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January 6, 2020

Acamprosate is a medicine used in the treatment of alcoholism. Alcoholism is a condition in which a person has a physical need or a desire to drink alcohol even though it has a negative impact on their life. An alcoholic person does not know how or when to stop drinking. They spend a lot of time thinking about alcohol. Once they started drinking, they cannot control how much alcohol they consume, even if it is causing serious problems at work, home and financially.

Acamprosate is one of the few drugs approved by the U.S Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of alcoholism since 2002 but it has been widely used in Europe for many years. This medication was the third medication to receive U.S FDA approval for post-withdrawal maintenance of alcohol abstinence. Its mechanism of action has not clearly been established but it is believed to help normalize and modulate alcohol-related changes in the brain. It reduces cravings and desires to drink alcohol to those alcoholics who were able to manage to stop drinking.

The balance of neurotransmitter in your brain changes when you are a heavy drinker.  The excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate decreases creating a sedative effect. When you quit drinking, the amount of glutamate increased which results in hyperactivity and excitability. This can cause a person to crave for alcohol and to quell uncomfortable symptoms.

It is believed to restore the chemical balance in the brain that is disrupted by chronic alcohol abuse. It corrects the underlying neurochemical changes in the brain caused by chronic drinking so the brain can function normally. This way, an alcoholic can abstain from drinking alcohol.

Acamprosate reduces emotional discomfort and physical distress alcoholics usually experience when they quit drinking. It reduces many of the post0acute withdrawal symptoms that alcoholics experiences during the early stage of alcohol abstinence such as anxiety, sweating, and sleep disturbances. It works best if it is used along with social support and counseling to help people who have stopped drinking a large amount of alcohol so they can avoid drinking alcohol again. However, Acamprosate does not prevent the withdrawal symptoms that alcoholics may experience when they stop drinking alcohol.

When and How to Use Acamprosate

Acamprosate comes in a tablet form that you should take by mouth. Take a tablet three times a day with or without food. Swallow the tablet whole with plenty of water. Do not break, chew or crush the tablet. The typical dose for an adult weighing more than 60 kg is two tablets taken three times a day. It is typically initiated 5 days following drinking cessation. Your doctor may prescribe this medicine for at least one year. Take Acamprosate exactly as directed.

What to know before taking Acamprosate

  • This medication is not a stand-alone treatment for alcoholism. It should be provided by a trained healthcare provider as symptoms can range from uncomfortable to life-threatening.
  • Acamprosate is given to people who have already stopped drinking alcohol. It does not work for people who continue to drink alcohol or does it help ease the withdrawal symptoms. It is only effective if you have completely stopped drinking alcohol. Acamprosate does not also prevent the harmful effects of continued alcohol abuse.
  • It does not also work among those who abuse or overuse other substances such as prescription medications and street drugs.
  • It does not help with the withdrawal symptoms. It does not help someone quit drinking. It will help those who have already withdrawn from alcohol to maintain abstinence.
  • Do not use in:
    • People over 65 years of age
    • People with a decreased liver function
    • Children and adolescents under 18 years of age
    • Pregnant or trying to get pregnant
    • Breastfeeding women
    • You are allergic to any of its ingredients
    • People with kidney disease

Possible Side Effects of Acamprosate

Acamprosate is generally well-tolerated. There may have been a few mild and temporary side effects reported which include:

  • Itching
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhea
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sweating
  • Insomnia

In rare cases, this medication may cause more severe side effects. Stop taking this and seek medical help as soon as possible if you will experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Chest pain
  • Depression
  • Anxiety or nervousness
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Passing of urine less often         

Getting the Best Result from Acamprosate

  • The side effects of this medicine are few and mild. It is not addictive. It is usually prescribed for up to 12 months after alcohol consumption is stopped.
  • This medicine carries no overdose risk even when taken up to 56 grams. It is generally well-tolerated.
  • Acamprosate has no other clinically significant interactions with other medications.
  • This medicine can’t replace the support alcoholics can get from group therapy or counseling for maintaining their sobriety.
  • You can’t take this medicine if you have severe kidney damage.

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