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Feasibility study of a brief telephone-based cannabis intervention

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Date Commenced:
10/2015
Expected Date of Completion:
06/2016
Project Supporters:

Australian Government Department of Health

Drug Type:
Project Members: 
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Dr Peter Gates
Research Officer
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Honorary Professor
Ph 02 9385 0231
Project Main Description: 

The majority of calls to the Cannabis Information Helpline and indeed all counselling interventions in specialist treatment services are only one session. To date, no studies have been conducted on the efficacy of a brief one session telephone-based intervention with a specific focus on an illicit drug. This study aims to examine whether such a brief telephone-based counselling service can act as an efficacious treatment option for people with cannabis-related problems.

Project Collaborators: External: 

Peta Jesse
Cannabis Information and Helpline, NSW

Aims: 

To examine whether a single session telephone-based counselling intervention can act as an efficacious treatment option for people with cannabis-related problems.

Design and Method: 

All treatment seeking callers to the Cannabis Information Helpline will be informed of the study and offered a call back from a researcher to detail the study and gain consent. A total of 100 eligible individuals giving consent to participate in the randomised trial will each be asked a set of questions that will act as baseline data. The questions will cover: the participant’s concerns over their cannabis use; emotional well-being; mental health; as well as profile their overall drug use with particular focus on cannabis. Directly after the initial baseline survey, each participant will be randomly allocated to be in one of two groups. The first group (n = 50) will be called by trained counsellors and will receive the single session intervention. The second group (n = 50) will be mailed a self-guided work-booklet aimed to assist them with reducing their cannabis use. Each group will be followed up at three months following the baseline survey.

The counselling session that takes place in the randomised control trial will be based on motivational interviewing techniques, cognitive behavioural therapy, models of behaviour change, relapse prevention theory and relationship building techniques. In addition, the work-booklet is a routinely delivered resource available through the NCPIC website.

Progress/Update: 

Ethics approval has been secured. The one session intervention has been designed and development of a treatment manual and counsellor training has been completed. Recruitment has been completed although suffered a slow start given the lack of resources. Facebook advertisement and health worker contacts were pursued with some success although a total of only 19 participants completed follow-up survey. The project is now ceased with the intervention thought to lack feasibility. Manuscript has been completed and submitted to the journal of Telemedicine and Telecare for review.

Benefits: 

Seeking treatment for cannabis use can be difficult due to accessibility issues and stigmatisation concerns.  The availability of an evidence-based brief intervention for reducing or quitting cannabis may encourage treatment seeking among individuals who would otherwise not receive treatment. Recruitment was a challenge as callers displayed a lack of interest in the brief treatment. The small final sample (n=19) was insufficient for adequately powered analysis and no significant differences between group differences were found. This result was in contrast to the previous success of a more intensive four-session intervention delivered by the CIH and implies that despite single sessions being common in all outpatient counselling settings, it does not appear to be sufficiently engaging for recruitment to a telephone-based cannabis treatment.

Project Research Area: 
Drug Type: 
Project Status: 
Completed