June 22, 2023 : Educating health care workers about a drug that reduces alcohol cravings increase the likelihood that patients with alcohol use disorder will be prescribed the drug, new University of Missouri research finds.
Jason Ipsarides, a doctoral student at the Sinclair School of Nursing at MU, conducted the research.
“Education Intervention to Increase Naltrexone Use Among Adult Inpatients with Alcohol Use Disorder” was published in the Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services.
The drug can reduce heavy drinking by 83%, but it’s underutilized, Ipsarides said.
The study was conducted at an inpatient psychiatric center in Wisconsin where patients are treated with alcohol detoxification, he said.
Before the staff was educated about the efficacy of naltrexone, 36% of patients received a prescription for it. After doctors, nurses, social workers, and other staff were educated about the drug, 40% of patients received a prescription.
It’s not a statistically significant increase, but any increase is an improvement, he said.
“We need a larger sample” and more time, Ipsarides said.
Relapse is a common problem with alcohol use syndrome, Ipsarides said.
“Alcohol is the only drug where you can die from withdrawal,” he said.
He said healthcare personnel could become demoralized by seeing the same patients return often.
“People are admitted for alcohol detoxification and the next day or the next week, they’re back in the emergency department,” he said.
“It doesn’t treat alcohol use disorder,” Ipsarides displayed. “There’s a pretty bleak outlook as far as effective treatment for it.”
When patients receive the drug, facilities experience a decrease in their readmission rates, Ipsarides said, citing previous research.
Alcohol is legal, and it’s estimated that 12.7 percent of the population has alcohol use disorder, he expressed.
It’s the seventh-leading cause of death, with high mortality and injury rates and economic consequences, too, Ipsarides said.
What about the term alcohol use disorder? It’s a term that has replaced alcoholism and alcohol abuse, Ipsarides conveyed. It indicates that it is more a mental health disorder than linked exclusively to an individual’s behavior.
Naltrexone is generic and relatively inexpensive, but there can be an issue with it being available at all pharmacies, he stated.
It is FDA-approved.
“It doesn’t replace AA or group therapy,” Ipsarides articulated, referring to Alcoholics Anonymous, adding that the drug can be a valuable supplement to them.
Ipsarides is studying to be a nurse practitioner, and he said it shows that nurse practitioners also can contribute to valuable research.