Highlights of 2022
It was a busy year of new job roles, new colleagues, maternity leave, and conferences for the SSA website team, but Rob Calder (now Head of Communications for the SSA) and Natalie Davies (now Website Editor) managed to publish a whole load of articles, interviews, and podcasts during that time. Here are their highlights from the past 12 months. We hope you enjoy!!
- In November 2021, Professor Jo Neale, Dr Emma Beard, and Professor John Marsden brought their wealth of experience and insight to the SSA’s PhD Symposium for a session on ‘how to get published’. Revisit the session and watch Jo talk about preparing and submitting qualitative manuscripts, Emma discuss the need to be open about the limitations and disadvantages of our studies (because they all have them), and John explain why an academic paper is first and foremost a piece of persuasive communication.
- Mary Yates is a nurse consultant for health promotion and wellbeing at South London and Maudsley NHS foundation trust, with responsibility for implementing their smoke-free policy. Around 12 years ago, when working as a learning disability and mental health nurse, Mary noticed that the people she was caring for were dying 20 years earlier than everyone else in the community and that typically they were all smokers. The SSA caught up with Mary to talk about her work and about recent changes in vaping policy.
- The SSA website team dissected the Lancet Commission report on the North American opioid crisis, and discussed the relevance for UK settings. “This report narrates the North American opioid crisis with unflinching detail. It lays the causes for the initial crisis squarely at the feet of pharmaceutical companies and the US government’s failure to regulate them.”
- Research published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence shifted the focus from whether or not drug consumption rooms should be implemented, to how drug consumption rooms can be improved and what providers can do to accommodate the needs of people who use them, as well as the needs of local communities and stakeholders.
- Rob Calder approached the topic of stigma from a unique angle, blogging about his own irritations and discomfort with conversations over ‘what to say’ and ‘what not to say’. “I was on Twitter, donating more hours to the scroll, and saw a tweet that said something like: ‘We need urgently to reflect on how to address stigmatising language’. The reactionary in me woke up, slammed its hand on the desk and began to construct a reply along the lines of ‘No, what we urgently need is better treatment services’ as if these were either/or options.”
- For International Women’s Day 2022, Natalie Davies presented national data about women, drugs and alcohol – providing a resource that you can ‘bookmark’ and come back to. Women are less likely to experience drug and alcohol problems than men, but as the figures showed, the story doesn’t end there.
- Dr Emily Tweed blogged for the SSA website about an evaluation of smoke-free prisons in Scotland, which made for a fascinating examination of a policy that could stand to produce major health benefits, but could also put a strain on people at high risk of poor mental health.
- The SSA’s Natalie Davies wrote about the relationship between derogatory and dehumanising words, and behaviours and attitudes that exclude people, discourage them from seeking help, and affect the quality of healthcare services. “While language guides may seem quite prescriptive at first glance, the spirit of them is not typically to ban certain words, but to encourage readers to ‘consider context’ and ‘practice care’. For the substance use sector, it is important to value the opinion and expertise of people who use drugs, and be open to changing our language with the goal of moving towards a more liberatory shared vocabulary.”
“Becoming Head of Communications for the SSA was a huge highlight for me personally. It’s a big responsibility and an honour to work for an organisation with such a long and prestigious history. It’s also an opportunity to help promote the organisation’s aims to new generations of researchers, treatment providers, and policymakers.”
“There have been other changes for the team in the past year. I was sad to see Christine Goodair leave in December, but it was great to welcome Jess Duncan as our new social media expert. I’m very lucky to work with amazing people at the SSA (Graham, Jess, Martin and Natalie), as well as the seemingly endless extended team that includes Jump Media, SSA fellows and PhD students, SSA trustees, the conference team and more.”
“The regular podcast for the SSA (Addictions Edited) has been a lot of fun this year. We tried a few new formats. Some worked and some didn’t. I’m really proud of the autism and addiction podcasts (part 1 and part 2) we put out towards the end of 2022. I learned so much recording these podcasts and talking to the SABAA project team. It’s an important subject for anyone interested in addiction, treatment and neurodiversity – which should be everyone, really.”
“Addiction Audio (the podcast I host for Addiction journal) is my regular excuse to talk to wonderful people about new and important research. Interviewing Ebtesam Saleh about substance use and refugees was a highlight, as was the inspiring conversation I had with Drs Mignonne Guy and Megan Piper about racial equity in research. And, if you want to stretch your brain and question what you thought you knew, the always superb Dr Sharon Cox talking about ontologies will be your cup of tea.”
“In the past year, I found the return of in-person conferences thrilling and overwhelming in equal parts. After so long, I had forgotten how to do all the informal conversations and debates, the unmanageable WhatsApp groups, and the exhaustion that hits halfway through day 2.”
“The CAGR (Current Advances in Gambling Research) and SSA Annual Conference were both brilliant – the success of the latter all down to incredible organising committee and conference helpers. My conference highlight, however, was working with the incredibly talented group of SSA-funded PhD Students and recent post-docs on the two podcasts (episode 1 and episode 2) we recorded at Lisbon Addictions. For me, those podcasts really capture how much goes on at these events, how fascinating it all is, and how broad yet intertwined addiction research is.”
Dr Rob Calder has worked in addiction research and treatment. His research has focused on how best to use online resources to disseminate research findings and on how to improve the use of evidence-based practice in addiction treatment settings.
- With a new government ‘white paper’ on gambling on the horizon in the spring/summer of 2022 (but alas still not here in December 2022), Natalie Davies and Rob Calder reviewed the UK’s gambling laws and regulations – from the Betting and Gaming Act of 1960, which aimed to end the practice of ‘runners’ collecting money on behalf of bookmakers, to the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising Act) of 2014, which closed the loophole that allowed overseas gambling companies to operate without a license.
- Forget pandemics and epidemics, this article examined what a ‘syndemic’ is, and whether it could be a useful framework for understanding and addressing the disease burden of hepatitis C and injecting drug use. “A major advantage of the syndemics approach was that the study could ‘reveal six hidden subgroups’ in a population of people diagnosed with hepatitis C. However, slicing the population in this way meant that smaller subpopulations of people at risk of hepatitis C (e.g. people in prison) were not visible.”
- A trio of articles came out the same month with a focus on the peer review process – what the role of a peer reviewer is, advice about how to review articles for Addiction journal, and why peer reviewers shouldn’t be let off the hook when it comes to the continued presence of stigmatising language in science publications.
- Rob Calder talked to three experts about how naloxone works, whether nasal naloxone is as effective as injectable naloxone, and some of the myths about overdoses. “I remember attending training where the facilitator emphasised that ‘an overdose is an overdose is an overdose’. If you can wake someone up, it isn’t an overdose.”
- Dr Rachel Britton, Director of Pharmacy for the charity With You, talked to the SSA about the significant impact one person had on her professional life and perspective, and the role pharmacists and pharmacy technicians can play in a person’s recovery. “As a pharmacist who saw Lena most days, I was able to notice her behaviour and be an early warning system to any changes.”
- Dr Carl Erik Fisher is an addiction psychiatrist, bioethics scholar, and author, whose writing has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, and Slate. In July 2022, the SSA was pleased to publish an excerpt from his new book The Urge. The passage begins in post-war New York with William Burroughs, one of the leading writers of the Beat Generation. Fisher reflects on Burroughs’ heroin use, and how it came to influence his own literary works as well as popular culture today.
- Professor Matthew Hickman, Dr Annick Borquez, and Professor Louisa Degenhardt wrote about using linked government data to demonstrate that opioid agonist treatments for opioid dependence prevented drug-related deaths in New South Wales. “Our study shows the benefits of moving from theoretical models, which suggest that increasing opioid agonist treatment programmes may reduce drug-related deaths, to empirical models, using real-world data, which determine whether this promise is true.”
- Betul Aslan from the Substance use, Alcohol and Behavioural Addictions in Autism (SABAA) team spoke to the SSA about how they used the Delphi process to define research, policy, and practice priorities for autism and addiction.
“One of the best bits of my job is interviewing people about their lives and work in the field of addiction. This includes researchers who often share more in an informal interview than they could within an academic journal article. A great example is a chat I had with Dr Gillian Shorter about her evaluation of a mobile overdose prevention site in Glasgow in 2020 – basically, the UK’s ‘first unsanctioned drug consumption room’. I was curious about whether she got any impression from her research that a positive precedent had been set for operating a drug consumption room in the UK.”
“In 2022, I didn’t get the opportunity to write as much as I would have liked to (hello maternity leave!!) but did publish a few pieces that I can feel pleased about sitting on the internet in perpetuity. For instance, I wrote about upgrading our substance use vernacular from pejorative to people-first; stigmatising to strengths-based.”
“I also really enjoyed the opportunity to publish other people’s work. Dr Dan Lewer wrote about whether the recent increase in drug-related deaths in the UK could be linked to an ‘ageing cohort’ of people who use heroin, and Dr Stephen Parkin reflected on how stigma is perpetuated in the writing, editing and publication process.”
“When times are busy, it can be easy for important things to drop off the radar. But I’m really glad that in 2022 we continued to make headway with promoting equality in the field and shining a light on issues that affect marginalised groups. Colleagues from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) talked to us about why violence against women is a major public health problem, and indeed why it’s an under-discussed form of alcohol-related harm. Patriic Gayle from the Gay Men’s Health Collective shared a peek inside their innovative letterbox-sized ‘safer chemsex’ packs, and helped elucidate why some gay men are reluctant to access or return to mainstream drug services. And I reported on a news story that had largely been missed in the field of addiction about HMP Foston Hall being given a ‘poor safety’ rating (which is unusual for a women’s prison). Among the concerns were record levels of self-harm, a perception that illicit drugs were easy to get hold of, and a doubling in the use of force by prison guards since the inspection two years earlier.”
Natalie Davies is Website Editor for the Society for the Study of Addiction. She joined the Society in May 2021, after nearly 6 years working for Drug and Alcohol Findings, where she was Co-Editor. Her interests include drug consumption rooms, alcohol-related harm in pregnancy, and equality and diversity in addiction research, policy, practice, and publishing.
- Dr Tom Freeman joined the SSA’s board of trustees in 2022. In this interview he talked about what motivated him to become a trustee, advice for other people thinking about this kind of role, his work at Bath University on cannabis units, and having a positive impact on people who use drugs.
- The publisher Wiley has lots of useful resources for students, researchers, and educators. One of these, reprinted on the SSA website, is a blog by Ania Gruszczynska on how to find the time to write. “Given that the unofficial motto of academia is ‘publish or perish’, it is probably unsurprising that a lot of my coaching work revolves around writing and helping people become more productive writers. After all, success in the academic rat race is contingent on the ability to churn out research articles in an environment where carving out the time to write can be quite tricky.”
- Martin Jones wrote for the SSA about his reflections on being in a lived experience panel at a gambling conference. “When some organisations repeatedly ask for lived experience input too late to have a voice in the early stages of the project, you may well understand the frustration this causes”.
- Rob Calder talked to Ebtesam Saleh, a Doctoral student at Charite University in Berlin, about her systematic review of qualitative research on substance use among refugees. Ebtesam discussed how qualitative research can help contextualise the problems faced by refugees in a culturally-sensitive way, and how researchers can minimise the potential for re-traumatisation from research interviews.
- Members of the Department of Community Health and Prevention at Drexel University (Philadelphia, United States) hosted a journal club discussion about using diaries to identify risk behaviours for HIV among people who inject drugs. They talked about the ethics of asking people to document their life, in a context where some of the behaviours they are documenting are illegal.
- Ben Scher and Zoe Swithenbank blogged about their key takeaways from the 10th annual International Conference on Health and Hepatitis Care in Substance Users (INHSU) in Glasgow – from gender-based harm reduction programmes and safer supply, to patient choice and power imbalances between peers and academics.
- A year after the launch of the SSA’s flagship podcast, Addictions Edited, we published a two-episode special about autism. Episode 1 focused on the similarities between behaviours associated with autism and addiction, and episode 2 was about developing autism-friendly services.
- Rob Calder gave us the entertaining read we all needed the week before Christmas. He blogged about testing his science communication skills at a pub during a World Cup quarter final match. “The challenge of science communication isn’t tweeting for other researchers. It isn’t having other academics admiring your infographics. It isn’t making podcasts for people who already agree with you. The challenge of science communication is in reaching people who aren’t particularly interested in your research, who are distracted, and who can’t really hear what you’re saying.”
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