Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) Research Network

The AOD Research Network comprises Western researchers with a range of disciplinary backgrounds including psychology, social work, criminology and public health:

The network aims to foster high quality research on critical substance use issues facing communities within South Western and Western Sydney. Our research is community driven and underpinned by significant partnerships with SWSLHD Drug Health Services, and a range of non-government organisations in South Western and Western Sydney. Please see a list of current projects below.

Our network also provides mentoring to emerging drug and alcohol researchers. If you are a researcher interested in joining our network please contact Dr Elizabeth Conroy.

Students interested in undertaking research training in alcohol and other drugs can peruse potential projects (opens in a new window).

Assessing the needs of local youth to help guide drug and alcohol prevention strategies

Investigators: Dr Emily Deans (Youth Solutions), Assoc Prof Ilse Blignault (WSU School of Medicine/THRI), Dr Elizabeth Conroy (THRI), Assoc Prof Jioji Ravulo (Wollongong University)

Description: This collaborative project aims to improve the currency & relevance of the drug prevention programmes delivered by Youth Solutions. There are three groups of young people that the project will target: young people involved in the juvenile justice system; young people involved in the homelessness support system; and young people in school. The project will involve qualitative interviews and focus groups with young people across these different settings and enquire about the substances that are currently causing concern among young people and the sociocultural factors that shape young people’s involvement in alcohol and other drugs.


Measurement of changes in alcohol and drug counsellors’ language and competency after implementation of Motivational Interviewing training

Investigators: Dr Rashid Flewellen (WSU School of Medicine/THRI), Dr Elizabeth Conroy (THRI), Ravina Raidu (SWSLHD Drug Health Services)

Description: Many medical conditions and social determinants of health are known to have direct relationships with modifiable health behaviours. The management and prevention of heart disease, cancer, obesity and sexually transmitted infections necessitate conversations about behaviour change. Those conversations include behaviours such as smoking, diet, exercise, medication adherence, and substance use. Treatment interventions are most effective when driven by clinical practices that emphasise communication skills informed by mechanisms of behaviour change. From a training perspective, these mechanisms require extensive unpacking in order to adequately address the complex problems associated with AOD issues. Motivational interviewing (MI) is a collaborative, goal-oriented style of communication with a particular attention to the language of change. MI is one of few behaviour change interventions that specifically accounts for “clinician effects” in the clinical encounter. The aim of this project is to measure the impact of an MI training program on AOD counsellors’ clinical language and competencies. This measurement will identify mechanisms of behaviour change in order to improve clinician responses to complex problems in drug and alcohol treatment.


Prevalence and correlates of gambling among clients presenting with AOD problems in SWSLHD

Investigators: Dr Elizabeth Conroy (WSU THRI), Dr Ron Strauss ( SWSLHD Drug Health Services)

Description: SWSLHD (and Fairfield in particular) has one of the highest rates of gambling behaviour in NSW however a recent audit of patient files at Fairfield Hospital found the prevalence of gambling to be 0%. This suggests underreporting and/or lack of appropriate screening for gambling problems, particularly among those with substance use presentations. This pilot study will a) document the prevalence of problematic gambling behaviour among individuals presenting with substance use problems in SWSLHD; b) examine associations between gambling behaviour and the use of specific substances, including psychiatric medication; and c) explore the barriers and facilitators to screening for problematic gambling behaviour in AOD treatment and other health settings.


The impact of comorbid personality disorder on social functioning among clients attending opioid substitution treatment and court diversion programmes in South West Sydney

Investigators: Dr Elizabeth Conroy (WSU THRI); Dr Kathy Watson (Consultant Psychiatrist); Ravina Raidu (SWSLHD Drug Health Services); Kylie Stolzenhein (SWSLHD Drug Health Services)

Description: Personality disorders are highly prevalent among people with substance use problems. It has been argued that this comorbidity might reflect exposure to a common risk factor (e.g. developmental trauma) or that substance use is best viewed as a symptom of personality disorder. The diagnosis of personality disorder is currently being debated with some arguing for a reconceptualization of personality dysfunction in line with a dimensional (rather than categorical) model. This has implications for how we understand the comorbidity of personality and substance use disorders. Additionally, comorbid personality disorder is associated with poorer treatment outcomes among people with opioid dependence indicating a need for an integrated treatment response. To inform such a response, evidence regarding the impact of this comorbidity on social functioning is required, given the role of family and peer networks in the recovery of people with substance use problems. This project has two main objectives: 1) to explore the dimensional relationship of personality disorder among adults with a known substance use disorder; and 2) to explore the relationship between personality dysfunction and social wellbeing among adults in treatment for a substance use disorder.