Anxiety and alcohol use: attempting to retrain the brain

9 April 2019
Tackling alcohol use and anxiety in young people

Dr Katrina Prior from the Matilda Centre is working with young people to create an online intervention to prevent the exacerbation of comorbid anxiety and alcohol and help young people lead healthier lives.

Dr Katrina Prior, Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Dr Katrina Prior, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, the Matilda Centre

Dr Katrina Prior's current research has it roots in her PhD project, which investigated the relationship between social phobia, depression and substance use disorders.

“Through speaking to people with lived experience, I quickly learned that people with comorbid disorders get stuck on a ‘comorbidity roundabout’, where they are referred from one specialist service to the next because of their dual-disorder presentation.”

Dr Prior is part of the Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use. The centre delivers research programs to prevent, treat and reduce substance use and mental disorders and has a particular focus on young people.

This year, Dr Prior was awarded the Australian Rotary Health Royce Abbey Postdoctoral Fellowship to develop an online program program for youth with comorbid anxiety and alcohol use to tackle this issue. This funding follows the completion of her PhD, which was supported by the Rotary Ian Scott PhD Scholarship

Excited by the program’s potential, Dr Prior believes it could not only help young people lead healthier lives, but also reduce disease burden and optimise future early inventions targeted at youth.

“The program can be effectively delivered online, maximising efficiency and scarce resources and sustainably increasing early intervention options for vulnerable populations at low cost.”

The program will be delivered online through 6 sessions, and developed with consultations with youth service providers and young people with anxiety and problematic alcohol use, before moving into testing with a pilot trial.

Dr Prior will be mentored throughout her fellowship by Professor Reinout Wiers from the University of Amsterdam who is an international leader in implicit cognition for addictive disorders and Dr Lexine Stapinski, also from the Matilda Centre, whose pioneering work on interventions for comorbid anxiety and alcohol use disorders informs best practice.