In May 2021, VAADA was pleased to announce the grant recipients of ADRIA’s first grant round. Approximately $1.3 million in grant funding was awarded across four projects focused on reducing harms associated with AOD in Victoria.
The breadth of funded projects incorporates a wide cross-section of important areas to AOD: new treatments for young people, improving delivery of key services, low threshold interventions to help clients reduce levels of alcohol use, and support for clients to improve their relationships.
Enhancing pharmacist involvement in care (EPIC) MATOD implementation study
Lead organisation: Peninsula Health
Project partner(s): Monash Addiction Research Centre
Project lead: Kirsty Morgan
Funding amount: $440,542.00
Duration: 24 months
Medication assisted treatment for opioid dependence (MATOD) is a clinically- and cost-effective treatment for opioid dependence. Despite this, demand for MATOD in Australia significantly exceeds capacity. One driver of this capacity shortage is a lack of clinical practitioners prescribing MATOD, occurring for a range of reasons.
‘Collaborative’ or ‘shared-care’ models—where responsibility and tasks are shared across multiple healthcare professionals—have shown to be successful in the management of a range of chronic conditions (including obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes). This research will develop and trial a shared care model of MATOD provision involving both prescribers and pharmacists. To date, a prescriber-pharmacist shared-care model for MATOD is yet to be trialed in Australia.
Evaluating an online relationship program to enhance outcomes for people in alcohol and other drug treatment
Lead organisation: Odyssey House
Project partner(s): Deakin University
Project lead: Stefan Gruenert
Funding amount: $147,250.00
Duration: 24 months
Research consistently demonstrates that strain and conflict in people’s intimate relationships can be exacerbated among those engaging in problematic substance use. Further, a large proportion of problematic substance use is motivated by efforts to regulate distress associated with insecure and conflicted relationships, including trauma associated with relationship aggression and violence. Decades of research has also shown that relationship therapy can improve the quality of relationships and general wellbeing. Despite this, relationship therapy is often expensive and hard to access, especially for people who are socio-economically disadvantaged, live in rural areas, or marginalised.
This research will trial the OurRelationships program—a relationship-focused therapeutic program developed in the US supported by a strong evidence base—with clients in residential AOD treatment settings. The trial will measure (i) whether the OR program improve participants’ relationship outcomes and (ii) whether participation in the program resulted in improvements to mental health, quality of life and a reduction in relapse and/or AOD use.
A randomised controlled trial of a cognitive “brain-training” smartphone app to help reduce alcohol use during alcohol treatment
Lead organisation: Turning Point (Eastern Health)
Project partner(s): St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne; Uniting Vic-Tas Alcohol and Other Drug Services; Star Health; Monash Health; Odyssey House.
Project lead: Victoria Manning
Funding amount: $137,539.00
Duration: 24 months
Almost half (45%) of those presenting for AOD (Alcohol and Other Drug) treatment have alcohol as a drug of concern. Whilst common psychological treatments focus on strengthening the conscious cognitive processes of those receiving treatment for alcohol use, they do not address the subconscious “auto-pilot” response to alcohol cues that drive impulses to drink. Approach-avoidance training (AAT) involves strengthening sub-conscious responses to cues through practise—responding to alcohol and non-alcohol images displayed on a computer screen. Multiple trials have shown AAT reduces the likelihood of relapse following residential treatment.
This research will trial providing AAT training via a smartphone app, making the training a highly scalable and easily accessible tool to reduce alcohol craving and consumption when it is most needed. A recent pilot study of our “AAT-App” demonstrated good feasibility, acceptability and significant reductions in alcohol consumption, craving and related outcomes. To confirm these initial results, this research will conduct a double-blind randomised controlled trial comparing the AAT app against a control appin 300 clients attending alcohol treatment across six Victorian AOD services.
Can extended release guanfacine improve outcomes in young people seeking treatment for problematic cannabis use?
Lead organisation: Youth Support + Advocacy Service
Project partner(s): Orygen Mental Health
Project lead: Jacqui Sundbery
Funding amount: $574,578.00
Duration: 48 months
Cannabis is the most used illicit drug in Australia and globally, with use linked to various harms to users’ mental health and respiratory system. Young people and adolescents are at particular risk of the harms associated with problematic cannabis use due to impacts on their cognitive development. Currently, 61% of young Australians who present for drug treatment identify cannabis as their primary drug of concern. Yet, to date there are no efficacious pharmacotherapies for cannabis-related problems, which limits treatment options.
The research will trial extended-release guanfacine—currently used to treat childhood and adolescent ADHD—as a pharmacotherapy for problematic cannabis use among young people seeking treatment for problematic cannabis use. We hypothesise the treatment may (a) reduce withdrawals experienced when cannabis use is ceased and (b) increasing cognitive processes related to inhibition thereby enhancing participants’ ability to complete treatment. The research will be conducted in youth residential withdrawal services.