Sunday, 13 August 2017

Beating Cravings

I don't think I could have quit my thirty-a-day smoking habit, fifteen years ago, without the help of nicotine patches.

Those first few days and weeks without my former drug of choice were pretty unbearable. I was irritable, couldn't concentrate, couldn't sleep, had terrible headaches and was totally obsessed with the thought of smoking.

Nicotine patches really helped to take the edge off. They were advertised everywhere. Your doctor could prescribe them on the NHS. We wore them with pride.

When I quit drinking, the cravings and withdrawal symptoms were just as bad but this time there was nothing available to help. Or so I thought.

A few days ago I got an e-mail from a friend I met through this blog. J's drinking history is very like mine. She's been struggling for years to quit the habit, but hasn't got past the first few weeks.

J, unlike me, had the courage to confess her problems to her family doctor. He prescribed her a drug called Acamprosate (also known as Campral), an anti-craving medication. Here's what she says:

Day 9. Acamprosate is bloody brilliant.  All of my previous attempts have had me crawling up the walls, bad tempered and, in AA style, surviving one day at a time until an argument with the husband "justified" a dash to Oddbins.

I know it's early days and there's a long road ahead, but I haven't had the slightest urge to drink at all. I feel so upbeat and my energy levels are amazing. Husband came home on Monday and hardly recognised the house!

And I didn't even want to drink when a plumber fixing our bathroom tap managed to flood the bathroom floor and water came down through the ceiling, drenching the hallway, kids screaming. 

I Googled Acamprosate. It's been approved in Europe since 1989.

I've written a lot on this blog about how long term abuse of alcohol changes our brain chemistry, reducing the amount of dopamine our brains produce naturally, so that - without booze - we feel tetchy and depressed.

After we quit drinking, our brain chemistry does, eventually, find its way back to equilibrium, but in the initial months we are left to cope with badly malfunctioning neurology.

That's where Acamprosate steps in. It helps to restore your brain's chemical balance and, therefore, helps with those terrible cravings.

Why, why, why had I never heard of this? Why aren't the government advertising it widely? How is it that everyone knows about nicotine gum, patches and inhalers, yet no-one's heard of Acamprosate?

If any of you have experience with this one then please can you comment below and let us all know if it works for you? If you've discussed alcohol issues with your doctor, have they offered you anti-craving medication?

It's easy to comment totally anonymously. All you do is go to www.blogger.com and set up a Blogger account under any pseudonym you like. You can then use that Blogger name to comment on any Blogger or Wordpress blogs.

Huge thanks to J for letting me share her e-mail, and love to you all,

SM x

15 comments:

  1. I received this comment from S in an e-mail: I was prescribed Campral by my GP as if standard when I stopped drinking in December 2016.  My GP insisted I took it for a whole year (3 times a day) which I duly did.  I don't know if it worked or if I had finally reached the point of enough was enough after years of excessive drinking.  I have not drunk again. (Amazing to write that.) My only support was reading Soberistas daily (and you).
    I complied with taking it for a whole year, even though I did not know whether it was helping at all, because my GP was very supportive, plus I needed her help in getting my driving licence back.  I don't think it harmed me!

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. I wrote the above, but should have said December 2015.

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  2. This is a wonderful post SM
    It's not advertised as for the many reasons why no one wants alcohol to be a bad word. I wrote about that earlier today.

    The more people understand there is hope when the world is shouting "drink" "drink" "its the best" and they are lying in bed crying - the better
    Michelle xx

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    1. The reason it is not advertised is because it has lost its patent - so there is no commercial interest in the inventor to promote it. It is available generically. Now a good question might be why it's not discussed in medical circles.

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  3. I used the drug naltrexone. It's supposed to stop cravings. It Did not stop mine. There is always a debate between naltrexone and acamprosate. Here is an interesting article on the differences: http://alcoholawareness.org/alcoholism/naltrexone-vs-acamprosate.html

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    1. Thanks for that link - odd it was approved in the EU in '89, but 15 years later in the US. Here's a US review link: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2006/0815/p645.html

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    2. Here's a better review - technically a meta analysis - which looks at all published data and studies and draws conclusions. Of particular interest to me was the distinction between "reward drinkers" and "relief drinkers" something I'd not read. The studies suggest that acamprosate might be more effective for "relief drinkers" and naltrexone for "reward drinkers". Also that acamprosate is most effective after a person has had a period of abs/detox and most likely helps reset some of the chemical imbalances in the brain that excessive drinking may have caused. The drug is generic so if someone is looking for assistance in maintaining abstaining - it would seem worthy to have a discussion with your health care provider. Here's the link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3565569/

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  4. Adding...there is a book by a US actress and her struggles with alcohol and how she used naltrexone to quit. It is called "Babylon Confidential." It was a really interesting read. It's what made me try the naltrexone.

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  5. Thanks SM. I will be sharing this on AF Loud and Proud and Soberistas. For some reason I have not experienced cravings but am only too aware that many do and suffer countless returns to Day 1 as a result. This is really helpful. NT x

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  6. If is sad to say but if it works then it's bad for Big Alcohol's business and that's probably why you've never heard of it. I've found that nicotine patches and gum can help with quitting but they don't stop the cravings completely. Drugs go further and will actually block the cravings, some even making you physically sick if you go backwards.

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  7. I think it is worth a try. My doctor recommended it and said there were not really any side effects which I found to be true. But... for me it was a bit like an electric fence, and thinking it's on when it's not. I'm still not alcohol free. Campral worked for eight or nine days and then at my mother's funeral sitting at a table with a bottle of wine in front of me and thinking "why not?". I think it worked on the chimp brain, and then my "rational" (well, ha!) brain took over.

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    1. What I mean about the fence is that once you know for a fact that it is not switched on, you can touch it.

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    2. Well, I called my GP today and asked for Compral. I too quit smoking using nicotine patches and it really did work for me (quit over 15 years ago and wouldn't start again even if they forced me to). Anyway, I was a bit scared cause doctors in Holland don't give out medication easily. But he could see in my file that I'd already tried and online course by a well known Dutch anti drug and alcohol facility. It was odd, because I got a bit emotional telling him how long I've already struggled with alochol and how done I am with it. So, to cut a long story short, I am getting the meds! I am going on holidays for 2 weeks this friday and I return on the 1st of September, and that will be my quitting date. I already was very much looking forward to that because for the past years I've been quitting and starting again, never been able to quit for more then 19 days in a row. But now...I am sure I can do it. Thanks so much for your post sober mummy.

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    3. Hurrah! Please can you let us know how you get on? Best of luck! Xxx

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