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What Happens if You Drink on Campral?

Drinking on Campral isn’t typically dangerous and won’t cause the severe reaction associated with medications like Antabuse. However, it’s still not a good practice to drink while on this medication. 

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Campral is used to treat alcohol use disorder (AUD), and a person in treatment for AUD should avoid drinking altogether. The medication makes a person’s cravings to drink weaker but doesn’t eliminate them entirely.

How Campral Reduces the Urge to Drink

Campral is a brand-name medication that contains acamprosate, a drug that isn’t fully understood but has been found to help in the treatment of alcohol addiction. When taken as prescribed, it reduces the likelihood that a person will engage in alcohol abuse.[1] 

The medication isn’t considered to have any abuse or dependence potential, and it is considered safe when used as directed. Campral makes a person experience decreased cravings for alcohol and reduces the urge to drink.[2] 

If you do drink (which isn’t recommended when on Campral or any other acamprosate medication), studies have found that the subjective, physiological, and psychomotor effects of alcohol remain mostly unchanged. This is a drug that reduces your urge to drink rather than the effects of alcohol if you do drink.[3]

Will Drinking Be Dangerous on Campral?

Campral can have serious side effects, including causing chest pain, depression, weakness, nausea, swelling, and more.[4] It can also cause suicidal thoughts in some users, which should be treated as a medical emergency, even if you don’t intend to act on those thoughts. Still, these side effects are relatively rare, and there isn’t much evidence linking them to drinking.[4]

Drinking is unlikely to be dangerous when on Campral, although it isn’t recommended. Since this medication is to treat alcohol abuse and alcoholism, the goal is generally to stop drinking altogether. Campral can reduce the desire to drink, helping to accomplish this goal. 

Will Campral Be Effective if Used While Drinking?

Campral doesn’t cure AUD, as there is no cure for addiction. It reduces your drive to drink. If you continue to drink while on this medication, you will continue to struggle with addiction and alcohol abuse. 

Additionally, acamprosate doesn’t lower your drive to drink indefinitely. You will eventually plateau. If your lowered cravings are still strong enough that you feel you cannot stop abusing alcohol, a change in your treatment plan is needed.[5]

If you’re recovering from addiction, drinking while on Campral is a relapse. As soon as possible, contact your treatment team. 

While relapsing can be disheartening and sometimes dangerous, it doesn’t mean all your recovery progress is wasted. Your progress is still valid and valuable. You just need to assess the incident with some guidance and figure out how to avoid similar issues in the future.[6]
This medication isn’t considered a full treatment for AUD on its own. It works best as part of a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program that also involves talk therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and addiction counseling.

Updated April 2, 2024
  1. Hunter K, Ochoa R. Acamprosate (Campral) for treatment of alcoholism. American Family Physician. 2006;74(4):645-646. Published June 23, 2022.
  2. Acamprosate. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Published 2022. Accessed March 15, 2024.
  3. Brasser SM, McCaul ME, Houtsmuller EJ. Alcohol effects during acamprosate treatment: A dose-response study in humans. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. 2004;28(7):1074-1083.
  4. Yahn SL, Watterson LR, Olive MF. Safety and efficacy of acamprosate for the treatment of alcohol dependence. Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment. 2013;7:1-12.
  5. Witkiewitz K, Saville, Hamreus. Acamprosate for treatment of alcohol dependence: mechanisms, efficacy, and clinical utility. Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management. 2012;8:45.
  6. Menon J, Kandasamy A. Relapse prevention. Indian Journal of Psychiatry. 2018;60(4):473-478.
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