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Acamprosate Side Effects: Common, Severe, Long Term

Acamprosate side effects should be kept into consideration for patients seeking to maintain sobriety. According to the 2022 United States National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 46.8 million (16.7%) battled with alcohol consumption disorder in the past year.

Acamprosate is the most prescribed medicine for maintaining sobriety. It is used in conjunction with behavioral therapy or counseling to help prevent the urge to drink again. But before starting treatment, it’s essential to understand the potential side effects of acamprosate.

Acamprosate Description

Acamprosate calcium is a medicine prescribed to help people to stay sober from alcohol consumption. It helps restore the balance of these messengers, which can reduce the desire to drink. This mainly works by calming down the overexcitement caused by alcohol dependence.

In 2004, the FDA approved a brand of acamprosate called Campral. Although Campral is no longer available, generic versions of acamprosate calcium delayed-release tablets can be found. Overall, acamprosate calcium helps people with alcohol use disorder by decreasing cravings and the desire to drink.

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Why is Acamprosate medication prescribed?

Acamprosate aids in restoring normal brain function in individuals who have consumed substantial amounts of alcohol. It does not alleviate withdrawal symptoms that may occur when alcohol consumption ceases.

In the US, Receiving acamprosate significantly reduced the risk of returning to any drinking by 86%. Common acamprosate side effects include gastrointestinal discomfort, diarrhea, and headache.

How does Acamprosate work?

The exact mechanism of action of acamprosate is still under investigation, but acamprosate appears to work by balancing the brain’s excitatory neurotransmitter, glutamate, and the inhibitory neurotransmitter, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This balance may help people with alcohol dependence by reducing the distress they feel when they stop drinking.

Acamprosate Side Effects

Acamprosate side effects can occur alongside its intended effects. Depending on the physical situation, these can vary from standard to severe. While not everyone experiences these, some may require medical attention.

However, it may also cause some long-term side effects. Contact your doctor immediately if you notice any of the acamprosate side effects mentioned below.

Common Acamprosate Side Effects

These side effects are some of the common ones associated with acamprosate use. They can vary in severity and may not affect everyone who takes the medication. Common acamprosate side effects include:

  • Asthenia
  • Pain
  • Anorexia
  • Diarrhea
  • Flatulence
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • dry mouth
  • Insomnia
  • Paresthesia
  • Pruritus
  • Sweating
  • Accidental Injury

Severe Acamprosate Side Effects

While severe acamprosate side effects are rare, they can still occur. It’s important to seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following severe side effects:

  • Allergic reaction (e.g., rash, itching, swelling of the face, lips, or tongue, difficulty breathing)
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviour
  • Severe depression or mood changes
  • Changes in vision or eye problems
  • Severe confusion or hallucinations
  • Severe stomach pain or discomfort
  • Difficulty urinating or changes in urine color
  • Signs of liver problems (e.g., yellowing of the skin or eyes, dark urine, persistent nausea or vomiting, abdominal pain)
  • Seizures or convulsions
  • Irregular heartbeat or chest pain

These severe side effects are rare but require immediate medical attention if experienced.

Long-term Acamprosate Side Effects

Long-term use of acamprosate may lead to specific side effects, although they are less common and may not affect everyone. Some potential long-term acamprosate side effects include:

● Kidney Problems:

Long-term use may potentially affect kidney function in some individuals, although this is rare.

● Bone Density Changes

There have been reports of decreased bone density with long-term use of acamprosate, particularly in individuals with existing risk factors for osteoporosis.

● Gastrointestinal Issues

Prolonged use of acamprosate may lead to gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, or stomach discomfort.

● Mood Changes

Some individuals may experience changes in mood or mental health with long-term use of acamprosate, although this is less common.

It’s important to discuss any concerns about long-term side effects with your healthcare provider, as they can provide personalized guidance and monitor your response to the medication.

Other Drugs & Acamprosate Side Effects

When it comes to mixing acamprosate with other drugs, it’s essential to be cautious. Some medications might not play nice together and could lead to side effects. Here are a few medicines:

1. Antidepressants

Such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or tricyclic antidepressants.

2. Anticonvulsants

Medications used to treat seizures, like phenytoin or carbamazepine.

3. Benzodiazepines

These are drugs often prescribed for anxiety or insomnia, such as diazepam or lorazepam.

4. Opioids

Including prescription painkillers like oxycodone or morphine.

5. Sedatives or sleeping pills

Such as zolpidem or zopiclone.

It’s always best to consult your healthcare provider about any medications you’re taking to avoid potential interactions.

Treatment for Acamprosate Side Effects

Key points about treating acamprosate side effects:

  • Acamprosate should be taken with food to help minimize gastrointestinal side effects. Taking the medication with meals may help with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Staying well hydrated and using over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medications can help manage diarrhea if it occurs. Persistent or severe diarrhea should be reported to the prescribing doctor.
  • In rare cases, acamprosate may cause neurological side effects like tremors, bradykinesia, and excessive sedation. If these occur, the medication should be stopped and the doctor notified. An alternative medication may be needed.
  • If acamprosate side effects are severe or bothersome, the dose can be temporarily reduced until they improve. Once the side effects resolve, the total therapeutic dose should be resumed.
  • Acamprosate should be discontinued if a severe allergic reaction occurs, such as rash, hives, itching, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat. Emergency medical treatment would be required.

FAQs: Acamprosate Side Effects

Que: Is acamprosate terrible for your liver?

Ans: Acamprosate is generally considered safe for people with liver damage (cirrhosis) and normal kidney function, as it is removed from the body through the kidneys.

Que: Does acamprosate affect the kidneys?

Ans: Acamprosate is not broken down by the liver and is removed from the body through urine. This means that people with kidney problems may have higher levels of acamprosate in their blood.

Que: Does acamprosate really work?

Ans: Drinking a lot of alcohol for a long time changes how the brain works. Acamprosate helps the brains of people who have drunk a lot of alcohol to work normally again.

Que: How does acamprosate reduce cravings?

Ans: Acamprosate helps people stop craving alcohol by changing the balance of two essential chemicals in the brain: GABA and glutamate.

Que: Does acamprosate have side effects?

Ans: This medicine can cause some people to feel agitated, irritable, or behave abnormally. It may also lead to suicidal thoughts, tendencies, or depression. If you or your caregiver notice any of these side effects, consulting the doctor immediately is the best solution.


While acamprosate is generally well-tolerated, it can cause some common side effects like diarrhea, gas, and nausea. These mild side effects often improve over time and can typically be managed at home, sometimes with dietary changes.

However, it’s essential to be aware of more potential severe acamprosate side effects, such as suicidal thoughts and behaviors. If you experience these, contact your healthcare provider immediately or seek emergency care.

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