Acamprosate is a white, odorless powder that is water-soluble. It is prescribed in tablet form to treat people addicted to alcohol and is usually given in combination with counseling and support once a person has completed detox. It is used as a method of preventing relapse and works by assisting the brain in functioning without alcohol. Acamprosate has not been proven to be effective in treating those who have not stopped using alcohol or those who abuse other substances, such as illegal or prescription drugs.
Overdose symptoms occur when someone has taken too much of this medication or has taken it in a way other than it was prescribed, such as by crushing or chewing the tablets. The drug is given as a delayed-release tablet, which is taken by mouth. It is intended to help prevent you from drinking alcohol for as long as you are taking the medication. The National Library of Medicine advises that those taking acamprosate should continue to take the medication even if they do drink alcohol again.1
Did You Know?Acamprosate has been prescribed for the treatment of alcohol dependency and addiction in Europe since 1989. In 2004, the United States Food and Drug Administration approved it for this indication as well, making it the third drug to receive such approval, after disulfiram and naltrexone.
Signs & Symptoms
The signs of anacamprosate overdose are usually limited to diarrhea, which may be mild or severe, depending on how much of the drug you have ingested. While these symptoms are usually mild, if you continuously take too much of this medication on a long-term basis, you may experience more severe symptoms, including:1
- Stomach upset.
- Loss of appetite.
- Extreme thirst.
- Muscle weakness.
Did You Know?Approximately 88,000 deaths are attributable to excessive alcohol use occur each year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).2 This makes alcohol addiction the third-leading cause of death relating to lifestyle for the nation.
In rare cases, you may experience an allergic reaction to acamprosate, which may include:1
- Impaired breathing.
- Tightness in chest.
- Swelling of the mouth, lips, tongue, or face.
- Behavioral, mental, or mood changes.
- Panic attacks.
- Suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
Did You Know?Acamprosate is prescribed for those who previously participated in binge drinking, heavy drinking, or frequent drinking in large amounts but have since stopped. Binge drinking is defined as drinking more than 5 drinks on a single occasion. Heavy drinking is more than 1 to 2 drinks per day, while excessive drinking is defined as one or both of these behaviors.
Although it is used to assist alcohol addiction treatment, acamprosate will not prevent you from drinking alcohol, nor will it stave off cravings if you are still addicted to alcohol. It is most effective when taken in combination with alcohol addiction treatment programs in a medically supervised detox where medical care and support are available.
Did You Know?Acamprosate is a structural equivalent of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). It is believed that it decreases alcohol consumption by affecting calcium channels and altering the transmission of alcohol along GABA and glutamine pathways in the brain. This is thought to decrease any positive reinforcement gained from alcohol intake and thus reduce withdrawal cravings. Because acamprosate overdose symptoms are not caused by its interaction with alcohol, it is considered ideal for alcohol addiction treatment. However, the American Academy of Family Physicians reports that the exact mechanism of action is unknown.3
When you contact emergency services, you may be asked for various information, such as:
- Your age, weight, and physical condition.
- What time you took your last dose.
- How much was taken.
- If the medication was prescribed for you.
These questions help medical personnel determine the best acamprosate overdose treatment to provide. Treatment of overdose symptoms is usually symptomatic and supportive. Intravenous fluids may be given if diarrhea is severe enough to risk dehydration. It is not usually necessary to use invasive treatments, however.
If you or someone you love is concerned about their acamprosate use, contact your health provider immediately.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2016). Acamprosate.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Fact Sheets—Alcohol Use and Your Health.
- Hunter, K. & Ochoa, R., American Family Physician. (2006). Acamprosate (Campral) for Treatment for Alcoholism.