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Campral for Alcohol Use Disorder

Campral, which is sold under the generic name acamprosate, is a medication that is designed to help people who have alcohol use disorder (AUD). It is typically administered after the detox process to manage cravings for alcohol and reduce the risk of relapse.[1] 

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The Basics of Campral

Acamprosate is one of several medications to treat AUD.[2] It works by creating a balance between the neurotransmitters that regulate excitement and inhibition. With other forms of treatment like therapy, this restored balance can help a person control their urge to drink. Campral reduces the likelihood of relapse to alcohol abuse since it lessens the severity of cravings for alcohol. 

This chart breaks down how Campral works:[1-3]

Aspect of CampralDetails
PurposeTreatment of alcohol dependence
InventionIntroduced in the late 1980s
FDA Approval DateApproved by the FDA in 2004
DosageTypically 333 mg three times a day
Frequency of UseUsually taken orally, thrice daily
Mechanism of ActionActs on glutamate receptors
Common Side EffectsNausea, diarrhea, and headache
InteractionsInteracts with certain medications, such as naltrexone
Duration of UseMay continue for several months
EfficacyReduces alcohol cravings and relapse

How Effective is Campral for Alcohol Use Disorder?

Campral has shown notable effectiveness in being part of the treatment for alcohol use disorder. A study published in the Therapeutics and Risk Management journal reported a 47.6% success rate at the end of treatment and a 35% success rate six months later with behavioral therapy, in helping people control their AUD.[3] 

Another study in American Family Physician noted that “acamprosate appears to be an effective and safe treatment strategy for supporting continuous abstinence after detoxification,” especially when combined with ongoing behavioral therapy and other forms of aftercare support.[4] 

Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment noted that acamprosate has “numerous favorable properties as a pharmacological adjunct to standard approaches to treating alcoholism.”[1] 

Benefits of Campral

General benefits of Campral range from its effectiveness in reducing alcohol cravings to helping people maintain their sobriety after completing the detoxification process. Campral can also help in restoring the balance and functioning of neurotransmitters that have been affected by the alcohol use disorder. Additionally, Campral has a low potential for abuse and addiction, making it a reliable and safe option for long-term use in alcohol use disorder treatment.[5-7]

Campral is most effective when used in conjunction with a comprehensive treatment plan, one that includes components of counseling and behavioral therapy. Such components give participants vital tools for coping with triggers, like stress, that might precipitate a relapse

Campral, on its own, will likely not be effective enough in helping people achieve long-term sobriety. It should be used as part of a comprehensive MAT program for AUD.[8]

How Does Campral Work? 

Campral helps to regulate the balance of the inhibitory and excitatory neurotransmitters in the brain, which regulates the mechanisms of self-control and feeling rewarded (and the anticipation of those feelings). Campral has a half-life of approximately 32 hours, and it takes up to four days to be completely eliminated from the time of the last dose.[9]

Campral has been known to cause a range of mild to moderate side effects, including difficulty sleeping, headaches, abdominal pain, and diarrhea in some patients. 

Who Is Not a Candidate for Campral?

Not every patient should take Campral. Those with a history of severe kidney issues should not be prescribed Campral because impaired kidney functioning means that the acamprosate will stay in a patient’s body for longer than it should, increasing the risks of potential side effects.[10] 

Allergic reactions to Campral are rare, but documented; symptoms can include rash, swollen tongue, itching, severe dizziness, and difficulty breathing.[10] Any one of these issues requires immediate medical attention. The Cureus journal noted that, while uncommon, untreated serious allergic reactions could be fatal.[11] 

Campral could possibly interact with certain other medications that are prescribed for the treatment of depression and/or anxiety. People who are receiving pharmacological treatments for any mental health conditions should not receive Campral.

What Happens if You Drink While on Campral?

A person who drinks while on Campral risks rendering the medication ineffective. This, in turn, raises the possibility that the person will either take higher doses of the acamprosate than recommended (putting the liver at risk) or sustain a relapse.

Additionally, drinking while on Campral puts significant stress on the liver and kidneys. This stress is exacerbated if the patient has any pre-existing health problems, which may be the case because of their past AUD. 

If you drink while on Campral, contact your treatment team. It’s a sign that some element of your care plan needs adjustment.

Campral for AUD FAQs

These are some of the questions we hear most about using Campral for AUD treatment:

Does Campral have a generic version?

Campral is the brand name for acamprosate, the generic form of the medication

How long does it take for Campral to kick in?

It usually takes about a week for the effects of Campral to be felt. 

Does Campral cause weight gain?

There is no documented link between taking Campral and unwanted weight gain. 

Is Campral bad for your liver?

Campral is considered safe for the liver, but patients should disclose their full medical history to their doctors before receiving a Campral prescription. This can reduce the risk of exacerbating any pre-existing liver conditions with the consumption of acamprosate. 

Updated April 30, 2024
  1. Safety and efficacy of acamprosate for the treatment of alcohol dependence. Yahn SL, Watterson LR, Olive MF. Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment. 2013;7:1-12.
  2. Medications for the treatment of alcohol dependence—Current state of knowledge and future perspectives from a public health perspective. Stokłosa I, Więckiewicz G, Stokłosa M, Piegza M, Pudlo R, Gorczyca P. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2023;20(3):1870.
  3. Acamprosate for treatment of alcohol dependence: mechanisms, efficacy, and clinical utility. Witkiewitz K, Saville K, Hamreus K. Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management. 2012;8:45.
  4. Effectiveness of acamprosate in the treatment of alcohol dependence. William E. Cayley J. American Family Physician. 2011;83(5):522-524. Accessed September 28, 2022.
  5. Pharmacotherapy for adults with alcohol use disorders in outpatient settings. Jonas DE, Amick HR, Feltner C, et al. JAMA. 2014;311(18):1889.
  6. Acamprosate: A review of its use in alcohol dependence. Plosker GL. Drugs. 2015;75(11):1255-1268.
  7. The rates and measurement of adherence to acamprosate in randomized controlled clinical trials: A systematic review. Donoghue K, Hermann L, Brobbin E, Drummond C. Siddiqi TJ, ed. PLOS ONE. 2022;17(2):e0263350.
  8. Improving the utilisation of medication-assisted treatment for alcohol use disorder at discharge. Arms L, Johl H, DeMartini J. BMJ Open Quality. 2022;11(4):e001899.
  9. The clinical pharmacology of acamprosate. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. Kalk NJ, Lingford-Hughes AR. 2014;77(2):315-323.
  10. Campral prescribing information. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Accessed March 30, 2024.
  11. Rare anaphylactic reaction to acamprosate in a young alcoholic. Patnaik A, Buttar BS, Ataallah B, Kumar V. Cureus. 11(11).
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