What is Acamprosate Calcium?
Acamprosate Calcium (often referred to by the brand name Campral) is one of three medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of alcoholism. Acamprosate is likely the most used medication in the United States for alcohol abuse treatment and is even more common in dozens of countries around the world.
Unlike other alcohol treatment medications which either reduce the pleasurable impacts of alcohol or create deterring side effects from alcohol use, Acamprosate Calcium reduces the brain’s dependence on alcohol. Alcohol use changes the chemistry and functioning of the brain, and these changes become more severe the longer an addiction lasts and the more severe it becomes.
When alcohol is no longer entering the body, the brain is no longer able to function in the same way that it has. This leads to cravings as the body enters alcohol withdrawal. Alcohol withdrawal can be extremely painful, and in some extreme cases, even fatal.
Acamprosate Calcium reacts with the neurotransmitter systems in the brain. The drug helps modulate and normalize brain activity that has been thrown into disarray by the cessation of alcohol use. In particular, Acamprosate Calcium impacts the glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) systems. Some of the other benefits of Acamprosate are that it reduces symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety, and restlessness.
Unlike alternative alcoholism treatment medications, Acamprosate is broken down by the digestive tract instead of the liver. This makes the drug advantageous to those dealing with liver-related health concerns caused by alcoholism.
Proper Use Of Acamprosate Calcium
Acamprosate Calcium should be prescribed only after the patient has ceased alcohol use and gone through initial detox. As a prescription medication, Acamprosate should only be used under the guidance of a physician. It is not advisable to take Acamprosate Calcium while pregnant, or if you suffer from kidney issues. Acamprosate alone is not enough to treat alcoholism, and it should be combined with therapy and potentially other medications.
Acamprosate is taken orally three times a day. It can be taken with or without food, although many users choose to take it with meals because it is easier to remember to take if it is part of the breakfast, lunch, and dinner rituals. Acamprosate Calcium is most typically prescribed for a period of one year, although many users take it for shorter or longer periods of time.
Acamprosate Calcium is often taken in conjunction with other alcoholism medications such as Naltrexone and Disulfiram. Studies have shown that this increases the effectiveness of Acamprosate Calcium, though not necessarily the effectiveness of the other medications.
Side Effects Of Acamprosate Calcium
Most side effects of Acamprosate Calcium are mild and subside the longer treatment continues. It is this comparative lack of side effects that make the drug a more popular choice than alternatives. This is especially the case when it comes to liver-related side effects. However, there are a number of side effects, some of which are potentially very serious.
- Hypersensitivity to the drug
- Anxiety and nervousness
- Muscle weakness
- Suicidal thoughts
- Irregular heartbeat
- Vision problems
- Hearing changes
- Reduced urination
- Potential fetal risk
- Severe renal impairment
- Extreme feelings of sadness/emptiness
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loss of strength
Benefits of Acamprosate Calcium
- Absorbed through the digestive tract rather than the liver, improving effectiveness and reducing side effects for patients with liver damage.
- Fewer, generally less severe, and less prevalent side effects than other medications.
- No known drug interactions with other medications or substances.
- Actively reduces cravings for and dependence on alcohol, by reacting with neurotransmitters in the brain, rather than reducing the pleasurable impacts of alcohol or creating negative side effects from alcohol use.
Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)
AUD in the United States
According to the 2019 NSDUH, 14.5 million people ages 12 and older had AUD. This number includes 9.0 million men and 5.5 million women. This problem threatens a big number of young people too, as stated by the same source, an estimated 414,000 adolescents between the ages of 12 to 177 had AUD. This number includes 163,000 males and 251,000 females.
An estimated 95,000 people, approximately 68,000 men, and 27,000 women die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third-leading preventable cause of death in the United States. The first is tobacco, and the second is poor diet and physical inactivity.
Causes of alcoholism
It is common to think this condition arises from a person who simply does not know how to control their alcohol consumption and is trapped in a vicious circle, but according to the scientific piece ‘The many causes of alcoholism’ Cohen, S. Published on the Drug Abuse & Alcoholism Newsletter, there are three main causes of this disease: biological, physiological, and sociocultural.
- Biological causes may be:
- Genetic: “inherited susceptibility to alcohol’s acute effects, impaired ability to catabolize ingested alcohol, or difficulty in dealing with anxiety, frustration, and depression”.
- Biochemical: sensitivity to insulin, episodes of spontaneous hypoglycemia, or adrenal insufficiency.
- Or endocrine: persistently low levels of androgenic hormones.
- Among the psychological causes of alcoholism are:
- Need for tension relief and anxiety control
- Personality disorders
- Psychodynamic factors
- Learning: tension reduction from drinking provides a positive reinforcement to continue drinking
- Role modeling: peer example or occupational pressures
- Culture-specific drinking traditions, and those stresses and conflicts experienced by certain subcultures also contribute to overindulgence in alcohol.
Alcohol’s effects on the body
Alcohol can affect multiple organs of the body, including the brain, heart, liver, pancreas, and even the immune system.
- Brain: alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways, and can affect the way the brain looks and works. These disruptions can change mood and behavior, and make it harder to think clearly and move with coordination.
- Heart: drinking a lot over a long time or too much on a single occasion can damage the heart, causing problems including:
- Cardiomyopathy – Stretching and drooping of heart muscle
- Arrhythmias – Irregular heart beat
- High blood pressure
- Liver: Heavy drinking takes a toll on the liver, and can lead to a variety of problems and liver inflammations including:
- Steatosis, or fatty liver
- Alcoholic hepatitis
- Pancreas: alcohol causes the pancreas to produce toxic substances that can eventually lead to pancreatitis, a dangerous inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels in the pancreas that prevents proper digestion.
- Immune System: drinking too much can weaken your immune system, making your body a much easier target for disease. People who drink chronically are more liable to contract diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis than people who do not drink too much. Drinking a lot on a single occasion slows your body’s ability to ward off infections – even up to 24 hours after getting drunk.
Symptoms of alcoholism
As stated by the specialized web Drinkaware.co.uk and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, these are the signs to be aware of in terms of this condition:
- Appearing intoxicated more regularly
- Appearing tired, unwell or irritable
- An inability to say no to alcohol
- Becoming secretive or dishonest
- Drinking more, or longer than one intended
- Wanting to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but haven’t been able to do so
- Spending a lot of time drinking, being sick or getting over the aftereffects
- Experiencing craving, a strong need, or urge to drink
- Founding that drinking, or being sick from drinking, often interferes with taking care of your home or family, job troubles or school problems
- Continuing drinking even though it was causing trouble with family or friends
- Giving up or cutting back on activities that are important or interesting to you, in order to drink
- More than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex)
- Continuing to drink even though it was making you feel depressed, anxious, or adding to another health problem, or after having had a memory blackout
- Having to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want. Or finding that your usual number of drinks have much less effect than before
- Finding that when the effects of alcohol are wearing off, you have withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, nausea, or sweating.
What Happens If You Drink Alcohol While Taking Acamprosate Calcium?
While Acamprosate Calcium won’t cause any severe reactions if a person takes it while drinking alcohol, you should not drink while taking this medication. Acamprosate is specifically meant for people who no longer drink alcohol and have also undergone an alcohol detox treatment. Drinking alcohol while taking Acamprosate isn’t necessarily life-threatening, alcohol can prevent the medication from working and the person’s substance abuse disorder may persist once again.
How Long Does Acamprosate Calcium Stay In Your System?
Acamprosate Calcium can stay in your system for anywhere between 20 and 30 hours and usually takes around five days to kick in. After five days, it reaches a steady level and begins to take effect between three and eight hours after each dose. There isn’t a drug test that could pick up traces of Acamprosate in a person’s system.
That’s because this medication doesn’t produce euphoric effects or develop tolerance and addiction like other substances. Acamprosate will continue to remain in a person’s body as they continue to take it. Because it’s usually taken several times a day and can stay in a person’s system for up to 30 hours, traces of it will always be detected in the system of a person who takes it consistently.
Reclaim Your Life With Acamprosate Calcium
Alcoholism is a serious disease that can cause health, social and economic problems that should not be taken lightly. We Level Up California can provide you, or someone you know, the tools to treat alcoholism in a professional and safe way, such as medication-assisted treatment with Acamprosate Calcium. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors, we can inform you about this condition by giving you relevant information, our specialists know what you are going through. Each call is private and confidential.
 National Library of Medicine – Witkiewitz, K., Saville, K., & Hamreus, K. (2012). Acamprosate for treatment of alcohol dependence: mechanisms, efficacy, and clinical utility. Therapeutics and clinical risk management, 8, 45–53.
 National Library of Medicine – Mason, B. J., & Heyser, C. J. (2010). Acamprosate: a prototypic neuromodulator in the treatment of alcohol dependence. CNS & neurological disorders drug targets, 9(1), 23–32.