Clinical psychologist Ryan Carpenter studies how alcohol use contributes to opioid-related deaths – UMSL Daily

Ryan Carpenter, assistant professor of clinical psychology at the University of St. Louis-Missouri, received a grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism for his research on maladaptive behavior in people who drink. alcohol while receiving opioid treatment. (Photo by August Jennewein)

About 134 people die every day from opioid overdoses in the United States, and Missouri has been hit hard by the national opioid crisis.

According to Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, drug overdose is the leading cause of death in Missouri among adults ages 18 to 44. Over 70% of these deaths are due to opioid use. Deaths from fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, have increased.

A contributing factor to the seizure that is often not discussed is how drinking alcohol in conjunction with opioids can increase the risk of death. It reduces short-term tolerance to opioids and therefore makes them more lethal.

Ryan Charpentier, an assistant professor of Clinical Psychology to University of St. Louis-Missouriconducts research on the behaviors that cause people in treatment for opioid addiction to also drink alcohol despite the health risks.

“My research is broadly an understanding of maladaptive behaviors as they occur in people’s real daily lives,” Carpenter said. “I am a clinical psychologist. A big part of my job is to use technology to get people to tell us what’s going on day to day, moment to moment.

It also examines substance use and the effectiveness of mobile technology in treating or preventing it.

“Four or five times a day we’ll ask you, ‘How are you feeling right now? How is your craving right now? Do you feel an urge to use? Or have you used since the last prompt? Said Carpenter.

Carpenter’s current research examines individuals’ everyday maladaptive behavior in people who consume alcohol while receiving opioid treatment by taking buprenorphine. Participants use apps on their smartphones to report behaviors throughout the day.

One of the expected results of this research is to understand addictive behaviors. This data is important for understanding how to effectively treat addiction. The other intended outcome is to see how technology can be successfully integrated into addiction treatment.

Carpenter’s five-year, multiphase study, titled “Project BEST (Better Experiences in Substance Treatment),” received $805,849 in funding from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. This involves interviewing patients and providers in the community to understand why many people receiving buprenorphine drink alcohol. This data will be used to develop a treatment specifically for these patients to help them drink less.

“We know that many people who receive buprenorphine, about a third of them, have significant problems related to their alcohol use,” Carpenter said. “So even though they’re getting treatment for opioid use, they still have issues that are in some way related to the fact that they’re drinking.”

Carpenter’s work with the 40 diverse participants from the city of St. Louis, northern St. Louis County, and Troy, Missouri, will also attempt to examine how alcohol consumption contributes to opioid death among black men.

“Around 2017, a lot of black men who had been using heroin for a long time had stability, and what they were doing was working for them in the life they were living,” Carpenter said. “Then fentanyl came on the market and all of a sudden I saw a number of overdose deaths among these black men because they are suddenly, without realizing it, consuming a lot more than before. “

The rise in fentanyl-related deaths among black men can be partly attributed to the fact that the drug is more prevalent in black communities and treatment centers are inaccessible. Carpenter is aware of the racial and socioeconomic disparity between black and white communities when it comes to opioid-related deaths and treatment.

“The cynical view is that we really cared about treating opioid issues because white kids in the suburbs are overdosing, so now we care,” he said. “We’ve made progress, and we have treatments that work and things that can reverse an overdose, but they don’t reach urban areas as well.”

Carpenter aims to develop innovative interventions that will help drug addicts quit. He wants to make them accessible to those who find it difficult to get to a treatment centre, which will also address treatment disparities. He also hopes to develop interventions that will be more conducive to the lifestyle and socio-economic constraints of many drug users.

Input from study participants was essential in providing a better understanding of the type of treatment that would be most effective. Armed with data and awareness, Carpenter set out to offer a solution to an aspect of the opioid crisis that he hopes will transform lives.

“We’re trying to figure out how can we build a brief intervention that will be most helpful not just to white people and not just people who are in urban areas,” Carpenter said, “but hopefully most helpful to as many people as possible.”

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