Counselors are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you may have and help you find treatment if you need it.