Scalable approaches to reducing alcohol/drug use among traumatised young people: A RCT examining safety, effectiveness, & cost-effectiveness of an integrated CBT via telehealth (Uni of Sydney Lead) (2024–2026)

Adolescence and young adulthood (12-25 years of age) are periods of marked risk for the development of substance use disorders (SUDs) with 75% of all cases developing before the age of 25. For many, the SUD develops as a result of repeated use in an attempt to self-medicate underlying trauma and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which also has its peak age of onset during these formative years. Although substance use may help in managing these symptoms in the short term, repeated use complicates recovery and can lead to a more chronic course of illness with each disorder serving to maintain and exacerbate the other. Furthermore, there is growing evidence of an association between these conditions and functional and structural brain abnormalities during these formative periods of brain development. There is an urgent need to intervene early in the trajectory of these disorders to prevent chronic psychological, neurological and physical health problems that may result and persist into adulthood. The need for scalable interventions for high-risk young people has been amplified by the cumulative stressors of recent years (i.e, catastrophic bushfires, floods, and the COVID-19 pandemic) that have disproportionally affected our young people and led to significant strain on in-person service delivery. Building on the findings of our pioneering trials demonstrating the efficacy of an integrated psychotherapy for SUD+PTSD (called COPE) among adults, the proposed RCT represents a unique opportunity to leverage an existing NHMRC funded RCT to examine the efficacy of delivering COPE to adolescents and young people via telehealth. By intervening early and addressing underlying trauma we have the potential to reduce the enduring disability, personal and societal costs associated with SUD.
Grant type:
University of Sydney
Funded by:
The University of Sydney