Medication Monday: Acamprosate

Happy Monday everyone, or at least as happy a Monday as possible given that it is also Monday and thus the start of another week. Of course, the other thing Monday brings with it is Medication Monday, the weekly series that looks at mental health medications, offering readers a brief informative introduction each week to some of the medications that are available. This week we are discussing acamprosate, which also goes by the brand name Campral. Acamprosate is a medication used to treat alcoholism.

Acamprosate works by decreasing the cravings and dependency on alcohol that can form as a result of alcohol dependency. This can be useful, because while the exact relationship between mental health conditions like depression and substance abuse disorders can be difficult to clearly define, studies show that about one-third of individuals who battle depression are likely to have a co-occurring alcohol abuse disorder. Individuals with anxiety and PTSD also demonstrate higher prevalence of alcohol use and abuse.

And even after gaining the tools to manage one’s mental illnesses, the chemical dependency on alcohol might remain, meaning that individuals might need a medication like acamprosate to help break their abusive relationship with alcohol.

This can be particularly important given that alcohol abuse can also cause symptoms of mental illness, including depression, anxiety, anti-social behavior, and psychosis. And when these conditions co-occur, the problem this creates is being able to parse out which symptoms go with which illness, so that the right treatment plan can be developed. A medication like acamprosate that manages one of those conditions, in this case the alcohol abuse, can help clinicians identify which symptoms remain and still need treatment.

As you can imagine, it is important to avoid alcohol when taking acamprosate. Other side effects that users should know about include nausea. In rare conditions it can also cause chest pain, increased blood pressure, increased heart heart rate, insomnia, swelling, changes in appetite, internal gas, weakness, pain, anxiety, depression, dizziness, dry mouth, headache, tingling, itching, sweating, and vision changes, and weight gain. 

Suicidal thoughts have also been reported by those using acamprosate. If you experience such thoughts, inform your doctor right away. Moreover, if you are concerned about any of these side effects, you should ask your doctor about them. Medication Monday is meant as a brief informative guide to mental health medications, not a substitute for medical advice. As such, I hope this introduction to acamprosate, also known as Campral, has been helpful.

And as always, thanks for reading.

Sources: NAMI – Medication – Acamprosate; Alcoholism and Psychiatric Disorders; When it is More Than Just an Alcohol Problem

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