Acamprosate for alcohol abuse and dependence

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Acamprosate for alcohol abuse and dependence


Generic NameBrand Name

How It Works

Experts are still studying how this medicine works. It appears to reduce cravings for alcohol by helping balance brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. It also might reduce anxiety, mood swings, and sleep problems caused by alcohol withdrawal.1

Why It Is Used

Acamprosate was approved by Health Canada to treat alcohol dependence in people who have quit drinking. This medicine is used to reduce cravings for alcohol, and it might help with anxiety and other problems caused by withdrawal. It can be used along with some other medicines.

How Well It Works

Studies show that acamprosate reduces your chance for relapse after you have quit drinking.3

Side Effects

During trials, side effects didn't bother most people who took acamprosate. Diarrhea was the most common side effect. Some people had belly pain, nausea, vomiting, headache, drowsiness, rash, itching, flatulence, or dizziness. A very small number of people who took the medicine had an increase in suicidal thoughts or had serious kidney problems.3

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

People with kidney problems might not be able to take this medicine or might need lower doses.

In one study, a combination of acamprosate and a medicine called naltrexone (ReVia) worked better than either drug by itself.2

In addition to medicines, counselling can also help you stop drinking. You might also want to attend a support group, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.



  1. Schuckit MA (2009). Alcohol-related disorders section of Substance-related disorders. In BJ Sadock et al., eds., Kaplan and Sadock's Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry, 10th ed., vol. 1, pp. 1268–1288. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
  2. Kiefer F, et al. (2003). Comparing and combining naltrexone and acamprosate in relapse prevention of alcoholism: A double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Archives of General Psychiatry, 60(1): 92–99.
  3. Acamprosate (Campral) for alcoholism (2005). Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics, 47(1199): 1–3.


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Andrew Swan, MD, CCFP, FCFP - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Peter Monti, PhD - Alcohol and Addiction
Last Revised August 19, 2010

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