Position Statement

Harmful alcohol and other drug (AOD) use has a major impact on the wellbeing of individuals, families and communities, and is a growing concern in Australia and internationally. There is considerable debate regarding the most appropriate responses to the prevention and treatment of harmful substance use at all levels: individual, family, community, national and international. As a profession and science, psychology has much to contribute to the understanding of substance use from theory, research and practice. Given the highly personal and political nature of many issues in the alcohol and other drug field, it isessential that the APS contributes a carefully reasoned, evidence-based and realistic view.

At its March 2008 meeting, the APS Board approved a position statement on substance use that was prepared by a specially commissioned Task Group consisting of Debra Rickwood, Lynne Magor-Blatch, Richard Mattick, Stefan Gruenert, Neos Zavrou, and Amanda Akers, in collaboration with the APS Psychology and Substance Use Interest Group. The statement was approved by the APS Board at its March 2008 meeting, and can be accessed below along with previous APS publications on substance use issues.

The statement emphasises that people using substances in a harmful way usually experience social factors that impact on their substance use and mental wellbeing. A holistic approach must be taken to prevention, harm reduction and treatment that encompasses the whole person-acknowledging their individual characteristics and unique set of social, cultural and environmental risk and protective factors.The APS statement supports a harm minimisation approach to alcohol and other drug harm, which includes minimising the supply of substances through law enforcement approaches and minimising the demand for substances through treatment and prevention.

The position statement addresses some myths about substance use, and confirms that alcohol is the most abused substance in Australian society, at great cost to individuals, families and the wider community. In the longer term, the APS believes that culture change is required to tackle the problem of alcohol abuse. Legislation by itself will not change Australia's drinking culture. Education and scare tactics have also been shown to only be partially effective. What is required is a multi pronged strategy that focuses on specific target groups.The recently announced ‘alcopop' tax is an example of a targeted measure designed to offset the enticement of young people into an alcohol-soaked culture. Such measures are given support by the research evidence that formed the basis for the APS position statement. 

APS Position Statement: Substance Use - Acrobat icon - small (223kb) 

Review Papers

Perspectives in Psychology: Substance Use

The APS Working Group on Substance Use launched a paper in May 2005 outlining current knowledge of substance use from a psychological perspective, to encourage further application of psychological science in research, practice and comment in the field of Alcohol and Other Drugs issues.

Perspectives in Psychology: Substance Use - Acrobat icon - small (320kb)

Psychology and Substance Use: Potential contributions and professional training needs

This 2003 paper discusses the role of psychologists in relation to alcohol and other drug (AOD) related harm. Psychologists have already made significant contributions to the AOD field, yet there is potential for greater involvement as a profession in addressing the challenges posed by AOD issues in our society.

In this paper, psychologists are encouraged to view AOD issues as being a part of their work, rather than as a separate area that requires referral to an AOD specialist.

Psychology and Substance Use - Acrobat icon - small (238kb)