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NHMRC grant for research into the health needs of people who use drugs

  • 08 Aug 2023


Image: Burnet Senior Fellow and SuperMIX project team member Associate Professor Peter Higgs interviews a study participant

Burnet Institute research into the health needs and outcomes of people who use drugs will be supported by a $3.97 million National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grant.

The funding will expand the breadth of two existing Burnet studies, SuperMIX and VMAX, allowing them to continue for another five years.

SuperMIX is a cohort of people who inject drugs that has been running at Burnet since 2008. The study began a new recruitment wave in 2017 and now has more than 1,500 participants. 

VMAX is a joint study between Burnet and Monash Rural Health of 800 Victorians who use methamphetamine (ice and speed). 

The study is collecting data on the long-term patterns of methamphetamine use, including what causes people to start and stop using and the types of services that they access for help, such as GPs, ambulances, and drug rehabilitation services. 

Burnet Co-Program Director, Disease Elimination, and Principal Investigator of the studies Professor Paul Dietze said the funding would allow researchers to gain a deeper understanding of the ongoing harms of drug use. 

“This funding will allow us to continue to document the ongoing harms of drug use, including mortality and overdose,” Professor Dietze said. 

“It will also allow us to start looking at linkages between drug use and chronic diseases, as well as the effectiveness of different interventions such as take home naloxone.

“We’ll be looking at the broader factors that contribute to drug use, including homelessness and imprisonment.”

Professor Dietze said the funding would allow researchers to expand the SuperMIX study to include participants from regional Victoria, with a specific focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people under the guidance of Dr Jocelyn Jones from the National Drug Research Institute. 

“We’ll be looking at the mental health and wellbeing of all of our participants in detail,” he said.

Professor Dietze said the funding would help address issues of drug and methamphetamine use in the community. 

“It means we have a large platform looking into the health and social outcomes for this group of people who have been incredibly marginalised,” he said. 

The research is a collaboration between Burnet and several partners, including Harm Reduction Victoria, the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, the Australian Department of Health, the Poche Centre for Indigenous Health at the University of Queensland, the National Drug Research Institute (NDRI), the Alfred Hospital’s Infectious Diseases unit, the University of British Columbia, the University of Bristol and the Kirby Institute.