Current Opportunities

We are currently seeking applicants to undertake the following PhD research projects.

Project Supervisors

Supervisor: Dr Robert Tait, NDRI, Curtin University
Co-supervisors: Professor Leon Straker, Curtin University; Professor Rachel Skinner, University of Sydney; Dr Jennifer Marino, University of Melbourne

Project Overview

Globally, cannabis is the most widely used illicit drug. In Australia nearly 40% of adults report using cannabis in their lifetime and 13% in the last year. In addition, the pressure to change the legal status of cannabis and also to allow ’medicinal’ use of cannabis means that more people may use it in the future. A range of adverse health effects from cannabis use have been identified including impaired lung function, depression, psychotic episodes, suicide / suicide ideation and accidents. Further, youth cannabis use is associated with poor educational outcomes, increased welfare dependence and the development of drug disorders. Less well-established are the adverse outcomes from gestational exposure to cannabis. Some reviews report low-birth-weight and other adverse neonatal outcomes, but adjustment for confounding variables may remove these apparent deficits. There are also findings of reduced cognitive performance and behavioural problems for exposed children. However, it is difficult to exclude confounding factors, particularly when working with small samples.

The Western Australian Pregnancy Cohort (Raine) Study is a world leading prospective cohort of pregnancy, infant, child, adolescent and now young adult outcomes, with data collected regularly from early gestation through to age 27 years. From an initial sample of 2,868 live births, maternal cannabis use was reported by about 8% of mothers. The Raine Study has collected measures of educational attainment, mental health and behavioural outcomes for the offspring which will allow a comprehensive evaluation of potential adverse changes for early exposure to cannabis. The study has also collected data from parents and grandparents, thus allowing adjustment for confounding factors.

Understanding the potential long-term adverse effects from early exposure to cannabis use is important. The changing legal status of cannabis and the expanding use of medical cannabis, increases the urgency of assessing these relationships.

The successful applicant will join an existing national collaboration using the Raine data to assess risk taking behaviours by adolescents and their consequences into young-adulthood. The role will involve analysing data from the Raine cohort to assess the impact of maternal cannabis use on adverse outcomes for their children from infancy through to young adulthood (age 27 years).

Funding

The Raine Study offers PhD top up scholarship funding, valued at $10,000 per annum, to students utilising the Raine Study and undertaking a PhD at a WA university. Applications for 2020 are now open, closing on 31 October 2019. For more information, visit https://rainestudy.org.au/information-for-researchers/research-students

Skills and qualifications required

Strong statistical skills are needed to work with a large dataset which has a complex structure. 

Contact

For more information or to apply please contact:
Dr Robert Tait
Email: robert.tait@curtin.edu.au
Tel: 08 9266 1610

Project Supervisors

Supervisor: Dr Nyanda McBride, NDRI
Co-supervisor: Dr Tina Lam, Monash Addiction Research Centre, Monash University

Project Overview

Aim

The aim of this study is to describe the social and economic impact of non-parental supply of alcohol to youth under the age of 18 years.

Objectives

Identify categories of non-parental supply of alcohol to youth under the age of 18 years; Define the relationship between non-parental ‘others’ who supply youth with alcohol, and youth who receive alcohol; Describe the range of potential risks and harms associated with non-parental supply of alcohol to youth; Identify the potential social and economic burden of non-parental supply of alcohol to youth.

Background

Seventy-four (74%) percent of young Australians aged 12-17 years have consumed alcohol, over four times more than those who have used any form of illicit drug. Over a fifth of young people who consume alcohol are at risk of an injury for each single drinking occasion. These high consumption and prevalence levels have resulted in the association of alcohol with the three leading causes of mortality among young people (unintentional injuries, homicide and suicide) and as the leading risk factor for premature death and disability for secondary school aged youth 15-18 year olds. More years of potential life, quality of life, and productivity are lost from acute alcohol related events experienced by young people than those lost to chronic diseases associated with alcohol use in older drinkers.

In Australia, alcohol accounts for 3.3% of the total burden of disease, and contributes 65% of the drug related burden of disease (compared to 19% for tobacco and 16% for illicit drugs). Conservative estimates of the financial burden of alcohol on society, through the increased costs of health care, policing, absenteeism and other social problems, is reported at AU$35 billion, and approximately $1743 per capita per annum. Small disruptions in drinking trajectories have the potential to have significant impact on morbidity, mortality and economic consequences, with economic modelling suggesting that even modest long-term reductions in alcohol use would lead to substantial societal benefits.

Recent Australian research provides evidence that non-parental (‘others’) supply of alcohol to young people results in higher levels of binge drinking and alcohol related harm than other forms of supply including parental supply. However, knowledge about ‘others’ who supply to youth, their motivation, and the impact of supply beyond drinking dimensions is relatively unknown.

Methodology

This study will use mixed methods to assess the prevalence, relationships, and social and economic impacts of non-parental supply of alcohol to underage youth.

Participants will be education based students (recruited through university and TAFE) 18 years and older who will be asked to reflect on their experiences of: 1) being supplied alcohol by non-parental ‘others’ (recent supply up to two years), and 2) their own current supply of alcohol to young people under the age of 18 years.

Surveys and in-depth interviews will be used to gather quantitative and qualitative data. Questions will include: demographics; psychological assessment; current alcohol and other drug use questions; secondary supply questions (knowledge, attitude, behavioural intentions, behaviours); experiences of being supplied when younger than 18 years of age (circumstances, quantity/frequency of supply and alcohol by type; harms, event association, age at first supply); experiences of supplying to someone younger than 18 years of age (circumstances, quantity/frequency of supply and alcohol by type; harms, event association, age at first supply); event specific questions (define possible events, low and high severity harms, effect on other supply events – own as youth, and supply to youth); potential strategies to reduce non-parental supply to youth under the age of 18 years.

Quantitative analysis will use multilevel/hierarchical regression modelling to examine the extent to which early experiences of being supplied with alcohol by someone other than a parent is associated with later supply to someone younger than 18 years of age. Latent growth curve modelling (LGCM) within a structural equation modelling framework will be used to examine the extent to which the quantity and frequency of even specific alcohol supply can predict social and economic impacts.

Qualitative analysis using content analysis will identify and follow a chain of evidence; verify findings; make meaningful conclusions to help ensure accuracy of interpretation. Analysis will include: 1) stating the question; 2) developing a matrix of response themes; 3) describing the range of responses (both common and less common) and categorising these responses; 4) providing direct quotations to illustrate responses; 5) providing interpretive discussion; and 6) providing recommendations to policy and intervention development.

Skills and qualifications required

  • Honours 1 or 2A, or Masters by Research
  • Qualitative and quantitative research methodologies
  • Recuitment of study participants
  • Demonstrated organisational skills and ability to meet timelines
  • Demonstrated writing skill

Contact

For more information or to apply please contact:
Dr Nyanda McBride
Email: n.mcbride@curtin.edu.au
Tel: 0429 936793

Project Supervisors

Supervisor: Dr Nyanda McBride, NDRI
Co-supervisor: TBD

Project Details

Aim

The aim of this study is to describe the use, predictors of use and harm associated with cannabis in a prospective cohort of Australian youth from ages 12-15 years, and any moderating effects of participation in the Climate Schools Combined school-based intervention.

Objectives

Describe the age of initiation of cannabis use; Describe the prevelence of cannabis use (quantity and frequency); Define the harms associated with cannabis use; Identify the predictors of cannabis use, in a prospective cohort of Australian youth from ages 12-15 years, and any moderating effects of participation in the Climate Schools Combined school-based intervention.

Background

Cannabis is the most commonly used ilicit drug by adolescent Australians. Over 12% of Australians aged 14-19 years having used cannabis in the last 12 months (NDSHS). They are more vulnerable to the effects of cannabis and lifetime cumulative probability of a cannabis associated disorder. Over 34% cannabis users develop a disorder (Marel 2019), and cannabis use disorders are more highly concentrated in young Australians who also have low rates of seeking treatment. Early onset cannabis use is associated with lower secondary and post secondary education completion.

Methodology

Using the Climate School Combined student cohort data, the PhD student will analyse the existing data and complete a PhD by publication aligned with the above listed objectives.

The Climate Schools Combined cohort consists of 6411 students initially recruited at age 13 years from 71 secondary schools in in New South Wales, Western Australia and Queensland during 2014/2015. The Climate Schools substance use program consists of twelve 40-minute lessons. Six lessons focus specifically on cannabis.

All students completed a self-report questionnaire at; baseline, immediately pre and post each Climate Schools cannabis program component and at 18, 24 and 30 months after baseline. Participants’ knowledge about cannabis was assessed by the 16-item ‘Knowledge about cannabis’ scale (Teesson, 2010) Cannabis use was measured by questions based on the 2010 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS, 2010) and the 2011 Australian Secondary Students Alcohol and Drug Survey (ASSAD, 2011). Students were asked to rate on a five-point Likert scale, ranging from ‘very likely’ to ‘very unlikely’, how likely it is that they will try cannabis in the future.

Skills and qualifications required

  • Honours 1 or 2A, or Masters by Research
  • Knowledge of/experience with quantitative research methodologies and analyses
  • Demonstrated organisational skills and ability to meet timelines
  • Demonstrated writing skill (including previous first author on refereed scientific publications)

Contact

For more information or to apply please contact:
Dr Nyanda McBride
Email: n.mcbride@curtin.edu.au
Tel: 0429 936793