fbpx Risk communication for people who use illicit drugs: establishing guidance on preferences and behavioural responses to drug alerts | NDARC - National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre

Risk communication for people who use illicit drugs: establishing guidance on preferences and behavioural responses to drug alerts

image - Drug Alerts 2021
Date Commenced:
04/2021
Expected Date of Completion:
06/2022
Project Members: 
image - Amy Peacock
Senior Research Fellow (UNSW)
Ph +61 (2) 9385 0333
image - Rachel Sutherland 0
Post-Doc Fellow
Ph 02 9385 0227
Miss Penny Hill
Research Fellow
Project Main Description: 

This study seeks to understand the awareness, preferences and responses to communication of drug alerts of people who use illicit drugs. We plan to use the study findings to develop practical guidance for stakeholders communicating drug alerts to people who use illicit drugs in Australia.

 

Project Collaborators: External: 

A/Prof Raimondo Bruno

Dr Monica Barratt

Dr Mary Ellen Harrod

Thomas Capell-Hattam

Prof Harry Sumnall

Dr Robert Page

Mr Jared Brown

Mr Robin Auld

National Centre for Clinical Research on Emerging Drugs

Rationale: 

The illicit drug market is unregulated, and the type and quality of substances available can vary widely, with differing risk of harm. People who use drugs often enact harm reduction strategies based on their knowledge of likely substance contents. However, people who use drugs are often unaware of substance contents in terms of the dose and presence of adulterants. This issue has been exacerbated with the emergence of new psychoactive substances (>900 identified) and other significant changes in the drug market (e.g., higher MDMA content of ecstasy tablets/capsules).

Public health agencies and other organisations (e.g., drug checking services) have attempted to make people who use drugs aware of risk of harm from specific substances through ‘drug alerts’, which are defined as communication targeted at consumers about, for example:

  • New unknown/high potency substances;
  • Substances with severe toxicity profiles;
  • High strength/dose substances; and
  • Mislabelling/substitution/adulteration of substances.

These alerts are intended to increase awareness of risk of harm and to influence substance-related behaviours to reduce risk of harm (e.g., avoiding or reducing use, use of other harm reduction strategies, engagement with harm reduction/medical services). However, there is a distinct lack of research which assesses communication preferences and evaluates responses to alerts among people who use drugs. It is critical that communication approaches to drug alerts are evidence-based, theory-driven, informed by people who use drugs, and considerate of the potential impacts of such communication.

The findings of this study will allow us to develop guidance that will meet the needs of people who use drugs and are likely to achieve outcomes intended by health agencies and other stakeholders in communicating these alerts – namely increasing awareness of risk of harms and reducing drug-related harms.

 

Aims: 

This research project aims to recruit an online sample of people who use illicit drugs (at least in the past year, excluding cannabis only users), to examine:

  1. Preferences for communication of drug alerts,
  2. Anticipated responses to drug alerts, and
  3. Consumer awareness of and responses to existing alerts.
Design and Method: 

This project comprises an online survey of people who use illicit drugs in Australia.

Progress/Update: 

Participant recruitment for this project is due to commence in mid-2021.

Benefits: 

 

The findings from this research project will allow us to develop guidance that will meet the needs of people who use drugs and are likely to achieve outcomes intended by health agencies and other stakeholders in communicating these alerts – namely increasing awareness of risk of harms and reducing drug-related harms.

 

Project Status: 
Current