Substance Use

Campral (Acamprosate) for Alcohol Abuse: Dosage & Side Effects

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Campral is a medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) used to help individuals with alcohol use disorder.

Alcohol is a substance that cannot be cut out entirely in one swift motion because it may cause severe withdrawal effects, such as organ damage. To avoid withdrawal reactions, alcohol use disorder patients should be slowly weaned off this substance. Usually, a provider prescribes benzodiazepines, which are prescription drugs, to help.

Your doctor might prescribe Campral after you’ve successfully weaned from alcohol. Campral is a medication that can help you remain alcohol-free for good without causing serious health problems. Once successful, your provider can wean you from Campral so you can lead a substance-free life.

Here, you can learn what Campral is, how it works, and how it can help you or a loved one begin the recovery journey.

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What is Campral (Acamprosate)?

Campral is the brand name for acamprosate. This is a medication that stabilizes the brain during alcohol withdrawal. (1)

When someone with alcohol use disorder stops drinking alcohol, the brain immediately goes into withdrawal. Campral can interrupt that function and minimize withdrawal symptoms for the user. It doesn’t relieve the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal but instead reduces cravings by restoring the balance of chemicals in the brain. (1)

Before starting Campral, you must wean from alcohol completely and practice alcohol abstinence. You can accomplish this with a benzodiazepine medication and under the supervision of a doctor or pharmacist.

Once you or your loved one has safely quit alcohol, Campral helps ease the withdrawal effects on the brain. Normally, patients need to take Campral three times a day with food.

Don’t change your Campral dosage without consulting your doctor or pharmacist first. Campral has side effects that can worsen if you exceed your prescribed dosage after a missed dose. 

Check with your doctor or pharmacist to ensure Campral is right for you. They can help by offering the right medications for withdrawal.

How Campral Works

Campral blocks some neurotransmitters and activates others. The medication aims to reduce cravings and stabilize brain chemicals that are disrupted by alcohol withdrawal. Campral doesn’t reduce or minimize most withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal from alcohol can be unpleasant at times, but overall, it is temporary and usually doesn’t leave lasting effects.

A major side effect of alcohol abuse is liver damage. (2) Campral isn’t metabolized by the liver, so it’s safe for users with liver disease. Campral helps users control their cravings and makes it easier for them to avoid relapsing.

Alcohol cravings can be strong. Campral can make abstinence easier for a recovering addict and is a treatment for alcohol dependence. Campral should not be used while a patient is still consuming alcohol.

This can have possible side effects that could be life-threatening. To be safe, users must have completely detoxed from daily alcohol consumption so they can take Campral without adverse reactions.

Campral for Alcohol Abuse and Addiction

Campral, scientifically known as acamprosate, is a medication designed to assist individuals in maintaining abstinence from alcohol following detoxification. Its effectiveness lies in addressing the complex challenges associated with alcohol abuse and addiction. Below is a comprehensive overview of how Campral operates in the context of alcohol use disorder (AUD) treatment.

  1. Mechanism of Action

Campral’s mechanism of action is rooted in its ability to modulate neurotransmission in the brain, specifically involving the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glutamate systems. (3)

By restoring balance to these neurotransmitters, Campral helps alleviate the protracted withdrawal symptoms often experienced by individuals in early recovery, such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Dysphoria
  1. Effectiveness in Maintaining Abstinence

Numerous clinical trials and studies support the effectiveness of Campral in promoting and sustaining abstinence from alcohol. Unlike medications that induce aversion to alcohol or reduce cravings, Campral primarily focuses on supporting individuals in avoiding relapse by mitigating the distressing symptoms that may arise during the post-acute withdrawal phase.

  1. Reducing Relapse Risk

Campral is particularly beneficial in reducing the risk of relapse during the crucial early months of recovery. By providing neurochemical stabilization, it contributes to a more comfortable and stable transition to a life free from alcohol dependence. This can be instrumental in preventing individuals from returning to harmful drinking patterns.

  1. Patient Selection and Individual Response

The effectiveness of Campral varies among individuals, and its success often depends on factors such as the severity of alcohol dependence, overall health, and commitment to a comprehensive treatment plan. Healthcare providers carefully assess patients to determine the suitability of Campral and may tailor treatment based on individual responses.

  1. Complementary Role in Treatment Plans

Campral is rarely used as a standalone treatment. It is typically integrated into a broader treatment plan that may include counseling, behavioral therapies, and support groups. The combined approach addresses the multifaceted nature of alcohol addiction, enhancing the overall effectiveness of the treatment strategy.

Campral vs. Other Alcohol Addiction Treatments

When considering treatment options for alcohol addiction, various medications and therapeutic approaches are available. Here, we provide a detailed comparison between Campral and other common prescription medications.

  1. Campral vs. Naltrexone: (4)
  • Approach:
    • Campral primarily addresses the neurochemical imbalances associated with protracted withdrawal, focusing on stabilizing neurotransmitters.
    • Naltrexone operates as an opioid receptor antagonist, reducing alcohol cravings and blocking the rewarding effects of alcohol.
  • Effectiveness:
    • Campral is particularly effective in alleviating symptoms like anxiety and dysphoria during early recovery.
    • Naltrexone shows efficacy in reducing the frequency and intensity of alcohol cravings.
  • Suitability:
    • Campral may be more suitable for individuals experiencing emotional distress during abstinence.
    • Naltrexone may be preferred for those struggling with intense cravings and seeking a pharmacological approach to reduce alcohol consumption.
  1. Campral vs. Disulfiram: (5)
  • Approach:
    • Campral focuses on stabilizing neurotransmitters to mitigate protracted withdrawal symptoms.
    • Disulfiram induces aversion to alcohol by blocking its metabolism, leading to unpleasant reactions if alcohol is consumed.
  • Effectiveness:
    • Campral effectively reduces the emotional toll of early recovery, contributing to a smoother transition.
    • Disulfiram is potent in creating a deterrent effect, discouraging individuals from drinking due to aversive reactions.
  • Suitability:
    • Campral may be suitable for those seeking relief from emotional symptoms during recovery.
    • Disulfiram is recommended for individuals highly motivated to abstain and deterred by the prospect of adverse reactions.
  1. Campral vs. Behavioral Therapies:
  • Approach:
    • Campral is a pharmacological intervention addressing neurochemical aspects of alcohol dependence.
    • Behavioral therapies involve counseling and interventions to modify drinking behaviors and thought patterns.
  • Effectiveness:
  • Suitability:
    • Campral is suitable for those requiring additional pharmacological support in conjunction with behavioral interventions.

The choice between Campral and other alcohol addiction treatments depends on individual needs, preferences, and the nature of alcohol dependence. 

Tailored treatment plans often combine multiple approaches for a comprehensive and effective recovery strategy and limited serious side effects

Using Campral: Dosage and Treatment Regimen

For individuals considering Campral as part of their alcohol addiction treatment plan, understanding the dosage and treatment regimen is crucial. Here, we delve into the specifics of using Campral, comparing its dosage and regimen with other commonly used treatments.

  1. Dosage of Campral:
  • Initial Dosage:
    • The typical starting dose of Campral is 666 mg (two 333 mg tablets) taken three times a day. (6)
    • This initial dosage aims to achieve therapeutic levels of acamprosate in the body.
  • Maintenance Dosage:
    • After the initial phase, individuals may continue with the maintenance dosage of 666 mg taken three times daily.
    • Consistency in taking the medication is crucial for optimal effectiveness.
  • Duration of Use:
    • Campral is often prescribed for an extended duration, with treatment lasting several months to support sustained abstinence.

Common Side Effects of Campral

When you begin taking Campral, you may or may not feel one or more of the following side effects:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Gas
  • Kidney problems
  • Stomach pains
  • Issues with the nervous system
  • Weight loss
  • Muscle pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Constipation

Campral may also reduce sexual desire or performance ability. (7)

Side effects should be mild to moderate and should slowly improve with time. If your side effects worsen, consult your doctor or pharmacist immediately. In rare cases, patients on Campral may also develop suicidal thoughts or depression. If this happens to you, seek medical advice immediately to see if another medication may be better for you.

Rarely, users may experience extreme side effects like black stool, vomit that resembles coffee grounds, and even seizures. If you experience severe symptoms, head to your local ER as soon as possible. 

Your dosage may be too high or the drug itself may not be the right choice for you. To prevent serious illness, seek medical attention immediately if you experience these severe reactions to Campral.

Warnings and Drug Interactions

Before considering the use of Campral (acamprosate) as part of alcohol addiction treatment, it is crucial to be aware of potential warnings, drug interactions, and contraindications associated with this medication.

  1. Allergies and Hypersensitivity:
    • Individuals with known hypersensitivity or allergies to acamprosate should avoid its use. Allergic reactions can range from mild skin rashes to severe conditions, like kidney disease, necessitating immediate medical attention.
  2. Kidney Function Impairment:
    • The kidneys primarily excrete Campral. Therefore, individuals with impaired renal function or those undergoing dialysis should exercise caution and consult with a healthcare professional before using this medication. Dosage adjustments may be necessary to prevent potential adverse effects.
  3. Drug Interactions:
    • It is essential to inform healthcare providers about all medications, including over-the-counter drugs and supplements, being taken concurrently with Campral. Potential drug interactions may occur, affecting the efficacy and safety of both Campral and other medications. Notably, combining Campral with nephrotoxic drugs or those that affect renal function should be approached with caution.
  4. Pregnancy and Breastfeeding:
    • Limited studies have been conducted on the safety of acamprosate during pregnancy. Therefore, pregnant individuals or those planning to become pregnant should discuss the potential risks and benefits with their healthcare provider. The use of Campral during breastfeeding is not recommended due to the lack of sufficient data on its safety in nursing infants. (8)
  5. Psychiatric Conditions:
    • Individuals with pre-existing psychiatric conditions, especially those prone to suicidal thoughts or behaviors, should be closely monitored while taking Campral. The medication’s impact on mood and mental well-being requires careful observation, and any unusual changes should be promptly reported to healthcare providers.
  6. Alcohol Dependence Assessment:
    • Campral is specifically designed to support individuals in maintaining abstinence from alcohol after detoxification. It is not a substitute for detoxification, and individuals should be free from alcohol at the start of Campral therapy.
  7. Side Effects and Adverse Reactions:
    • Common side effects of Campral include diarrhea, nausea, dry mouth, and headache. However, immediate medical attention is crucial if more severe side effects or adverse reactions occur, such as signs of an allergic reaction, difficulty breathing, or chest pain. (9)

Individuals considering or currently using Campral should engage in open and transparent communication with their healthcare providers to ensure the safe and effective integration of this medication into their overall treatment plan.

Regular monitoring and adjustment of treatment strategies may be necessary based on individual responses and evolving health conditions.

How to Access Treatment and Support

Alcohol abuse is a complex and hazardous disorder that profoundly affects the brain, leading to a loss of control over one’s drinking behavior. This condition alters brain chemistry, making it challenging for individuals to quit or reduce their alcohol consumption voluntarily. Acknowledging the severity of alcohol abuse is crucial for initiating the journey to recovery.

The disease of alcohol abuse involves a cycle of compulsive drinking, despite negative consequences on various aspects of life, such as relationships, work, and health. It often leads to physical and psychological dependence, reinforcing the need for professional intervention.

The initial step towards recovery is recognizing the need for help. This acknowledgment can be challenging due to the nature of alcohol’s impact on decision-making and self-awareness. Seeking assistance from a comprehensive treatment program is a vital component of overcoming alcohol abuse.

Treatment programs offer a structured and supportive environment where individuals can address the physical, emotional, and social aspects of alcohol abuse. Professional guidance, therapy, and, in some cases, medications are integral components of these programs, helping individuals regain control over their lives and break free from the cycle of alcohol abuse. 

Taking this critical step towards seeking help is essential for a healthier, more fulfilling life in recovery.

How Do I Start My Journey to Recovery?

If you are considering recovery for yourself or a loved one, the first step is making the call. You will have to detox from alcohol safely, under the supervision of a doctor to be able to take Campral. Taking Campral can be an added benefit to a healthy treatment rehabilitation program to maintain a sober life.

Alcohol addiction and substance abuse can take over your life, ruin relationships, and leave you feeling upset, embarrassed, and disappointed in yourself. But there is help out there and you don’t have to do it alone. We’re here and we can help. Your journey to recovery can start today.


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