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Ethical Issues in research into alcohol and other drugs submission

Personal Details
Organisation Name: 
Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs
C. Additional Information
Please identify the best term to describe the Organisation: 
Specific Questions
Those making a submission are encouraged to comment on the need for an ethical guidance framework, on whether the values and principles in the National Statement are adequate to address the ethical issues in AOD research, on whether the specific issues identified in this paper are sufficiently distinctive of AOD research to merit specific consideration in the proposed ethical guidance framework, and on whether there are additional issues that should be specifically considered in that framework.
Section Two – 2.1.3: 

In our opinion, separate guidelines are not needed for the conduct of research among people with alcohol and other drug use problems. The ethical values and principles articulated in the national statement do not require any revision in order to be applied appropriately and effectively with AOD research. Separate guidelines would discriminate against people who have AOD drug use problems and further stigmatise them. 

Section Five - 5.1: 

The ethical values and principles articulated in the National Statement should not be expanded. The models referred to in the proposed guidelines ‘free will’ versus ‘disease model’ are two polar opposites and outdated. Models such as the biopsychosocial model of substance use are much more relevant to modern evidence based approaches to AOD problems. The authors of the document have  missed a key point: although drug use may be considered a personal choice, it is very hard to argue that addiction, to alcohol, illicit drugs or tobacco, would ever be a personal choice

Section Five – 5.4: 

While involvement of drug user groups is appropriate for some research, particularly clinical research (which does not appear to be the focus of this document), there are not ‘user’ groups for all types of drug research. For example, alcohol, tobacco and even current users groups may struggle to provide appropriate input on some drugs (e.g. cannabis, possibly amphetamines).

Section Six : 

The issues raised are not particular to people who use substances. Reimbursement should not be considered inducement and should be appropriate to the tasks/inconvenience involved. Reimbursement for giving up time to participate in research is appropriate (as for non AOD research).

Section Six – 6.1: 

All researchers must take due care in establishing whether an individual, irrespective of drug use, is capable of providing informed consent. If intoxication is an issue in a particular study, then adequate expertise should be incorporated into the conduct of the research, as would be the case in other research, eg, with mental health problems. Users of AOD are not different in this regard from any other prospective research participant.

Section Six – 6.2.2: 

With regard to consent for minors, the requirement for parental consent should also follow all other human research guidelines.

Section Six – 6.2.3: 

Research participants in studies concerning alcohol and other drugs are adequately covered by the existing ethics guidelines. The proposed separate guidelines are unnecessary and discriminatory.

Section Six – 6.3: 

This is adequately covered by existing guidelines.

Section Six - 6.4: 

There is no need for additional guidelines for online research.

Section Six– 6.5: 

Contingency management, involving monetary or voucher reinforcements for behaviour change, is a widely used and effective treatment (in substance use and other areas of behaviour change). Contingency management has been shown to be associated with lower drug use with verification from biochemical testing in numerous studies. Contingency management is rare in Australia but not uncommon in the USA. Specific guidelines are not required for research into this type of clinical treatment.

It would not be in the interests of research generally or the health of substance users to withhold this form of treatment.

Section Six – 6.6: 

What is covered in the National Guidelines is adequate – a specific framework for AOD research is not required

Section Six - 6.7: 

These issues are not particular to AOD research and should be covered by any organisation engaging in research.

Page reviewed: 26 October, 2012