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Acamprosate for treatment of alcohol dependence: mechanisms, efficacy, and clinical utility

Authors Witkiewitz K, Saville KA, Hamreus K

Published Date February 2012 Volume 2012:8 Pages 45—53

DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.2147/TCRM.S23184

Received 7 December 2011, Accepted 4 January 2012, Published 1 February 2012

Katie Witkiewitz, Kimber Saville, Kacie Hamreus
Department of Psychology, Washington State University Vancouver, Vancouver, WA, USA

Abstract: Acamprosate, or N-acetyl homotaurine, is an N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor modulator approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a pharmacological treatment for alcohol dependence. The exact mechanism of action of acamprosate is still under investigation, but the drug appears to work by promoting a balance between the excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters, glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid, respectively, and it may help individuals with alcohol dependence by reducing withdrawal-associated distress. Acamprosate has low bioavailability, but also has an excellent tolerability and safety profile. In comparison with naltrexone and disulfiram, which are the other FDA-approved treatments for alcohol dependence, acamprosate is unique in that it is not metabolized by the liver and is also not impacted by alcohol use, so can be administered to patients with hepatitis or liver disease (a common comorbid condition among individuals with alcohol dependence) and to patients who continue drinking alcohol. Acamprosate has demonstrated its efficacy in more than 25 placebo-controlled, double-blind trials for individuals with alcohol dependence, and has generally been found to be more efficacious than placebo in significantly reducing the risk of returning to any drinking and increasing the cumulative duration of abstinence. However, acamprosate appears to be no more efficacious than placebo in reducing heavy drinking days. Numerous trials have found that acamprosate is not significantly more efficacious than naltrexone or disulfiram, and the efficacy of acamprosate does not appear to be improved by combining acamprosate with other active medications (eg, naltrexone) or with psychosocial treatment (eg, cognitive-behavioral therapy). In this review, we present the data on acamprosate, including its pharmacology, efficacy, safety, and tolerability in the treatment of alcohol dependence.

Keywords: alcohol abuse, acamprosate, N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor, gamma- aminobutyric acid

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