The Clinical and Social Research Team at APSAD 2023

17 Nov 2023

The CSR team is just back from the 2023 Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and Other Drugs Conference.

Turning Point’s Clinical and Social Research (CSR) team has just returned from a busy few days presenting at the 2023 Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and Other Drugs (APSAD) Conference.

By investigating the connection between biology, psychology and socio-environmental factors that contribute to alcohol and other drug use and addiction, the CSR team aims to identify the most effective methods of supporting client journeys from initial help-seeking through to specialist treatment and recovery.

This first part of our spotlight on the team’s work highlights their research into the experiences of trauma among people accessing a supervised injecting facility, the benefits of peer support to help people navigate a complex system when they seek help for addiction, and the unique challenges faced by lived and living experience workers in Victoria’s alcohol and other drugs sector.

Experiences of trauma among people accessing a supervised injecting facility

Presenter: Dr Ali Cheetham

Researchers: Ali Cheetham, Anthony Barnett, Tristan Duncan, Tina Lam, and Suzanne Nielsen

People who access supervised injecting facilities (SIF) often have significant mental health needs and a heightened rate of exposure to violence.

However, the ways that trauma influences individuals’ experiences and levels of engagement when they use these services are not well understood.

Led by Dr Ali Cheetham, a researcher in the CSR team and Monash Addiction Research Centre, this study examined the influence of trauma on how people engaged with the services at a SIF. It also considered the ways that the facility may help to alleviate trauma.

Results showed that participants highly valued the service for the sense of safety that it provided. However, trauma affected when and how participants engaged with staff and services.

While trauma-informed supports such as counselling are essential, the study shows that SIFs can play a broader role in responding to trauma by providing people with a sense of safety and respite, and by helping them access additional resources to better address their mental health needs.

Full paper title: Experiences of trauma among people accessing a supervised injecting facility: a mixed-methods study

Read the full abstract.

Helpline callers improve recovery skills with support from peers

Presenter: Dr Annette Peart

Researchers: Dr Annette Peart, Freya Horn, Bosco Rowland, Shalini Arunogiri, Victoria Manning, Dan I. Lubman

When people seek help for addiction, a variety of barriers including stigma make it difficult for them to access care and navigate the system.

Led by Dr Annette Peart, this recent pilot study by the CSR team was the first to assess the impact of peer navigation for callers to Victoria’s alcohol and other drugs telephone helpline, DirectLine.

“We suspected the peer workers in this pilot would help participants improve their confidence to take steps towards treatment,” said Dr Peart, “but we did not expect the improvements in other recovery-related outcomes would be so great.”

As part of their support, peer workers worked with callers to identify their needs, solve problems, and share personal experiences to inspire hope. Strategies they used included offering help as an equal, exploring resources and options together and helping callers overcome barriers to care.

Early findings show that participants improved their readiness and confidence to make changes in their substance use, which are vital steps in the pathway to seeking treatment, care, and support.

The findings show that peer navigation has the potential to improve recovery skills among people who are seeking help for addiction and build their confidence to manage challenges, reduce substance use, and alleviate the impacts of stigma.

“Our pilot demonstrated the power of sharing stories of recovery and inspiring hope, [which is] made possible through the important work of the peer workers,” Dr Peart said.

Fill paper title: DirectLine peer navigation: Findings of a pilot study to connect helpline callers to peer support

Read the full abstract.

Lived and living experience workers in Victoria’s AOD sector experience unique challenges

Presenter: Dr Ari Roxburgh

Researchers: Ariel Roxburgh, Baden Hicks, Shalini Arunogiri, Victoria Manning

Lived and/or living experience workers provide a range of well-established benefits for consumers and society in the alcohol and other drug (AOD) sector.

However, identifying as a lived and/or living experience worker can mean an admission of engagement in a criminalised activity.

In order to inform best practice approaches, this study led by Dr Ari Roxburgh examined the shared and unique challenges faced by lived and/or living experience workers.

Living experience workers include people who are currently experiencing substance use issues, while lived experience workers are those who have experienced issues in the past.

The unique challenges faced by lived and/or living experience workers are driven by stigma, drug-criminalisation, and workplace models of care and policies.

While both lived and living experience workers described problems in their work, results showed that living experience workers experienced challenges more often than lived experience workers.

Living experience workers also experienced “discriminatory incidents” at work more often that led to distress or impeded their performance.

The study has shown that these challenges must be addressed to foster an effective and sustainable lived and/or living experience workforce, in order to maximise the benefits of this important workforce for people seeking help to reduce or stop their use of alcohol and other drugs.

Full paper title: The shared and unique barriers to both lived and living experience work in AOD in Victoria

Read the full abstract.

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