Campral or Acamprosate

Bill CarrickMedication

Acamprosate is the generic drug name of Campral. Campral is one of the few drugs approved to treat alcoholism. Campral is used to decrease the likelihood of alcohol relapse. All medications that are approved for alcohol related disorders have the caveat that the medication must be used in conjunction with other non-drug related therapies (psychotherapy, self-help groups, early recovery treatment). I will post three statements in reference to Campral and then provide my anecdotal observations about this medication.

From the U.S. government based publication “Tip 49″

Acamprosate was the third medication, after disulfiram and naltrexone, to receive U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for postwithdrawal maintenance of alcohol abstinence. Acamprosate’s mechanism of action has not been clearly established, but it is thought that acamprosate helps modulate and normalize alcohol-related changes in brain activity, thereby reducing symptoms of postacute (protracted) withdrawal, such as disturbances in sleep and mood, that may trigger a relapse to drinking.

From the National Institute of Health:

Acamprosate works by helping the brains of people who have drunk large amounts of alcohol to work normally again.

From Science Daily (Sep. 17, 2010)

“Acamprosate is certainly no magic bullet, but it is a safe and effective treatment for patients who are trying to stop drinking,” said lead researcher Susanne Rösner of the Psychiatric Hospital at the University of Munich, Germany. “The benefits we have seen in these trials are small. However, we must remember that these are additional benefits on top of those from other non-drug therapies.”

Campral is an oral medication usually taken three times per day. EHD has observed this medication in many of our client’s post detox.  Campral, as noted by Susan Rosner above, “is no magic bullet”.  I would reiterate that statement.  Campral, for a few, works very well. Campral, for the majority of clients, does not make them feel any differently and does not appear to reduce the risk of relapse when used alone.

Campral appears to be most effective when used with other approved medications, Disulfuram (Antabuse), and Naltrexone (Revia, Vivitrol).

Campral is not a magic bullet, but EHD often suggests that clients consider this medication. Many of our clients acknowledge their alcohol use and abuse has become a life threatening disorder.  EHD suggests throwing everything, including the kitchen sink at this disorder. Campral is well tolerated and has minimal side effects. If it gives the alcohol sufferer a little better chance of sustaining sobriety than it is worth trying.

References:

1.  Incorporating Alcohol Pharmacotherapies into Medical Practice. A Treatment Improvement Protocol. Tip 49. Chapter Two; Acamprosate.  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Center for Substance Abuse Treatment.

2. National Institutes of Health: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0000272/

3. Science Daily: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100907210819.htm