Every month the SSA website team selects and highlights some of the most interesting research relating to drugs, alcohol, and addiction. This month, publications are mostly grouped by substances, but also include methods of taking drugs, populations, and COVID-19. Use the links to head straight to your section of choice.    

  1. Alcohol
  2. Cannabis
  3. COVID-19
  4. Injecting drug use
  5. Opiates and opioids
  6. Tobacco and nicotine
  7. Women and pregnancy

Effect of extended-release naltrexone on alcohol consumption: a systematic review and meta-analysis. By Charles E. Murphy IV and colleagues. Published in Addiction (2021).
Review of seven trials on the effectiveness of using extended-release naltrexone to support abstinence from alcohol. The authors report that it could reduce the average number of drinking days and the number of heavy drinking days.

A time-series analysis of the association between alcohol and suicide in Australia. By Mia Miller and colleagues. Published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence (2022).
Interesting notes about the relationship between alcohol and suicide over time and in different cultural or historic periods. It’s worth a look, particularly at the interventions and policies which may directly or indirectly address risk of suicide.

Exploring men’s alcohol consumption in the context of becoming a father: a scoping review. By Elena D. Dimova and colleagues. Published in Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy (2021).
There is very little research on father’s and expectant father’s experiences of drinking and interventions to reduce alcohol consumption. This scoping review describes why and in what situations men may reduce their consumption, and is a useful follow-on from a research analysis published on the SSA website of alcohol consumption during the transition to being first-time parents.

Alcohol misuse among older military veterans: an intersectionality theory perspective. By David L. Albright and colleagues. Published in the Journal of Addictive Diseases (2021).
Study of alcohol misuse among military veterans found that “older veterans who are also Black, Indigenous and/or people of color (BIPOC) are at great risk of engaging in alcohol misuse due to the combined stressors from their intersectional identities”.

Non-drinkers’ experiences of drinking occasions: a population-based study of social consequences of abstaining from alcohol. By Anu Katainen and colleagues. Published in Substance Use & Misuse (2022).
A study in Finland found that non-drinking occasions occurred more often at family events at home, where there tended to be low levels of social consequences from not drinking. This may not be the case for all social environments, and young people and former drinkers in particular may need support to build coping mechanisms to deal with negative reactions and pressure to drink.

Pharmacological interventions for alcohol misuse in correctional settings: a systematic review. By Claire Slavin-Stewart and colleagues. Published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research (2021).
A systematic review indicates that further research is needed on medication-assisted treatment for alcohol use disorders for people involved the criminal justice system. What evidence there is suggested that there may be a stronger case for using naltrexone to reduce alcohol-related outcomes than disulfiram, and it may also be a more feasible intervention in correctional settings.

Consumer protection messages in alcohol marketing on Twitter in Ireland: a content analysis. By Nathan Critchlow and colleague. Published in Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy (2022).
A study by SSA fellow Nathan Critchlow involved a content analysis of tweets from 13 alcohol companies either based in Ireland or with marketing targeting Ireland. It found that no tweets signposted independent health websites, one in five (21%) signposted an industry-funded website, and 7% signposted industry-controlled websites. Listen to Nathan talk about this research on the SSA’s Addictions Edited podcast.

UK alcohol marketing regulation is failing: a new approach is needed to prioritise protection for all. By Sadie Boniface and colleagues. Published in Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy (2021).
Commentary about alcohol marketing regulation in the UK concludes that innovation is urgently needed to effectively regulate ever-evolving digital alcohol marketing. “There are multiple alternatives that improve on the current system of self-regulation, and the experiences of other countries are learning opportunities to strengthen the design and efficacy of these controls.”


Weeding out the truth: a systematic review and meta-analysis on the transition from cannabis use to opioid use and opioid use disorders, abuse or dependence. By Jack Wilson and colleagues. Published in Addiction (2021).
This is a review of transitions from cannabis to opioid use – essentially the ‘gateway hypothesis’. We recorded a podcast with the lead author for Addiction Audio. Both include discussions about the quality of evidence (and challenges facing researchers) relating to the gateway hypothesis.

Cannabis flower prices and transitions to legal sources after legalization in Canada, 2019–2020. By Elle Wadsworth and colleagues. Published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence (2022).
What happens to cannabis purchase patterns when a country (in this case Canada) legalises cannabis? “Two years after legalization in Canada, the price of dried flower from legal sources decreased, along with a greater percentage of consumers purchasing from legal sources than after one year.”

CBD-enriched cannabis for autism spectrum disorder: an experience of a single center in Turkey and reviews of the literature. By Serap Bilge and colleague. Published in Journal of Cannabis Research (2021).
This is an interesting read about cannabidiol (CBD) and autism, based on 2 years’ experience treating 33 patients, and a review of the latest research.


Prevalence of internet-based addictive behaviours during COVID-19 pandemic: a systematic review. By Nassim Masaeli and colleague. Published in the Journal of Addictive Diseases (2021).
A paper published two years into the COVID-19 pandemic indicated that the global health crisis has led to an increase in internet-based addictive behaviours, including internet addiction, online gaming disorder, online gambling disorder, pornography use, and smartphone use disorder. Financial hardships, isolation, substance use problems, and mental health problems all play a role.

Experiences with substance use disorder treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic: Findings from a multistate survey. By Brendan Saloner and colleagues. Published in the International Journal of Drug Policy (2022).
A US study looked at how treatment services (inc. overdose prevention interventions) changed at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. There was a major decline in in-person services, yet clients seemed to adapt to greater use of telehealth and take-home methadone.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the health of people who use illicit opioids in New York City, the first 12 months. By Alex S. Bennett and colleagues. Published in the International Journal of Drug Policy (2022).
Study highlights the balance of strengths, resilience and vulnerabilities playing out during the COVID-19 pandemic among people using illicit opioids in New York. “Findings speak to the resilience of people who use drugs as a population with disproportionate experience of trauma and crisis and also to the rapid response of NYC health agencies and service providers working with this population.”

Impacts of changes in alcohol consumption patterns during the first 2020 COVID-19 restrictions for people with and without mental health and neurodevelopmental conditions: A cross sectional study in 13 countries. By Emma L. Davies and colleagues. Published in the International Journal of Drug Policy (2022).
Paper explored changes in drinking (and the knock-on impact of this) during the first lockdown for people with and without mental health and neurodevelopmental conditions.

Injecting drug use

Needle exchange practitioners accounts of delivering harm reduction advice for chemsex: implications for policy and practice. By Claire Smiles and colleagues. Published in Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy (2022).
Study explored experiences of delivering harm reduction advice to men who have sex with men, and who engage in chemsex. Interviews with 17 harm reduction practitioners working in needle exchange services in two UK cities suggested that one of the barriers to reducing harm among this group was practitioner perceptions of sexualised drug use and pleasure.

“Hooked on the needle”: Exploring the paradoxical attractions towards injecting drug use. By Kristin Hanoa. Published in Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy (2021).
Why do people continue injecting illicit drugs over time, despite negative consequences? Interviews with 80 people who inject drugs revealed that injecting can become a meaningful practice, which includes the ritual around preparing and taking drugs, and appreciation for the intensity and speed of the intoxication that comes with injecting.

Opiates and opioids

Treatment of opioid dependence with depot buprenorphine (CAM2038) in custodial settings. By Adrian J. Dunlop and colleagues. Published in Addiction (2021).
A trial with 67 adults in prison comparing depot buprenorphine with oral methadone suggests that this long-acting injectable form of buprenorphine may be comparable with other opioid agonist treatments and has a low risk of being diverted for non-prescribed use.

Opioid use disorder and the brain: a clinical perspective. By Katherine Herlinger and colleague. Published in Addiction (2021).
This is a nice summary of the literature on the impact of long-term opioid use on brain structure and function. “The opioid system is widely distributed in the brain and plays important roles in several functions, including pain, mood, reward and impulsivity.”

Social-structural predictors of fentanyl exposure among street involved youth. By Sarah Douglas and colleagues. Published in Substance Use & Misuse (2022).
Fentanyl has contributed to the rising rate of overdose deaths in North America, and a new study suggests that place of residence has a strong bearing on exposure to fentanyl among young people. Residing in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside was positively associated with being exposed to fentanyl, which according to the authors, highlighted the need to support young people to find secure housing outside of Vancouver’s drug use epicentre.

Impact of participation in a peer-led overdose program for people who use drugs. By Michel Perreault and colleagues. Published in Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy (2022).
Study found that training people who use drugs in how to intervene in overdose situations was associated with improved sense of control and competency in potential overdose and other emergency situations, heightened feelings of responsibility to help others, increased pride, confidence and self-esteem, renewed sense of hope, and a change in personal drug use behaviours.

Tobacco and nicotine

Predictors of recruitment and retention in randomized controlled trials of behavioural smoking cessation interventions: a systematic review and meta-regression analysis. By Alessio Bricca and colleagues. Published in Addiction (2021).
Great to have a study look at retention – an important factor for treatment effectiveness that is often overlooked. This meta-analysis’ finding that in-person interventions have greater retention is important. The authors also looked at recruitment and the effectiveness of broad public announcements.

Reappraising choice in addiction: novel conceptualizations and treatments for tobacco use disorder. By Amanda M Palmer and colleagues. Published in Nicotine and Tobacco Research (2022).
It’s good to stay on top of the discussion around harm reduction and choice in relation to nicotine dependence. This review considers alternative products such as e-cigarettes, heat-not-burn devices, and nicotine pouches. It’s worth looking at the section on abstinence from smoking and from other products too.

Increasing cannabis use is associated with poorer cigarette smoking cessation outcomes: Findings From the ITC four country smoking and vaping surveys, 2016–2018. By Pete Driezen and colleagues. Published in Nicotine and Tobacco Research (2022).
Study examined the impact of cannabis use on smoking cessation, and found that increased cannabis use reduces your likelihood of quitting tobacco.

Women and pregnancy

Neonatal outcomes of infants born to pregnant women with substance use disorders: a multilevel analysis of linked data. By Helen T. Oni and colleagues. Published in Substance Use & Misuse (2022).
Over a 10-year period in New South Wales (Australia), birth records showed that substance-related problems in pregnant women were rare, but were associated with negative outcomes in their offspring. Opioid use in pregnancy was linked to premature birth and admission to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), and substance use disorders involving cannabis, stimulants, alcohol or multiple substance use were linked to premature birth, low birthweight, and admission to the NICU.

Contraceptive choice and power amongst women receiving opioid replacement therapy: qualitative study. By Joanne Neale and colleagues. Published in Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy (2021).
Women receiving treatment for opioid use disorder have low levels of contraception use and a high rate of unplanned pregnancies. Interviews with 40 women receiving opioid replacement therapy in the South of England pointed to six areas where women in this group can feel powerless or disempowered to make informed contraceptive choices and prevent unplanned pregnancies.

by Rob Calder and Natalie Davies

The opinions expressed in this post reflect the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the opinions or official positions of the SSA.

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