How Is Acamprosate Used in the Detox Process?

If a person struggles with alcohol use disorder, they can suffer serious side effects if they decide to stop drinking cold turkey — and some of these effects can even be life-threatening. As part of addiction treatment, doctors may use certain medications to ease withdrawal symptoms and help prevent relapse, including acamprosate.

Read on to learn more about this acamprosate, how it works, and how to get help for you or a loved one struggling with addiction to alcohol.

What is Acamprosate?

addiction treatment medication

Acamprosate is the generic name of a prescription drug, often sold under the brand name Campral, which is used in the clinical treatment of alcohol dependence, detox, and relapse prevention. The medication helps to moderate chemicals in the brain, which can become imbalanced in people who struggle with alcohol use disorder and who have recently quit drinking. This chemical imbalance may otherwise lead to serious withdrawal symptoms, including hallucinations, seizures, and delirium tremens.

Many studies show that acamprosate can be effective during alcohol use disorder treatment. The medication, when paired with psychotherapy, counseling, and other aspects of rehabilitation, can help to prevent relapse. In one study, American Family Physician notes relapse rates are reduced by 18% when individuals take this medication.

Who Manufactures Acamprosate?

Although Europe has used acamprosate in the treatment of alcohol use disorder since 1989, this medication was not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for prescription use in the United States until 2004. The prescription drug was originally developed in France by Laboratories Meram. The US version, Campral, is marketed by Forest Pharmaceuticals.

How Does Acamprosate Work in Alcohol Addiction Treatment?

Currently, medical professionals are not entirely sure how acamprosate helps treat alcohol use disorder, although it is thought to affect calcium channels used by gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). By moderating this neurotransmitter, acamprosate is thought to decrease the positive reinforcement associated with alcohol consumption in people who struggle with alcohol addiction. Adjusting the GABA receptor transmission process can also ease withdrawal symptoms while a person detoxes from alcohol addiction.

When a person takes this medication as prescribed, and receives counseling and psychotherapy during the course of their detox and rehabilitation, the individual is less likely to relapse. If the person does relapse, they are more likely to return to treatment sooner. This prescription should always be used in combination with psychotherapy, including individual and group therapy, for the best chances at long-term abstinence from alcohol.

Acamprosate Dosing

When a person receives a prescription for acamprosate, they are instructed to take the medication three times daily. Often, it is recommended that the person take their dose with mealtimes, making it easier to remember. Each pill is about 333 mg in tablet form, and a typical dose for the average adult is two tablets at each meal (or three times per day). It is important not to miss a dose of this medication, because it needs to build up in the body over time.

Unlike some other medications used in detox and rehabilitation, including benzodiazepines, acamprosate takes between five and eight days to become fully effective. It is important for medical providers to encourage their patients to stick with the treatment for a week or more, to ensure acamprosate’s effectiveness.

Acamprosate Side Effects

Because acamprosate affects brain chemistry, many of the side effects are psychological or emotional. Some of these side effects include:

  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.
  • Mood swings.
  • Irritability or behavioral changes.
  • Suicidal ideation.
  • Fluttering or pounding heartbeat.

These effects can be serious, so it is important to report these changes as soon as possible to a medical professional, psychotherapist, or psychiatrist.

Acamprosate can cause other side effects, which are less serious than psychological changes, and less intense or dangerous than the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. These side effects include:

  • Physical weakness.
  • Pain.
  • Appetite changes.
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or gas.
  • Dizziness.
  • Sweating.
  • Itching.
  • Depressed mood.
  • Anxiety.
  • Insomnia.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Numbness or tingling, especially in the extremities.

A person taking acamprosate may also experience headaches and some memory problems or cognitive difficulties. Short-term working memory should not be affected.

Get Help for Alcohol Use Disorder

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction to alcohol, it’s important to get help right away. Without support and medical help, there is a potential for physically dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Fortunately there is safe and effective treatment available.

At our inpatient rehab in Lafayette, NJ the addiction specialists at Sunrise House Treatment Center use evidence-based addiction-focused healthcare to help individuals find meaningful recovery from alcohol use disorders. Contact our helpful and compassionate admissions navigators at to learn more about our safe medical detox, other levels of care, and how to start the admissions process. They can also answer your questions about using your insurance for rehab and provide helpful tips that can get you ready to enter treatment.

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