Acamprosate – The Alcoholic’s Gateway to Abstinence!

September 21, 2016
Solace Sabah

Acamprosate or branded as Campral is a prescribed medication to help alcoholics initiate sobriety from active addiction. It is capable of staving the desire for alcoholic drinks. Usually the taking of this medicine is part of an ongoing addiction treatment program, accompanied by counseling and support group therapies.

How does Acamprosate work?

Drinking alcoholic beverages addictively, as pronounced in active alcoholism, changes the way the brain works. [1] Acamprosate helps to prevent withdrawal symptoms that may be experienced upon ceasing the addiction. For example, the unpleasant outcomes of Delirium Tremens. The medicine works through a delayed-release tablet, taken orally, with or without food. It should be swallowed whole, neither chewed, crushed, nor split. It is also helpful to take it alongside meals, as that helps to remind patients to take all 3 doses daily.[2] It’s best to use the medicine as prescribed by the doctor. Any other means that does not obey the prescription of a qualified clinician, be it a doctor or pharmacist, is an abuse of the medication.

Side Effects of Acamprosate [3]

Acamprosate is not without negative side effects. The medication is only prescribed to those whose alcoholic withdrawals are so severe that these negative symptoms outweigh the effects of not being medicated. Notable side-effects include, but are not limited to the following:

·       Diarrhea

·       Nausea

·       Vomiting

·       Gas

·       Stomach Pain

·       Loss of appetite

·       Headaches

·       Drowsiness

·       Dizziness

·       Constipation

·       Fatigue

·       Weight gain/loss

·       Decreased sexual desire/changes therein

·       Decreased sexual capabilities

·       Allergic reactions are rare, but if any, will include: rash/itching/swelling of the face/tongue/throat; severe dizziness, and trouble breathing

·       Mental/mood changes

·       Severe depression, which may include thoughts of suicide

·       Kidney problems, which includes changes in the amount of urine

·       Fainting

·       Palpitations (Fast/pounding heartbeat)

·       Vision/hearing changes

·       Increased thirst

Precautions for Taking Acamprosate [4]

As this medicine contains numerous and unpredictable side-effects, it is best to follow the guidelines/precautions as listed below:

1)     Allergy to Sulfites – As Acamprosate is made out of this chemical, there is a need to inform the doctor if one has an allergy to sulfites or has had a history of abusing this substance. It is also wise to ask the doctor for the ingredients to this medicine, as its make-up could contain chemicals which one has an allergy towards or potential addictive tendency.

2)     Inform the doctor of one’s history – Be honest with one’s physician as to one’s personal history. Have you or a loved one ever suffered from depression, resulting in attempts or thoughts of suicide and or self-harm? This is important to gage as the medicine is known to evoke suicidal/self-harming tendencies.

3)     Pregnancy – Inform the doctor if you are pregnant, contemplating pregnancy, or are breast-feeding. Call the doctor if during the course of medication, you become pregnant.

4)     Surgery – Inform the doctor/dentist that you are taking this drug when undergoing surgery of any kind, including dental surgery.

5)     Operating machinery or driving – While taking this medication, one is prohibited from operating any machinery or driving as it affects decision making processes.

6)     Collaboration – Seek collaboration with loved ones during the medication process. This is to ensure accountability, responsibility, and adherence during treatment.

Is Acamprosate Helpful?[5]

According to an online survey, it was reported that 54% of surveyed Acamprosate users found the drug to be 100% helpful. From the reviews they gave, they refused to see the medication as a placebo during a difficult time in their early sobriety. They truly believed that at a bio-chemical level, the drug worked miracles in staving their craving for alcohol.

Out of that sample, some cautioned that the craving returned upon stopping the medication. Hence, it is highly advised to notify the clinician should one feel it is time to come off the drug due to confidence in sobriety.

Nevertheless, many of those surveyed had reached a year sober as a result of sticking to the drug for a given period in early sobriety. They have now reached a point where taking the drug / medication is no longer necessary for continuing living the life they want for themselves.  Hence, Acamprosate serves a purpose in initiating sobriety, but over time, it is important to let go of any medicine to deter addiction and live the life you or your loved one was meant to live. In other words, live for life!

 

[1] Taken from: https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a604028.html

[2] Taken from: Ibid.

[3] Taken from: http://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-91488/acamprosate-oral/details

[4] Taken from: https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a604028.html

[5] Taken from: https://www.drugs.com/comments/acamprosate/for-alcohol-dependence.html

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