Professor Dan Lubman receives $2.2m NHMRC leadership grant to investigate early intervention approaches for alcohol and drug addiction

20 May 2020

Professor Dan Lubman, Director of Turning Point and the Monash Addiction Research Centre, is the recipient of a five-year $2.2m NHMRC Investigator Grant to transform access to addiction treatment.

Dan Lubman

The Minister for Health, the Hon. Greg Hunt, announced today that the Federal Government would invest almost $400 million in world-leading health and medical research to improve the lives of all Australians, including those with addiction.

Professor Lubman, who is also Executive Clinical Director at Eastern Health, says the grant will be used to identify opportunities for earlier intervention, optimise treatment through the use of artificial intelligence (AI), and test new models of service delivery.

“I am very grateful to receive such a prestigious grant” said Professor Lubman.
“To be able to dedicate resources to improve health outcomes for Australians living with addiction is a privilege and a significant acknowledgement of this very real health issue.”

More than one in five Australians will develop health issues related to alcohol, drugs or gambling during their lifetime, yet addiction remains one of the most highly stigmatised conditions in our community.

“Less than a quarter of people will seek professional help, and those that do wait almost two decades before seeking treatment” said Professor Lubman. “For those living in rural areas, the statistics are more crippling, with only four percent of people likely to get help.”

Prolonged delays in seeking treatment for alcohol, drugs and gambling results in poor physical and mental health outcomes, including growing numbers of suicide and drug overdose deaths, as well as significant health care and societal costs. These outcomes highlight the importance of developing health system responses that promote early intervention.

Professor Lubman’s research will identify opportunities to facilitate early intervention and treatment through a program of world-first studies involving data linkage and artificial intelligence (AI), as well as testing novel telephone-based models of care.

Professor Lubman will examine the health trajectories of patients following contact with ambulance or emergency departments after an alcohol or drug-related emergency, including overdose, injury and self-harm, providing opportunities to engage with individuals who may otherwise have little contact with health services.

A diverse range of individual-level data from Turning Point’s state and national alcohol, drug and gambling helpline services will also be studied, using AI to maximise engagement for those undergoing treatment. Though telephone-based support provides individuals with greater accessibility to services, Professor Lubman’s research indicates less than 15 percent of people who contact helplines will go on to attend treatment. Developing an AI model that is informed by patient risk factors will allow for targeted intervention strategies and improved outcomes for patients and their families.

Barriers to accessing treatment, along with increased stigma is linked to a higher prevalence of alcohol and drug issues in rural and regional areas. While many will attempt to address their use by themselves, the lack of specialist support results in an increased likelihood of relapse. Professor Lubman’s research shows that distance-based models of care, including telephone support and online forums, are effective in providing care to those living in these communities. This grant will allow Professor Lubman to further examine the effectiveness of these methods in reducing substance use among those living in rural Australia.