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Campral (Acamprosate): Dosage, Uses, and Side Effects

Author: Thomas Roth

Last Updated: 6/04/2023

Campral (Acamprosate) is a medication used to help treat those who are suffering from alcoholism or alcohol dependency and has also been seen as useful in helping individuals to maintain sobriety early on. It is important to acknowledge that this medication is not intended to be a cure, but rather an aid used in conjunction with other forms of treatment such as counseling and support. 

The most common dosage of Campral is two 333 mg tablets that are taken 3 times a day. This dosage may be lowered later in the treatment course or if there are complications or concerns such as renal failure. The medication works by helping to restore natural chemical balances within the brain to help reduce cravings. This medication will not help with symptoms of alcohol withdrawal and will be most effective in those who have already begun abstaining from alcohol. Unlike with many other medications approved for treating alcohol use disorders, if relapse does occur while taking Campral, you are encouraged to continue taking your correct dosages, and contact your health care provider to establish a plan going forward. 

What is Campral (Acamprosate)?

Campral (Acamprosate) is a medication that is most commonly used in conjunction with counseling, support, and, on some occasions, other medications such as Antabuse to help treat those who are suffering from alcoholism or alcohol dependency.
Campral is not intended to act as a cure for alcoholism, but rather as an aid in recovery.

How does Campral (Acamprosate) Work?

Campral works by restoring the natural balance of chemicals in the brain and neurotransmitters. While it does help to reduce cravings to use alcohol, it does not help with symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

Campral is shown to not be as effective for those who are still currently drinking alcohol while taking the medication, and as such should plan to detox and stop alcohol consumption before beginning this medication.

If you do happen to have a drink while on this medication, the best practice is to continue taking the medication regularly and update your doctor or counselors on the situation. 

How to take Campral (Acamprosate)?

Campral is taken by mouth, with or without food in equal intervals 3 times a day, as instructed by your doctor. The medication should be swallowed whole with water, and should not be crushed or chewed. The exact dosage is based on the severity of your condition, as well as your response to treatment. 

It is highly encouraged that you avoid using alcohol or marijuana while taking this medication as both can greatly increase the side effects of dizziness or drowsiness. If you do happen to consume alcohol while on this medication, you should not begin skipping doses – continue to take the medication as prescribed and consult your healthcare provider.

What are the Uses of Campral (Acamprosate)?

The primary use of Campral is for the treatment of those suffering from alcohol use disorders. It is most commonly prescribed two weeks after detox has begun, while patients are still receiving consistent treatment and counseling. It has also been seen to help treat the anxiety that may come with newly obtained sobriety. 

In lower doses, Campral has been seen as an effective treatment for those with moderate renal impairment.  

What are the Side Effects of Campral (Acamprosate)?

Campral is a safe medication but it does have side effects. These side effects vary based on the individual, so it’s important to consult with your doctor if side effects don’t improve.

The most common side effects of Campral are listed below.

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Gas
  • Stomach pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headache
  • Drowsiness 
  • Dizziness
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Change in libido

It is important to remember that Campral does not help ease symptoms of withdrawal some of which overlap with common side effects of Campral, such as headaches and nausea or vomiting. 

While most people will not experience serious side effects, they are possible.

How long do Campral (Acamprosate) side effects last?

Most moderate or common side effects of Campral should go away within the first week of treatment, with the exclusion of diarrhea which may be persistent.

More severe side effects, such as kidney problems or thoughts of suicide may have long-term effects and should be monitored closely by your healthcare provider. If these side effects persist, you and your doctor may re-evaluate treatment options. 

What is the Difference Between Campral (Acamprosate) and Naltrexone?

Naltrexone is a medication used to treat alcohol dependence and opioid addictions. Naltrexone is used most effectively in conjunction with other treatment methods such as therapy or counseling. 

One important difference between the two medications has to do with how the medication is taken, and the frequency at which it is taken. Naltrexone is available as daily tablets, but more commonly as a one a month intramuscular short administered by a healthcare professional. Campral is taken up to three times a day in regular increments, which may be difficult for some people to maintain or to remember taking consistently. 

Additionally, there is a significant difference in the way that the two medications work. While campral helps to repair the damage alcohol has caused to the brain chemistry, it is most effective when used to help those who have already begun abstaining from alcohol and are attempting to stay sober. It will not help with cravings. Naltrexone, on the other hand, will block the endorphin rush you may experience when drinking alcohol which may help to reduce cravings by making alcohol less appealing overall. Naltrexone can be prescribed to those who are still drinking and may aid in the detox process. 

What is the difference between Campral (Acamprosate) and Antabuse?

Antabuse (Disulfiram) is often a first-choice medication for alcoholism treatment. It is important to note that Antabuse has the potential to cause bad or unpleasant reactions to all types of alcohol, even that which is present in low levels in food or medications. 

Antabuse works much differently than Campral but interferes with the metabolization of alcohol by stopping the body from oxidizing acetaldehyde into acetic acid so that it can be removed from the body. Overall, Antabuse acts as a deterrent for alcohol consumption by increasing the discomfort associated with alcohol intoxication, rather than helping with cravings. 

It is important to be aware that drinking alcohol while taking Antabuse has the potential to be fatal, due to the buildup of acetaldehyde in the system whereas those taking Campral who experience a relapse and consume alcohol are encouraged to continue taking their medication as prescribed and report back to the healthcare provider to establish a new treatment plan if.

What is the difference between Campral (Acamprosate) and Gabapentin?

Gabapentin is generally considered to be a safer alternative to Campral, even though they work in very similar ways. Similar to campral, gabapentin is not intended to be a cure for alcohol use disorders, but rather an aid to help patients to maintain their sobriety in conjunction with other treatment plans such as counseling.

Gabapentin helps to regulate and normalize levels of the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain, which in turn reduces anxiety and stress-related withdrawal symptoms. The main difference between Campral and Gabapentin for those who are attempting to maintain sobriety is that those who are taking gabapentin have a chance for an increase in mood and sleep over time. 

Unlike with Campral, if relapse occurs and alcohol is consumed while taking Gabapentin, side effects such as dizziness or drowsiness may be amplified. Gabapentin is considered to be a central nervous system (CNS) depressant and the combination of gabapentin and alcohol may worsen respiratory depression.

Is Campral (Acamprosate) addictive?

No, Campral is not habit-forming, or conducive to abuse; you will not become physically or psychologically dependent on it. Even in cases of patients who have been taking Campral for an extended period, there is almost no risk of dependence on this medication.  Additionally, there is a very low risk for overdose. 

Does Campral (Acamprosate) cause depression?

No, Campral does not inherently cause depression, however, there is a potential to experience depression or suicidal thoughts as a side effect.

Alcoholism and depression are heavily associated; in many cases, it is possible that many of the symptoms of depression and/or suicidal thoughts were present during the addiction phase, and become more apparent to the patient during the withdrawal process. Regardless, if you are experiencing symptoms of depression or thoughts of wanting to harm yourself, you should let your health care provider know as soon as possible and see what treatment options are available for you.