Public health challenges and opportunities of internet technologies for the study of new and emerging psychoactive substance use and related health harms

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Date Commenced:
07/2014
Expected Date of Completion:
06/2018
Project Supporters:

NHMRC Early Career Research Fellowship

Drug Type:
Project Members: 
image - Monica Barratt
Research Fellow
Ph 0407 778 938
Project Main Description: 

New psychoactive drugs that mimic the effects of prohibited drugs are increasingly available in Australia, and there is mounting evidence of their harmful health effects. This research examines the challenges and opportunities of internet technologies for understanding trends in new and emerging drug use and harms. Findings will inform the development of more effective public health responses to reduce morbidity and mortality from new psychoactive drugs and other illicit drug use.

Rationale: 

An increasing number of new psychoactive substances (NPS) that mimic the effects of prohibited drugs are available for use in Australia, and there is mounting evidence of their harmful health effects resulting from acute and long-term use. This research examines the challenges and opportunities of internet technologies for understanding trends in NPS use and harms, using advanced epidemiological techniques, digital mixed-methods methodologies, and participatory engagement.

Aims: 

This research will develop a theoretically informed understanding of the challenges posed by internet technologies as drivers of NPS use and harms, and how to address these challenges; and utilise the opportunities of internet technologies for (a) enhancing epidemiological monitoring of NPS trends and (b) facilitating participatory involvement of NPS users.

Design and Method: 

Through this research I will develop a detailed understanding of how internet technologies drive trends in NPS use and harms in Australia over time, including through enabling and facilitating purchasing, marketing, information sharing, and social networking. The research will also more fully exploit the opportunities of internet technologies for enhancing epidemiological monitoring of NPS trends and participatory involvement of NPS users. A wide range of data will be utilised, including web-based data sources (such as search query data, microblogging, online discussion forums, and online marketplaces) and repeated cross-sectional surveys.

Benefits: 

New knowledge and the use of innovative methodological techniques will inform the development of new public health responses to reduce morbidity and mortality from NPS and other illicit drug use.

Project Research Area: 
Drug Type: 
Project Status: 
Current