Category Archives: General debate

Jobs: Senior Research Officer – Sydney NSW

Job opportunity: Senior Research Officer

The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) invites applications for the position of Senior Research Officer. This position will involve the coordination of the National Opioid Medication Abuse Deterrence (NOMAD) study.

To our knowledge, the NOMAD study is one of the most comprehensive and transparently-conducted studies conducted to-date of the potential impact of an opioid medication upon use, tampering and diversion. Results have the potential to inform policymakers, clinicians, consumers and researchers alike. Further information on the study may be found at

The successful applicant will have a relevant degree in behavioural sciences, statistics or epidemiology; Capacity to work as a key member of a team and liaise with other agencies and professionals; Proven high-level organisational skills and ability to adapt to changing priorities; Demonstrated skills in data management, statistical design and analysis; and excellent communication and interpersonal skills.

This is a full-time, fixed term (35 hours per week) position available for 12 months. The position is based at NDARC, Randwick Campus, University of New South Wales.

Applicants should systematically address the selection criteria in their online application via the UNSW website at

Application close: 9 February 2015

Seeking Cannabis Users for Study

The University of Sydney is launching recruitment on two research studies with cannabis users and we would appreciate your help in advertising our studies as widely as possible.


Study 1: Exercise for cannabis withdrawal treatment


This is a 7 day inpatient cannabis detoxification study with an innovative daily exercise regime overlaid onto normal detoxification treatment.

The study takes place at Concord Repatriation General Hospital in Sydney, and we are looking for cannabis users who are seeking help to reduce their use or quit.


Details of this study and how to get in touch can be found here:


Alternatively please feel free to download a copy of the recruitment poster and place it in your treatment facility or link to any of our recruitment materials through your webpage:



Study 2: Cannabis use and Pain experiment recruiting now


This is a ½ day experimental pain study recruiting both cannabis users, and non-cannabis using controls.

The study takes place at the Langton Centre in Surry Hills, Sydney, and uses the cold pressor (icy water bath) pain model to compare the two groups.

Details of this study and how to get in touch can be found here:

Alternatively please feel free to download a copy of the recruitment poster and place it in your facility or link to any of our recruitment materials through your webpage:

Great Article on Medical Cannabis

I highly recommend you check out this article from Dr David Allsop on medical cannabis. It’s also worth noting that at the bottom of the article there’s a call for recruits for two studies:

We’re currently recruiting participants for two cannabinoid research studies in Sydney. The first is looking at regular, non-treatment seeking cannabis users to help us understand the role of the endocannabinoid system in pain perception, while the other is recruiting people who need help with problematic cannabis use, examining the effects of daily exercise on endocannabinoid release and stored THC.

Peer Helper Training Course

Association of Participating Service APSU will run the next Peer Helper Training course from 18 November – 5 December 2014. We invite people with the personal experience of problematic substance use, with or without mental health issues, to apply for this free training by 20 October 2014. The application will be followed by an individual assessment of each applicant before the final confirmation of enrolment.

APSU has been successfully running the Peer Helper Training since 2005. This training is designed to put a professional frame on participants’ lived experience. It particularly enables people who have had a disrupted education to test the waters, build their self-esteem, skill and knowledge level. Indeed, many people who have been through the Peer Helper Training have then undertaken further education or other socially engaging activities.

In addition, APSU will cover travel expenses for up to four participants from rural areas.

The flyer with all further information is available at

AIHW 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey Results Encouraging

Press release from the AIHW. The outcomes on smoking are particularly encouraging:

Smoking rates in Australia continue to drop, according to new results released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The key findings from the AIHW’s 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey, released online today, show that fewer Australians are smoking daily-the daily smoking rate dropped significantly between 2010 and 2013, from 15.1% to 12.8% among people 14 or older.

‘This means the daily smoking rate has halved since 1991,’ said AIHW spokesperson Geoff Neideck.

‘Smokers have also reduced the average number of cigarettes they smoke per week-down from 111 cigarettes in 2010 to 96 cigarettes in 2013.’

And the results show younger people are delaying starting. The proportion of 12-17 year olds who had never smoked remained high in 2013 at 95%, and the proportion of 18-24 year olds who had never smoked increased significantly between 2010 and 2013 (from 72% to 77%).

The age at which 14 to 24-year-olds smoked their first full cigarette was almost 16, rising from 14.2 to 15.9 years of age between 1995 and 2013.

Younger people are also continuing to delay their first alcoholic drink. The age at which 14 to 24-year-olds first tried alcohol rose from 14.4 to 15.7 years of age between 1998 and 2013.

‘Overall, fewer younger people aged 12 to 17 are drinking alcohol, with the proportion abstaining from alcohol rising from 64% to 72% between 2010 and 2013,’ Mr Neideck said.

‘And more good news is that compared to 2010, fewer people overall drank alcohol in quantities that exceeded the lifetime risk and single occasion risk guidelines in 2013.’

However, almost 5 million people in Australia aged 14 or older (26%) reported being a victim of an alcohol-related incident in 2013-a decline from 29% in 2010.

‘We’ve also seen declines in the use of ecstasy (from 3.0% to 2.5%), heroin (from 0.2% to 0.1%) and GHB (from 0.1% to less than 0.1%) in 2013, but the misuse of pharmaceuticals is on the rise (from 4.2% in 2010 to 4.7% in 2013),’ Mr Neideck said.

‘While the use of meth/amphetamine remained at a similar level to 2010, there was a major shift in the main form of meth/amphetamine used. Use of powder dropped significantly while the use of ice (or crystal methamphetamine) more than doubled between 2010 and 2013.

The National Drug Strategy Household Survey is conducted every 2-3 years. The 2013 survey collected data from nearly 24,000 people across Australia from 31 July to 1 December 2013.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia’s health and welfare.

Canberra, 17 July 2014

Survey: effectiveness of Australian police drug diversion

Been busted by the police for a cannabis use / possession offence in the last 3-9 months?

Given a charge or caution?

We want to hear from you!

The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) is conducting a study looking at the effectiveness of Australian police drug diversion for cannabis use/possession offenders. Specifically we seek to compare the outcomes and costs of police diversion (and of different types of police diversion) versus a traditional criminal justice response (criminal charge) for anyone who has been detected for a cannabis use/possession offence.

If you live in Australia, are aged 17+ and have been detected by police for a cannabis use/possession offence in the last 3-9 months we would like you to take part in an online survey. To participate go to:

The survey is anonymous and will take only 15-20 minutes. You will be eligible to win a $200 music voucher as compensation for your time.

If you would like more information contact Marian at UNSW: (02) 8936 1215 or This study has received ethics approval: HREC Ref: # HC1420

What factors affect health outcomes in Australia?

Social Determinants of Health Alliance



What factors affect health outcomes in Australia?

Around 120 people from the health and community sectors are coming together in Canberra on Monday for a public forum to address factors affecting health outcomes in Australia.  The Social Determinants of Health Research Forum is being hosted by the national Social Determinants of Health Alliance (SDOHA).


“It’s vital that the Commonwealth, state and territory governments work together if Australia is to address those social determinants of health that are holding us back in seeking to achieve better health outcomes for the Australian community.  Speakers at the Research Forum will be presenting the latest research findings and evidence in relation to factors impacting on the health of Australians and efforts to improve the nation’s health,” said Michael Moore, SDOHA spokesperson and CEO of the Public Health Association of Australia.


“A brand new report Taking Action on the Social Determinants of Health: Insights from politicians, policymakers and lobbyists will also be being launched at the event by speakers from the Australian National University and Monash University.  These speakers will be arguing that it’s time for a targeted, solutions-focused approach to improve health outcomes,” said Mr Moore.


Speakers at the forum include:

  • Professor Sharon Friel (Professor of Health Equity, National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health and Director, Menzies Centre for Health Policy, Australian National University)
  • Professor Mike Salvaris (Professorial Research Fellow, Deakin University and Board Member, Australian National Development Index)
  • Adjunct Associate Professor Rebecca Cassells (Curtin University)
  • Dr Gemma Carey (Research Fellow, National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University) and Mr Bradley Crammond (Lecturer, Monash University)
  • Ms Mary Guthrie (General Manager, Policy and Communications, The Lowitja Institute)


What:         Social Determinants of Health Research Forum

Where:      The Brassey of Canberra, Belmore Gardens & Macquarie Street, Barton ACT

When:        Monday 14 July 2014

Time:         1pm – 3:30pm


SDOHA is a collaboration of like-minded organisations from the areas of health, social services and public policy established to work with governments to reduce health inequities in Australia.  The Alliance currently has over 60 organisational members.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders call for scrapping of co-payments

Joint Press Release – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders call for scrapping of co-payments

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Leaders from across Australia met in Canberra today for crisis talks regarding the implications of the Commonwealth Budget.

“The Aboriginal community sector will not agree to turn our backs on the most disadvantaged and disempowered,” said Julie Tongs, CEO of Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service.

“A coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations calls on the Australian Government to recognise that a co-payment is against the principles of health equity outlined in the Statement of Intent to Close the Gap in Indigenous Health Outcomes.

“The suggested co-payments run counter to the findings of the World Health Organisation’s Commission on the Social Determinants of Health. Australia’s health policies and funding should reflect those findings.

“Introducing co-payments will not serve to close the gap in health outcomes; it will only widen the gap between our people and the rest of the community,’ said Ms Tongs.

We reject the introduction of co-payments because they will increase inequality.

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people already experience considerable health disadvantage
  • for every dollar spent on non-Indigenous Australians now, only 60 cents is spent on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • international evidence confirms the most efficient way to contain health care costs is a robust universal primary health care system
  • the sustainability of Australia’s robust not for profit health sector, which currently supports the most vulnerable in our community, is threatened by this move.

Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services and Aboriginal Medical Services:

  • are the regular source of care for persons without social capital
  • are an embodiment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander self-determination
  • represent a sound investment in not only health outcomes, but economic participation, employment and education for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; the health industry is the single largest employer of Indigenous Australians.

“We are calling for an immediate scrapping of the MBS and PBS co-payments scheme.

“The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health sector will not agree to turn our backs on the needy, disadvantaged and desperate.

“We welcome the opportunity to have further constructive conversations with government. We call on our partners, colleagues and all concerned Australians to stand with us at this critical time,” concluded Ms Tongs.

The following agencies were represented at today’s meeting:

VACCHO, AMSANT, Lowitja Institute, NACCHO, Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service, NATSIHWA, AIDA, National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, QAIHC and AHCSA. Also in attendance Public Health Association of Australia.

Key health bodies slam National Commission of Audit recommendations

MEDIA RELEASE: Australian Health Care Reform Alliance, Australian Health Promotion Association, Consumers Health Forum of Australia, Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education and Public Health Association of Australia


Key health bodies slam National Commission of Audit recommendations


Five key health organisations have written to the Prime Minister to express deep concern in relation to the reports and recommendations of the National Commission of Audit, which advocate cuts to government spending in areas of critical importance to Australians.  In particular, the groups believe the absence of a national approach in key areas such as preventive health and communicable disease will jeopardise people’s health and put greater pressures on the health system.

Signatories to the letter include the: Australian Health Care Reform Alliance, Australian Health Promotion Association, Consumers Health Forum of Australia, Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education and Public Health Association of Australia.

“Among the Commission’s recommendations are calls for the dismantling of multiple agencies – including the National Preventive Health Agency – and the surrender back to the states of key areas of responsibility in education, health and other services.  From our perspective, such changes would represent an abrogation of responsibility by the Australian Government that is entrusted to progress national priorities for the nation’s health and wellbeing,” said Michael Moore, Chief Executive Officer of the Public Health Association of Australia.

“A compulsory $15 co-payment for GP visits is one way of providing extra funding for health care, but it is one of the least effective, targeted bizarrely at those who are sick.  Strong primary health care is internationally recognised as the cornerstone of an effective and lower cost health system.  Discouraging low-income people – who we know have the worst health status on average – from attending their local GP or emergency department when there are the early signs of sickness is counter-productive, cruel if they are in pain, and ultimately foolhardy.  Untreated diseases get worse and more expensive to cure,” said Tony McBride, Chair of the Australian Health Care Reform Alliance.

“The Australian Government Department of Health manages key national strategies in relation to communicable diseases, immunisation, mental health, alcohol and other drugs and Closing the Gap in health outcomes for Indigenous Australians, just to name a few.  The health portfolio takes into account the broader interests of all Australians.  Responses to outbreaks of communicable diseases and other public health emergencies, for instance, clearly need to be coordinated at the national level,” said Gemma Crawford, President of the Australian Health Promotion Association.

“The protection and improvement of health outcomes for all Australians are vital national government functions.  They can’t effectively be divested to the states and territories or privatised.  These are fundamentally Commonwealth responsibilities that require coordination and leadership at the national level.  To suggest that we don’t need a national focus on key issues is a dangerous nonsense,” said Mr Moore.

“We also oppose the introduction of mandatory $15 co-payments for every Medicare service, and increased co-payments for PBS medications.  Our commitment is to equitable and universal access to health care for all Australians.  Measures that would create a two-tiered health system for the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ are simply un-Australian.  Australians fundamentally believe in a level playing field and a fair go for all.  Our tax dollars should be used accordingly.  We trust that the Government will review and reject the majority of the Commission’s recommendations with these considerations in mind,” said Adam Stankevicius, the Chief Executive Officer of the Consumers Health Forum.




ReGen urges caution on disulfiram implants

ReGen urges caution on disulfiram implants

Melbourne, VIC, 5th May 2014 – UnitingCare ReGen, the lead alcohol and other drug treatment and education agency of UnitingCare Victoria & Tasmania, today urged members of the public to exercise caution over the potential use of disulfiram (known under the brand name ‘Antabuse’) implants to overcome dependent or other problematic patterns of alcohol consumption.

In responding to a feature article on one man’s decision to receive an implant to help him change an established pattern of heavy, episodic drinking (The Age, Desperate measures to beat the bottle, 02/05/14), Donna Ribton-Turner (ReGen’s Director of Clinical Services) said:

We all know the impacts that problematic alcohol consumption can have on the lives of individuals, families and the wider community. As we saw highlighted in the article, alcohol and other drug use can have a devastating impact on people’s physical and mental health, relationships and financial security.

Mr Byrnes’ case also emphasises how desperate those affected can be to find a solution. Sometimes that desperation can lead to choosing treatment options that offer a ‘last hope’. For some people, this is disulfiram. We know that it can play a successful role in supporting the establishment of new patterns of behaviour based on abstinence from alcohol. However, there are severe risks associated with its use. Some of these were addressed in the Age article, but not all.

Use of the drug can lead to some pretty severe consequences for individuals and their families. The ‘disulfiram reaction’ is potentially toxic and can occur through unintentional exposure to alcohol through products such as mouthwash, cosmetics, vinegars and salad dressings. It’s more complicated than avoiding black forest cake and punchbowls.

Usually, people take disulfiram in tablet form. This allows a quick response (i.e. ceasing its use) if problems develop. With an implant, this is much more difficult, making the potential risks that much greater. Apart from the health risks associated with using disulfiram, the feedback we consistently get from people who have made multiple attempts to overcome their alcohol dependence is that it is only effective with a small percentage of people.

We understand that it can appear to be an attractive option for people who are desperate for change, but the unfortunate reality is that overcoming dependence is a much more complicated process than popping a pill (or getting an implant). It’s about changing patterns of thinking and behaviour. This is the work of counselling and rehabilitation services, like our Catalyst program.

As anyone who has tried to give up smoking will know, you need more than just nicotine patches to quit.

As with any approach to alcohol and other drug treatment, medication should be seen as one part of a multipronged approach to supporting sustained behavioural change. Anyone considering including disulfiram in their treatment should be aware of the potential health risks and the additional medical monitoring that would be necessary as part of an integrated treatment plan, particularly if they have existing health problems. Anyone who is pregnant or breastfeeding, or has a mental illness or history of high blood pressure, liver, kidney or heart disease should seek expert medical advice about possible complications.

Occasionally, we see media coverage (such as the Age story) that asks why Antabuse isn’t more commonly prescribed in Australia. The simple reason is that it’s potentially dangerous and comparatively ineffective. Antabuse has been around since 1948. In the meantime, there are several other drugs that have been developed to support abstinence from alcohol, without the associated risks.

Anyone considering using medication to assist their recovery from alcohol (or any other drug) dependence should consult with experienced AOD services or an Addiction Medicine Specialist. With appropriate expert supervision, such medications can play an important role in achieving sustainable behavioural change, but they will be unlikely to produce any significant outcomes unless they are part of a more comprehensive response to the problem.