The effects of acamprosate on alcohol-cue reactivity and alcohol priming in dependent patients: a randomized controlled trial
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Acamprosate is a widely utilized, efficacious treatment for relapse prevention in alcohol-dependent patients; yet, little is known regarding its therapeutic mechanism of action.
The aim of the present study was to examine the effect of acamprosate on cue reactivity and alcohol priming in alcohol-dependent patients.
In a double-blind design, 56 treatment seeking patients were randomized to 21 days of either acamprosate or placebo treatment and then participated in a series of cue- and alcohol-priming sessions. Alcohol cues consisted of a mixture of alcohol related visual, tactile, olfactory, and auditory stimuli. Non-alcohol-related cues were contextually similar but had no connection to alcohol. In the alcohol-priming procedure, patients were provided with an alcohol drink of their own choice at a dose corresponding to 0.20 gr. EtOH/kg bodyweight. Subjective, physiological, and biological measurements were recorded before and after each test session. Following study completion, all patients were referred to formal treatment.
The results showed that acamprosate attenuated the subjective craving induced by alcohol priming in comparison to placebo-treated patients. Furthermore, acamprosate reduced alcohol-induced elevation in blood-cortisol levels. Lastly, there was a negative correlation between acamprosate plasma levels and alcohol craving following a priming drink. No effects of acamprosate on cue reactivity, or on the acute rewarding and sedating effects of the priming drink, were observed.
These results suggest a potential mechanism by which acamprosate mediates its therapeutic effect in the treatment of alcoholism, by attenuating the urge to drink following an alcohol slip.