Studying substance use among young people: Mapping global trends, generating local insights

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Professor Louisa Degenhardt

NHMRC Principal Research Fellow

National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales

Louisa is Professor of Epidemiology and NHMRC Principal Research Fellow at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) at UNSW. She has honorary Professorial appointments at University of Melbourne’s School of Population and Global Health, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, and University of Washington’s Department of Global Health in the School of Public Health.

Louisa conducts diverse epidemiological studies including analysis of large-scale community and clinical population surveys, data linkage studies focusing upon people with a history of drug dependence, pharmacoepidemiological studies of pharmaceutical opioid utilisation, post-marketing surveillance of new opioid medications, and cohort studies of young people and of people using opioids. Her data linkage work on opioid dependence, treatment and mortality is used by health and corrective services departments internationally to evaluate the benefits and risks of treatment. Her post-marketing surveillance work informed Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee decisions on listing of opioid medications on the Australian Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

Louisa is internationally acknowledged for her research on the epidemiology of illicit drug use, morbidity and mortality. Louisa’s work has shaped discourse at a global level, and she regularly collaborates and advises researchers, NGOs, and UN agencies. She is a member of the WHO’s Technical Advisory Group on Alcohol and Drug Epidemiology; is on the Core Analytic team for the ongoing Global Burden of Disease study led by IHME at the University of Washington in Seattle; and led the Secretariat for the Reference Group to the UN on injecting drug use and HIV from 2007-2010.


Professor Degenhardt will provide an overview of recent data on the epidemiology and health-impacts of substance use among young people from across the globe. These data provide a backdrop against which she will describe key work with prospective cohorts in Australia examining the trajectories and outcomes of alcohol and illicit drug use among young people as they progress through adolescence and into adulthood. She will discuss new Australian work combining data from across cohorts and countries, which enable the study of potential consistencies and differences in the association between substance use and outcomes. These kinds of cross-national collaborations have the potential to provide unique and persuasive information about the mechanisms behind trajectories of use and harms.