Campral, known by its medical name Acamprosate, is a drug primarily used to treat alcohol dependence. It is not an anxiolytic (anti-anxiety drug) and is currently not approved for anxiety. But researchers are looking at whether Campral may have an effect on anxiety disorders. This article explores that research, and provides some thoughts on using this type of medication for anxiety.
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Campral With Other Medications
It should be noted that Campral is not believed to be a treatment on its own. Even in studies that believe that it is an effective anxiety reduction tool, the studies also believe that it would be an augmented medicine, not a primary medicine.
That means that Campral alone would not be expected to reduce the symptoms of anxiety, except possibly in those that experience anxiety as a result of alcohol withdrawal. In nearly all studies, Campral was taken in addition to another anxiety medication, usually an SSRI.
What Does Campral Do?
Neurotransmitter imbalance is one of the primary causes of uncontrollable anxiety. It should be noted that your emotions and experiences can create neurotransmitter imbalances, as well as cure them, but these imbalances do seem to play a role in anxiety.
While anxiety is most commonly linked to serotonin, GABA is another neurotransmitter that plays a role, and some people with anxiety - even those on medications that have their anxiety generally under control - may still suffer from a GABA/glutamate imbalance that causes further anxiety.
This happens to be what Campral appears to do - balance GABA and glutamate, a common problem with alcohol dependence. So researchers believe that augmenting Campral in those with anxiety may find that their anxiety decreases - even more so than one any one medication.
Has Campral Worked?
In research trials, Campral has appeared to work, but that appearance comes with some very significant caveats. For starters, one of the most well-known studies:
- Used a very small sample of 13 patients.
- Did not use a placebo.
- Shared the brand name of the drugs.
Generally these types of studies are interesting, but not even remotely definitive. A true study requires a larger sample, a placebo, and more secrecy. Because of the way the study was completed, it's unlikely that it has many real world applications - at least so far.
That's not to say that it doesn't, mind you. Only that there isn't any research that currently confirms it, at least for those suffering from anxiety but not alcohol abuse.
Campral is Not an Understood Drug
One of the realities of drugs that affect the brain like Campral is that how or why they work isn't always well known. Even researchers are unsure how Campral is able to balance GABA and glutamate, but the results appear to be real. It's because of this lack of clarity that using Campral off label without a doctor's opinion is ill advised.
Campral appears to be generally well tolerated, however, so those that do use Campral as a result of their doctor's advice are unlikely to suffer from many serious side effects, but nausea, headache, and standard medication symptoms are still common and should be expected.
Curing Anxiety the Right Way
If your doctor tells you to take Campral for anxiety, you should consider taking it or getting a second opinion. But in general it doesn't appear that Campral is an anxiety drug, and the FDA certainly has not approved it as one.
In general, consider alternative methods of treating your anxiety. Take my free 7 minute anxiety test to find out more about just some of the ways that you can cure your anxiety forever.
Schwartz, Thomas L., et al. Acamprosate calcium as augmentation therapy for anxiety disorders. The Annals of pharmacotherapy 44.12 (2010): 1930-1932.
Verheul, Roel, et al. Predictors of acamprosate efficacy: results from a pooled analysis of seven European trials including 1485 alcohol-dependent patients . Psychopharmacology 178.2-3 (2005): 167-173.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.