Professor Louisa Degenhardt first commenced work at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC), Faculty of Medicine, UNSW in 1998 and has worked across a wide range of projects examining the epidemiology of illicit drug use, comorbid mental health problems, and illicit drug surveillance. Her PhD, completed in 2001, examined the comorbidity of drug use and mental health problems in the Australian population. Louisa has published over 310 peer reviewed papers, 110 technical reports and monographs, three books and 35 book chapters. Her H-index is 44 in Web of Science, 62 in Google Scholar. From 2001 to 2008 she established and expanded national drug surveillance and strategic early warning systems across Australia. This work included the establishment of the National Illicit Drug Indicators Project (NIDIP), which comprises the analysis of routine data collections across Australia that collect data on drug use, harms and supply; she took over the running of the Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS) in 2001. She also expanded a pilot of the Ecstasy and related Drugs Reporting System (EDRS) into a national system in 2003, and oversaw all these systems until she took up an NHMRC Fellowship in 2008.
Louisa has been conducting increasingly diverse epidemiological studies, including examination of mortality related to opioid antagonist treatment; post marketing surveillance of new opioid agonist pharmacotherapies; cohort studies using data linkage methods of opioid treatment entrants; indirect prevalence estimation studies of opioid dependence; case-control studies of gene-environment interactions leading to opioid dependence; studies of drug overdose and international studies of the epidemiology of drug use and dependence. She is currently conducting a national prospective cohort study of entrants to pharmaceutical opioid use for the treatment of chronic non-cancer pain. She has more recently extended her focus upon the health of young people, and is currently involved in half a dozen local and national cohort studies, with a focus upon the incidence and course of risk behaviours of young people.
Louisa was the lead academic on the Secretariat for the Reference Group to the United Nations on Injecting Drug Use and HIV (2007-2010) and continues to work with WHO and UNAIDS examining epidemiology of illicit drug use and associated health risks across the globe. She co-chaired the Expert Group on mental disorders and illicit drug use for the 2010 Global Burden of Disease study and is on the core analytic team for GBD 2.0.