Stream Description

image - Prevention

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

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Pathways to prevention: The effectiveness of universal and selective prevention in altering developmental pathways to alcohol and cannabis related harms in young adults

Prof Patricia Conrod
Funding Body: National Health and Medical Research Council

Young adulthood marks a period of increased alcohol and cannabis use, and heightened risk of associated harms including injury, violent behaviour, and onset of alcohol or drug use disorders. To reduce this substantial burden, effective prevention is essential and needs to be initiated before patterns of use are established. School-based prevention programs have proven an effective way to reduce the onset and escalation of alcohol and drug use. However, little is known about the durability of these effects during the transition to adulthood, a period characterised by unique risks and challenges.

This project brings together an international team who have developed two complementary prevention approaches: the universal “Climate” program and the selective “Preventure” program. Both have proven effective in reducing alcohol and cannabis harms in the short-term. The project builds on our NHMRC-funded trial, the Climate and Preventure (CAP) study, which was the world-first RCT of a comprehensive strategy combining universal and selective prevention. This trial cohort (n = 2,190) is now on the verge of the important transition into early adulthood, and provides a unique opportunity to address crucial questions about the sustainability of prevention effects.
This study will advance the evidence base in three significant ways: i) it will provide the world-first evaluation of the long-term (7-year) effectiveness of universal and selective prevention; ii) it will answer critical questions about the potential benefits of these approaches in reducing alcohol and drug-related
violence during the high-risk early adulthood period; and iii) it will provide crucial information about the mechanisms of change underlying these prevention.


Project Contacts: A/Prof Nicola Newton
image - Inroads

Making InRoADs: Trial of an innovative early intervention to Interrupt the cycle of Anxiety and Drinking in young Australians

Funding Body: Australian Rotary Health, Society of Mental Health Research (SMHR) Early Career Researcher Fellowship to Lexine Stapinski

Anxiety and alcohol use disorders are two common and debilitating disorders that often co-occur. If left untreated, these conditions can fuel each other in a self-perpetuating cycle, leading to more severe symptoms and greater impairment. Typical onset of these disorders is between adolescence and early adulthood, with anxiety symptoms usually emerging earlier and marking a particular risk for harmful alcohol use and progression to alcohol use disorder. The unique challenges associated with the transition to adulthood, combined with the emergence of anxiety and alcohol use disorder symptoms, require a developmentally-targeted early intervention to empower young adults, enhance anxiety coping skills, and prevent the escalation of drinking.


The Inroads program, funded by Australian Rotary Health, is a therapist-supported, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)-based, internet-delivered early intervention for young adults aged 17 to 24 years that simultaneously targets anxiety symptoms, alcohol use, and the interconnections between them. The program has been adapted from our effective Combined Alcohol and Social Phobia (CASP) cognitive behavioural therapy program for adults ( Participants are guided through five sequential modules over a 5-week period, with automated email and text reminders to complete program modules and monitoring of drinking and anxiety. Therapist support will be provided via emails and text/phone contact providing personalised feedback, trouble-shooting, and activity suggestions aligned to module content

Project Contacts: Dr Lexine Stapinski

Development of culturally-appropriate resources to prevent alcohol and drug-related harms among young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

A/Prof James Ward
Funding Body: Australian Government Department of Health

In partnership with Gilimbaa, an Indigenous Creative Agency, this project involves development of culturally appropriate school-based resources to prevent drug-related harms among young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Development will be in consultation and collaboration with schools, teachers and young Indigenous Australians. An Expert Advisory Group has been established to guide the project. Scoping of existing resources and research literature will inform development of a central access portal, and a culturally-appropriate curriculum program based on the Climate Schools storyboard format. The online portal will facilitate dissemination of information and evidence-based approaches to prevent drug-related harms among young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Project Contacts: Ms Mieke Snijder

The Climate Schools Plus Study: An integrated online intervention for students and parents to prevent alcohol and cannabis-related harms among adolescents

Funding Body: Australian Government Department of Health

This study will investigate the first online alcohol and substance use prevention program targeted at both students and their parents. Students will receive the Climate Schools substance use modules during their health classes, while their parents will be asked to view webinars, rank rules and access their own modules/summaries in line with the student program content from home. The attitudes and behaviours of students and parents towards alcohol and cannabis will be assessed over three years, to investigate the influence of the Climate Schools Plus program on these outcomes

The aim of this project is to evaluate the efficacy of Climate Schools Plus (CSP), a novel online program for parents and students to prevent adolescent substance use and related harms. CSP combines an effective student program, the Climate Schools: Alcohol and Alcohol and Cannabis course with a new parent program recently developed by our team.

The investigators will determine the effectiveness of the CSP by running a cluster randomised controlled trial in approximately 12 schools. Schools will be randomly allocated to either the ‘Climate Schools Plus’ condition (CSP) or the ‘Control’ condition.  

The student component of the CSP condition consists of the Climate Schools: Alcohol and Alcohol & Cannabis courses (i.e., online lessons to be delivered during class time at school).

The parent component of the CSP condition consists of 2 webinars (approximately 5 minutes each, at the beginning of Years 8 and 9), which provide overviews of alcohol and cannabis use and harms in adolescents and highlight the role parents play in preventing substance use. Parents will also have access to six brief online modules and will be emailed weekly summaries of student lessons for the duration of the student component. Students in the control condition will receive school health education as usual. 

This evidence-based intervention has the potential to provide a sustainable and scalable improvement to the well-being of young Australians, and to reduce the substantial costs associated with substance use.

This study has been approved by the University of New South Wales Human Research Ethics Committee (HC17852) and is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and the Society for Mental Health Research.

If you are interested in participating or would like further information, please see the Climate Schools Plus website via the link above or you can direct your enquiries to

Project Contact:

Chloe Conroy:




Project Contacts: Ms Chloe Conroy


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