Clinical Pharmacy Research

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
33 Russell Street
Toronto ON M5S 2S1

Area of Research

Beth Sproule is a clinician scientist whose research focuses on medications used in the treatment of mental health and substance use disorders, as well as on the addiction-related harms of therapeutic medications, with the goal of optimizing the use of these medications to enhance effectiveness and minimize harm.

Research Challenge

The treatment of mental illnesses with medications is complex. Finding the right medication for each patient can be a challenge since we are not able to predict what will work or cause significant side effects. Unfortunately, this results in a trial-and-error approach. In particular, therapeutic exposures to certain medications (for example, opioids, sedatives and stimulants) can lead to the development of serious problems in some people, including addiction. This is a significant challenge for primarily two reasons: 1) any strategy to prevent or reduce the problem must be balanced with the need to have these medications available for therapeutic use; and 2) some people who have developed an addiction may also have a therapeutic need for the drug. Understanding the extent of these problems, as well as the factors that contribute to the complexity of individual responses to medications, is important to be able to develop effective clinical approaches and strategies to prevent harms.

Proposed Solution

Beth Sproule uses several approaches to address this challenge. To help understand the extent and nature of the problem, her work seeks out information about peoples’ experiences using medications in the form of online surveys, structured interviews and reviews of clinical records.  She also conducts studies to assess peoples’ responses to medications, as well as to evaluate monitoring, prevention, harm reduction and treatment strategies.

Sproule feels strongly that an important aspect of optimizing medication experiences is to fully utilize the expertise of pharmacists. Therefore, her research also evaluates pharmacy practice interventions and supports pharmacists through education and training initiatives.

Impact to date

Sproule’s research is designed to help optimize peoples’ experiences with medications that affect the brain. Her work contributes to the understanding of the extent and nature of addiction-related harms of prescription medications, as well as pharmacological and patient factors that influence responses to these medications, and the responsibilities and impact of pharmacists in practice.

Keywords: mental health, pharmacy practice, addiction,  opioids, benzodiazepines, psychopharmacology, pharmacodynamic


Faces of PharmSci: Lesley Graham

Working with Associate Professor Beth Sproule, Pharmaceutical Sciences MSc student Lesley Graham is developing and evaluating an educational program for community pharmacists on opioid stewardship for acute pain.
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