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Acamprosate for Addiction Treatment

Acamprosate is a drug used to treat alcohol use disorder (AUD).1 Acamprosate may help a person curb their drinking by balancing certain types of brain activity.1

In this article, we explain what acamprosate is, how it is used to treat alcohol use disorder, and how it helps a person stop drinking.

We will also discuss various treatment levels and settings as well as how you can pay for rehab programs that incorporate acamprosate into treatment.

What Is Acamprosate?

Acamprosate is a medication for addiction treatment, and one of several used in a treatment approach once referred to as medication-assisted treatment (MAT). It is the third medication to have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help prevent alcohol use in people who have completed alcohol withdrawal.1 Acamprosate is a delayed-release, oral medication taken 3 times a day.1

The exact way that acamprosate works on the brain is not entirely well understood.1 But it is thought that acamprosate works to correct the imbalance between the glutamatergic and the GABergic systems in the brain that develops in association with chronic alcohol use and episodes of acute alcohol withdrawal.2 Acamprosate may help reduce certain symptoms to arise in association with protracted alcohol withdrawal, such as problems with mood and sleep, which could trigger a relapse if otherwise left unmanaged.1

Acamprosate can be a valuable component of a more comprehensive treatment approach for those struggling with alcohol use disorders. The use of acamprosate to treat alcohol use disorder (AUD) and other forms of MAT may complement non-pharmacological interventions—such as a combination of behavioral therapy and counseling, as well as mutual support groups.2

What Is Acamprosate Used For?

Acamprosate is prescribed to help prevent people with alcohol use disorders to better maintain abstinence and lower their relapse risks in recovery.1 The drug is not used to help individuals manage acute withdrawal during alcohol detox but rather for people who are abstinent from alcohol at the treatment initiation point.2

As the drug has not been proven effective in those who haven’t already completed alcohol detox nor achieved alcohol abstinence prior to treatment initiation, acamprosate is used when people who want to be completely abstinent from alcohol, rather than when people just want to reduce their alcohol consumption.1

Individuals who relapsed after going through an alcohol rehab program after previously utilizing purely behaviorally based approaches are especially good candidates for acamprosate.2

How Does Acamprosate Work?

Acamprosate helps manage the symptoms of protracted withdrawal that may persist well beyond the relatively short time frame after which a person has gone through alcohol detox. This might include symptoms such as insomnia, restlessness, and anxiety, which when left unaddressed, may increase someone’s chances of relapsing with alcohol.1 Acamprosate treatment may be started 5 days after the last use of alcohol; the medication reaches its full effectiveness within 5 to 8 days after treatment begins.1

In addition, there is no risk of abuse or overdose of acamprosate and is considered to be a safe medication overall.1 Reported side effects from acamprosate are minimal and often resolve within the first few weeks of use.1 The safety and efficacy of acamprosate has been evaluated for up to a year of use. It can be taken by people with compromised liver function, as well as people taking other addiction medications, such as those used to treat an opioid use disorder.1

Finding the Right Addiction Treatment Program

When it comes to finding treatment for any type of substance use disorder, people can enter different levels of care based on their individual needs. The frequency and intensity of treatment a person needs are based on factors such as:3

  • The potential for acute withdrawal (a significant risk for people with alcohol use disorder).
  • Co-occurring medical or mental health conditions.
  • Readiness to change.
  • Potential for relapse.
  • Living conditions that may enhance or hurt recovery.

The use of medications for addiction treatment, like acamprosate, can occur in programs at all levels of care, including inpatient and outpatient care.4

Inpatient Addiction Programs

Some people may receive particular benefit from an inpatient or residential program where they have 24/7 supervision to help them enter recovery. People who have been through prior treatment episodes, those who live in an environment that makes recovery difficult, or those who have a medical or mental health issue that needs treatment during recovery, might benefit from inpatient treatment.4 Oftentimes, people may start in an inpatient program and step down to outpatient treatment.4

Outpatient Addiction Treatment

Outpatient treatment can vary in intensity, ranging from just a few hours a week to several days per week.5 Outpatient treatment is usually cheaper than inpatient treatment, and people attending this type of treatment can typically keep working or attending school, offering greater flexibility than an inpatient rehab program.5

Does Insurance Cover Addiction Rehabs that Uses Acamprosate?

If you have health insurance coverage, you may be able to use it to help cover a rehab program for alcohol use disorder and the cost of taking acamprosate.6 Each type of health insurance is different, so your benefits and coverage should be verified to see if you can use insurance to pay for rehab. However, under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance companies are required to cover mental health and substance use disorder treatment as essential health benefits.7

You can call American Addiction Centers (AAC) at and speak with an admissions navigator, who can answer your questions and help verify your health insurance benefits.

Alcohol Addiction Rehab–Get the Help You Need

If you are looking for an alcohol rehab program, our directory can help you begin your search. Call AAC today to locate a rehab program that can help you find recovery from alcohol use disorder through treatment that includes medications like acamprosate and other interventions. Call to connect with a compassionate admissions navigator today. Together, we can break the chains of addiction and help you rediscover a life of joy, fulfillment, and hope.

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