More than 6000 students from 71 schools recruited in 2014 as 13 and 14 year olds are participating in a unique ongoing study investigating the effectiveness of Internet-Based Prevention for Anxiety, Depression and Substance Use in Young People. The Climate Schools Combined (CSC) Study represents the latest in a collaborative program of work led by Professor Maree Teesson and Dr Nicola Newton aimed at preventing substance use and mental health problems among Australian youth.
It is generally thought that opiate withdrawal is unpleasant but not life-threatening, but death can, and does, occur. The complications of withdrawal are often underestimated and monitored inadequately.
The opioid withdrawal syndrome is often characterised as a flu-like illness, subjectively severe but objectively mild. Signs and symptoms include dysphoria, insomnia, pupillary dilation, piloerection, yawning, muscle aches, lacrimation, rhinorrhea, nausea, fever, sweating, vomiting and diarrhoea.
It’s unquestionable that detention and jail are not good places for teenagers to find themselves, as is the oft-repeated cliché that prevention is better than cure. So why are we increasingly locking up kids instead of finding upstream programs to minimise the number of them who end up in detention?
Worldwide, around 30 million people enter and leave prison each year. Of these people, around 4.5 million have hepatitis C, almost 1 million have HIV and 1.5 million have hepatitis B infections.
In many countries, prisons are underfunded and overcrowded, and injecting drug use is common. Those who enter prison uninfected are at risk of becoming infected, as few countries provide the range of prevention programs required to halt transmission inside.
The death of Prince and the NSW Coroner’s comments on 13 deaths among injecting drug users in a month, suspected to be related to heroin has sparked media interest in fentanyl. NDARC’s Director Michael Farrell spoke to several media outlets about the drug.
“Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more concentrated than morphine,” says Professor Farrell. “It’s very difficult for people to know just how much they are extracting from the patch and injecting. It is already a very powerful opioid and people are injecting it without being able to control how much.
The voices of drug users are essential to research and the drug policy debate, argue Professor Alison Ritter and colleagues, and it became most evident at the recent Parliamentary Drug Summit which brought together a range of clinicians, researchers and policy advocates as well as people representing those who use drugs. “When these voices spoke, we were reminded that people who use drugs are not statistics or a ‘problem to be addressed’, but rather that “we are your family members, your friends, your colleagues – not some collateral damage”.”
Professor Shane Darke examined death in the Australian Treatment Outcome Study of heroin users and found that mortality rates were very high at 1% per annum, and each death was associated with an average of 44 years of potential life lost. Accidental overdose and suicide accounted for three quarters of years of life lost. Given the prominent role of overdose and suicide, Professor Darke argues that the majority of these fatalities appear preventable.
New research from the University of New South Wales, La Trobe University and the Burnet Institute in Melbourne analysed five sets of data from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey from 2001 and found that Australians under the age of 30 are the main drivers of a decline in Ausralia's alcohol consumption, while drinking among older Australians has increased.
How can we measure outcomes focusing on the patient perspective in addiction science? Professor Joanne Neale gives an overview of her work developing Patient Reported Outcome Measures (PROMs) to assess health status or health-related quality of life, focusing on the patient perspective. PROMs can be generic (e.g. the SF-36) or condition specific (e.g. the Beck Depression Inventory). They are widely used and accepted across a range of health fields, but less commonly used in the addictions.
In early March 2016, a parliamentary drug summit, convened by the Australian Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy and Law Reform, debated drug policy reform in Australia.
NDARC Professor Alison Ritter, head of the Drug Policy Modelling Program (DPMP), and Nicole Lee, Associate Professor at the National Drug Research Institute (NDRI), Curtin University write about the different options for reform, their possible effects and the views of the Australian public on the issue.