A former University of Missouri student’s research has found that a drug to help reduce substance use cravings is highly under prescribed. Jason Ipsarides conducted a study at an inpatient psychiatric center for recovering alcoholics in Wisconsin as part of his doctoral coursework at MU Sinclair School of Nursing.

“We were spending two and three days going through the withdrawal and medically monitoring and then they would be discharged and then we run into the problem where we would be having these patients coming back, sometimes the same day, sometimes the next day, a week later, in a month, having relapsed with alcohol. That was a main point of how do we improve our sobriety for these alcohol detox patients,” said Ipsarides.

He wants to create more awareness about the drug naltrexone, which blocks brain receptors that reinforce addictive behaviors like alcohol use disorder.

“Essentially, what I found as part of that literature review, is that naltrexone is effective at reducing substance use cravings. In a systematic review, I found it reduced heavy drinking by approximately 83% and the number of drinking days by 4%. What I also found is that it was highly under prescribed even in mental health and substance use facilities,” according to Ipsarides.

He found that providing educational information about naltrexone to health care professionals resulted in an increase in patient prescriptions.

“A survey of North Carolina medical health providers found that only less than 25% of patients interested in some sort of medication assisted treatment actually received it,” he said. “That was for a lot of different reasons, and one of the main ones is that a lot of providers didn’t know much about the medicine and how to prescribe them.”

During his study, Ipsarides found that 36% of patients in a controlled group and 40% of patients in an intervention group left with a prescription.

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