Stream Description

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Anxiety, depressive and substance use disorders account for three quarters of the disability attributed to mental disorders. The peak of this disability occurs in those 15-24 years old and corresponds with the typical period of onset of these problems. Critically, anxiety, depression and substance use disorders share common risk factors.

To reduce the occurrence and cost of such disorders, preventative interventions need to begin early, before the problems begin to cause disability, and vocational, educational and social harm.  To date, the focus of our research has been on developing and evaluating universal internet-based programs to prevent substance use and related harms in adolescents. Our most recent trial involves combining these universal programs with selective personality-targeted interventions with an aim of maximising outcomes for both high and low risk youth.


Ongoing Projects

The Preventure Program: Training and evaluation of program implementation in Australia

Funding Body: NHMRC

Preventure is a brief intervention for teenagers aimed at improving mental health and preventing drug and alcohol use and other risk-taking behaviours. The intervention targets four personality styles that may place teenagers at higher risk, and has demonstrated effectiveness in reducing mental health symptoms and drug and alcohol related harms. In an Australian cluster randomised control trial of Preventure (see the CAP study here), students who received the intervention:

- Were significantly less likely to consume alcohol and significantly less likely to binge drink, in the 3 years following the intervention

- Reported significantly less psychological distress, symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as conduct problems and hyperactivity in the 3 years following the intervention


To implement the Preventure program, facilitators must attend a 2-day training course. Previously only held in Canada, the project investigators are now holding training workshops in Australia. Workshop participants are also be invited to complete a survey to evaluate the implementation of Preventure in Australia. The survey has a follow-up period of 6 months, allowing the investigators to identify barriers to program implementation, and evaluate the training workshops and implementation procedures. The findings from this survey will ensure the appropriate translation of research findings into real-world practice.

Project Contacts: Ms Lucinda Grummitt

Completed Projects

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Climate Schools Interactive (CSI) study: A cluster randomised controlled trial of the internet-based Climate Schools: Ecstasy & Emerging Drugs Module

Funding Body: National Health and Medical Research Council; Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing

The use of ecstasy is a public health problem and is associated with a range of social costs and harms. Recently, there has been growing concern about the misuse of new psychoactive substances (NPS) designed to mimic the effects of illicit drugs, including ecstasy. The CSI Study aims to evaluate the efficacy of the first online school-based prevention program for ecstasy and NPS, known as the Climate Schools; Ecstasy & Emerging Drugs module.

Progress/Findings: The CSI Study commenced in 2014, with students at participating schools (n=11 schools, 1126 students) completing an online self-report baseline survey. Intervention schools (n=5) successfully implemented the Climate Schools: Ecstasy and Emerging Drugs Module between March and May and positive feedback was received from both teachers and students about the program. Students completed a survey immediately after the intervention survey, as well as a 6- and 12-month follow-up survey. A fifth and final survey was completed in 2016, which provides 24-month follow-up data for the cohort.

Project Contacts: Dr Katrina Champion
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Feasibility of the Climate Schools program in the United Kingdom

Prof Patricia Conrod
Funding Body: University of New South Wales

The aim of this study was to examine the feasibility and acceptability of the universal internet-based Climate Schools program in the United Kingdom.Climate Schools is an evidence-based prevention course, aimed at reducing alcohol and cannabis use and consists of two sets of six lessons delivered approximately six months apart.  322 students were recruited from Year 9 classes at two secondary schools in London and were assessed at baseline and immediately following the full intervention on their levels of alcohol and cannabis use, as well as related knowledge, harms, and attitudes.Results from this feasibility trial were promising and evaluations from teachers and students were extremely positive. Internet-based drug prevention is therefore feasible and acceptable for use in the United Kingdom. A full evaluation trial of the Climate Schools program is now needed.

Project Contacts: A/Prof Nicola Newton
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Illicit drug resources for teachers, students and parents

Funding Body: Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing

The aim of this project was to develop, test and deliver an illicit drugs resource package for use by teachers, parents, and high school students. The project included the development of information booklets as well as an interactive game for young people to teach them about the harms associated with illicit drugs. 

In 2013, focus groups were conducted with Year 10 students, parents and teachers to obtain feedback on the booklet content and design. This feedback was incorporated and final booklets were launched electronically in June 2014. In November 2014, 60 copies of the booklets were distributed to every secondary school in Australia. 

In 2013, student focus groups were conducted to gain feedback and suggestions for the development of an interactive drug education game. This student input informed development of the game “Pure Rush” in collaboration with the game development company 2and2. Pure Rush is targeted at Year 8-10 students and contains educational messages about the potential harms of cannabis, methamphetamine, hallucinogens and pills such as ecstasy. The game differs from the handful of existing drug education games in its use of  the popular “race” genre rather than role playing; and its emphasis on interactive learning, with characters experiencing the effects of any illicit drugs they collide with (e.g. cannabis slows them down). Focus testing with Year 9 students was conducted in 2014 with a prototype version and later the final game to gain feedback and assess benefits associated with gameplay. The game was released in June 2014, and can be played online, or installed as an app for iOS or Android. 

Access the drug education booklets for teachers, parents and students.

Access the Pure Rush interactive drug education game. 

Project Contacts: A/Prof Nicola Newton
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The Climate Schools Combined (CSC) study: Internet-based prevention for anxiety, depression and substance use in young Australians

Prof Gavin Andrews (retired), Prof Steve Allsop ( and Dr Nyanda McBride (; Brad Shaw; Zoe Tonks; Nina Poccuca; Nina Te Pas; Simone Firmin-Sarra
Funding Body: National Health and Medical Research Council

Anxiety, depressive and substance use disorders account for three quarters of the disability attributed to mental disorders.  Moreover, research indicates that these disorders are often comorbid, share common risk factors and interact. The peak of these disorders occurs in those aged 15-24 years old, which also corresponds with the typical period of onset. It is therefore important that effective preventative interventions begin early, before patterns of mental health and substance use disorder symptoms are established and begin to cause disability, as well as vocational, educational and social harm.

An array of preventative interventions for these disorders currently exists, however the effectiveness of these programs is contentious. Furthermore, interventions are typically designed to target a single disorder at one time and there are few effective preventive programs which concurrently target these common disorders. The current study aims to address this gap by evaluating an integrative approach known as the CLIMATE Schools Combined (CSC) intervention, which includes the evidence-based ‘universal’ CLIMATE Schools Substance Use course and the ‘universal’ CLIMATE Schools Mental Health course. It is anticipated that this integrative approach will be more effective in reducing problems and symptoms associated with substance use and mental health disorders compared to the stand-alone interventions and school-based health education as usual. The CSC study will be the first trial, internationally, to develop an integrative model for dissemination in schools across Australia.

Project Contacts: A/Prof Nicola Newton


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