In the basement of Madry Temple Church in New London, Margaret Lancaster, a health program coordinator at Ledge Light Health District, shows the pastor how to administer Narcan, the opioid overdose reversal treatment. In New Haven, at the Dixwell Avenue Congregational United Church of Christ, the Rev. Jerry Streets and local clinical staff are offering substance use disorder treatment. These alliances of frontline health care workers with trusted community leaders are addressing the alarming rise of substance use disorders by leveraging the cultural power of churches to reach people in need of help. Overdose mortality rates have risen among all races in Connecticut over the past three years. But the rise has been particularly marked among the Black population.
Yale researchers are exploring whether certain medications, including one sold to help smokers kick the habit, can help heavy drinkers reduce the amount of alcohol they consume. Yale School of Medicine is conducting a clinical trial to see whether those who frequently drink heavily and also smoke cigarettes find it easier to cut back on their drinking while taking varenicline. The drug, sold under the brand name Chantix, is marketed to help smokers quit but could also potentially help heavy drinkers drink less, according to lead researcher Stephanie O’Malley, a psychiatry professor at Yale. For many, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol “kind of go together, hand in hand,” she said. “Many people, when they drink they want to smoke.”
Previous studies, including one by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), have found that Chantix does help reduce drinking for those who want to cut back, she said.