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NDARC awarded $3.7M in grants for smoking, comorbidity, school-based prevention, online drug markets and drug policy research

Image - NDARC awarded $3.7M in grants for smoking, comorbidity, school-based prevention, online drug markets and drug policy research
Date Published:
3 Dec 2016
  • Smoking: A trial of e-cigarettes in smoking cessation treatments: $1.381 million
  • Comorbidity: A trial of cognitive-behavioural therapy for co-occurring mental and substance usedisorders in adolescents: $945,647
  • Online drug markets: A study into the harms associated with the darknet: $399,692
  • Drug policy: A study of treatment funding and purchasing : $473,865
  • School-based prevention:A study into the benefits for young Australians of two drug prevention programs: $465,967

The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at UNSW has won $3.7 million in national health and medical research grants for five projects spanning a range of topics from smoking to online drug markets.

The latest funding round announced on Friday (2 December) by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) includes $1.38 million for a randomised trial to determine whether e-cigarettes can improve smoking cessation treatments.

Professor Richard Mattick will lead the four-year trial with co-investigator Dr Ryan Courtney, a UNSW and Cancer Institute NSW Research Fellow. The team hopes the findings of this study will have immediate practical implications in reducing the preventable deaths of many tobacco smokers.

Darknet specialist Dr Monica Barratt has been awarded $399,692 for a study to assess the global health risks of the expanding online drug market. Dr Barratt will lead a team investigating the nature and extent of health outcomes from online drug markets, also known as cryptomarkets.

“Now is the right time to conduct this program of research, while policy responses worldwide to cryptomarkets are yet to be fully formulated. Australia is in a position to lead global efforts to respond to drug cryptomarkets and formulate evidence-based policy,” says Dr Barratt.

NDARC research shows that of the top five countries selling drugs online, Australia has by far the highest number of individual sellers per head of population – 4.82 per one million people.

Another NDARC trial, which willintegrate cognitive-behavioural therapy into treatments for co-occurring post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance use disorder in adolescents, has been awarded almost one million dollars in funding.

Around 50 per cent of adolescents who suffer from PTSD also have a substance use disorder, according to NDARC research.

“The substance use disorder in these adolescents typically develops as they attempt to self-medicate stress from traumatic events,” says lead investigator of the study, Associate Professor Katherine Mills.

“There is an urgent need to address the hidden epidemic of child and adolescent trauma and prevent the associated psychological and physical health problems that can persist into adulthood.”

Research into school-based prevention has received $465,967 in funding to assess the potential long-term benefits of two complementary programs – Climate Schools and Preventure.

This world-first study, led by NDARC’s Dr Nicola Newton, will evaluate whether prevention programs delivered in Year 8 are effective in reducing alcohol and cannabis related harms, including risk of aggression and violence, over the high-risk period during young adulthood (ages 18-20).

A further $473,865 in NHMRC funding has been allocated to a study examining the way in which governments fund, purchase and structure the treatment service system. Professor Alison Ritter, who heads up NDARC’s Drug Policy Modelling Program, is the lead investigator on the project that will test the relationship between the current system and treatment outcomes.

“This study creates a new, unique research infrastructure resource that will be able to be used by other research teams and governments to continually advance knowledge in the alcohol and drug treatment service systems,” says Professor Ritter.

Other NDARC successes in the 2016 NHMRC funding round include:

  • Dr Ryan Courtney has been named as a chief investigator on a $1.5 million smoking cessation project led by the University of Queensland.
  • Professor Anthony Shakeshaft was named as one of the chief investigatorsof an NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence to develop Indigenous researchers who can help identify and evaluate solutions to alcohol problems.
  • Associate Professor Katherine Mills was appointed an NHMRC Senior Research Fellow. The fellowship will support her work focusing on improving treatment responses for co-occurring mental and substance use disorders.
  • Early career fellowships were awarded to Dr Gabrielle Campbell for a study into pharmaceutical opioids for chronic non-cancer pain, and Dr Katrina Champion for her work on an online intervention program for Australian adolescents.



Adding an electronic-cigarette to standard behavioural treatment for low-socioeconomic status smokers: A randomised trial
Chief investigators: Professor Richard Mattick (NDARC), Dr Ryan Courtney (NDARC), Professor Ron Borland (Cancer Council Victoria), Dr Coral Gartner (The University of Queensland), Professor Hayden McRobbie (Queen Mary, University of London), Dr Dennis Petrie (University of Melbourne), Professor Mohammad Siahpush (University of Nebraska Medical Center), Professor Robyn Richmond (University of New South Wales), Professor Anthony Shakeshaft (NDARC), Professor Michael Farrell (NDARC)

Randomised controlled trial of an integrated cognitive-behavioural therapy for the treatment of co-occurring post-traumatic stress disorder and substance use disorder in adolescents
Chief investigators: Associate Professor Katherine Mills (NDARC), Professor Maree Teesson (NDARC), Professor Sudie Back (Medical University of South Carolina), Dr Emma Barrett (NDARC), Dr Vanessa Cobham (The University of Queensland), Dr Sarah Bendall (Orygen), Associate Professor Sean Perrin (Lund University, Sweden), Professor Kathleen Brady (Medical University of South Carolina), Dr Joanne Ross (NDARC)

Drugs on the darknet: Assessing the global health risks of a rapidly expanding market
Chief investigators: Dr Monica Barratt (NDARC), Dr James Martin (Macquarie University), Professor Ross Coomber (Griffith University), Professor Alison Ritter (NDARC), Associate Professor Aili Malm (California State University Long Beach), Assistant Professor David Decary-Hetu (University of Montreal), Professor Judith Aldridge (University of Manchester), Dr Jason Ferris (The University of Queensland)

Alcohol and other drug treatment funding, purchasing, and workforce: empirical analyses to inform policy
Chief investigators: Professor Alison Ritter (NDARC), Associate Professor Timothy Dobbins (NDARC), Dr Jennifer Chalmers (NDARC), Dr Michael Livingston (La Trobe University), Dr Lynda Berends (Australian Catholic University), Professor Harvey Whiteford (The University of Queensland)

Pathways to prevention: The effectiveness of universal and selective prevention in altering developmental pathways to alcohol and cannabis related harms in young adults
Chief investigators: Dr Nicola Newton (NDARC), Professor Maree Teesson (NDARC), Dr Lexine Stapinski (NDARC), Associate Professor Timothy Slade (NDARC), Professor Patricia Conrod (Universite de Montreal), Dr Emma Barrett (NDARC), Dr Catherine Chapman (NDARC), Dr Katrina Champion (NDARC)


Download the NHMRC media release HERE


Media contacts: 
Marion Downey
Communications Manager, National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre
P: (02) 9385 0180 | 0401 713 850 | m.downey@unsw.edu.au

Leanne Mezrani
Communications Officer, National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre
P: (02) 9385 0124 | 0432 894 776 | l.mezrani@unsw.edu.au