A Hunter researcher whose work is revolutionising treatment for people suffering the combined effects of substance abuse and depression has been recognised with a national award for excellence.
Dr Frances Kay-Lambkin has been awarded the Early Career Award for excellence in research and practice by the Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs (APSAD).
Dr Kay-Lambkin is a Lecturer in the University of Newcastle's Priority Research Centre for Brain and Mental Health Research and a Postdoctoral Research Fellow with the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre in Sydney She is also a member of Hunter Medical Research Institute's (HMRI) Brain and Mental Health Research Program.
She has been recognised for her pioneering work in the development of computerised cognitive behaviour therapy treatments for co-morbid depression and alcohol and other drug use problems.
"The co-morbidity of depression and alcohol and other drug use occurs at an alarming rate," Dr Kay-Lambkin said.
"One in five Australians have a mental health disorder and one in 20 have depression. Nearly 15 per cent of people with depression have an active substance use problem and over the course of their lifetime 40 per cent of people with depression will have substance use problems. These are the very people who are missing out on treatment.
"The concern has been that treatment for substance abuse and depression are traditionally delivered separately and might not be coordinated, meaning that people are not being treated for the entirety of their problems.
"Our research here at the University of Newcastle had found that our computer-based treatments was just as effective as a face-to-face intervention by therapists."
The combined computerised intervention was compared to therapist-delivered treatment, and has since also been compared with people being treated only for depression or alcohol misuse, under the leadership of Professor Amanda Baker.
In all cases an integrated intervention, targeting both depression and alcohol use along with the links between these two conditions, was more effective and the computer-based therapy was equally effective as face-to-face treatment among problem drinkers.
"The major advantage of people having access to computer-based treatments is that it offers a choice of treatment for people worried about having to front up to a therapist, and it can help empower them in their own recovery and treatment," Dr Kay-Lambkin said.
The annual APSAD Awards for Excellence recognise those working in the drug and alcohol field. Dr Kay-Lambkin was awarded the Early Career Award at a ceremony in Darwin recently.
This program of research has been assisted through the generous financial support of Jennie Thomas, the Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Foundation and the National Health and Medical Research Council.