Animal studies suggested that acamprosate modulates neuronal hyperexcitability of acute alcohol withdrawal, acting through the glutamatergic neurotransmission. In the present study, we further investigated whether treatment with acamprosate could attenuate the post-alcohol withdrawal hyperexcitability or hyperarousal in humans using brain magnetoencephalography mapping of spontaneous fields. A double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled study with a parallel group design comparing 2,000 mg/day of acamprosate versus placebo was conducted in alcohol-dependent subjects meeting DSM-IV criteria for alcohol dependence. Treatments were initiated 8 days before alcohol withdrawal and prolonged during the 15 following (abstinence) days. The study demonstrated that during alcohol withdrawal, acamprosate decreased the arousal level as reflected by alpha slow-wave index (ASI) measurement. This effect was mostly evidenced in left parietotemporal regions and, to a lesser extent, in the contiguous anterior, posterior and right-sided regions. In the placebo group, on the contrary, ASI measures increased between day 2 (acute withdrawal) and day 14 (prolonged withdrawal). The present results suggest a sustained effect of acamprosate on the hyperexcitability state due to alcohol withdrawal in alcohol-dependent patients and that acamprosate may have a protective effect when administered 8 days before alcohol withdrawal.
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