Addiction medicine and associated morbidity

Treating substance dependence

From the quick-start cup of coffee and celebratory glass of wine, to the pain and pleasure of injecting crushed morphine tablets — everyone takes drugs in one way or another. Drugs have attracted much interest, symbolic meanings, desire and fear throughout history. It is Nietzsche who said “the whole history of almost the history of culture, of our so-called higher culture".

Drug use is an integral part of human existence and is here to stay. Understanding drugs is about understanding us, our histories and traditions, our makeup and our desires. It is also about an increasingly sophisticated scientific understanding of brain chemistry and behaviour. People take drugs because they like what they do to their brain – even if only very briefly.

This area of study is rife with contradictions and paradox. Some substances, which almost half the population have used, are illegal. At the same time, some legal drugs that cost our community billions of dollars annually are ‘permitted’ sophisticated advertising and promotion and we, through our governments, depend on taxation associated with them for substantial revenue.

As science research deepens, there is greater understanding of how drugs act on the human body. At a cellular or even molecular level, it is possible to pinpoint the actual sites of action and change in function of brain processes. With this knowledge it is possible to find pharmacological therapies to block or change specific actions of a drug or provide less harmful substitutes for specific drugs or to contribute to promising new drug treatments.

In 2016, around 3.1 million Australians reported using an illicit drug.

Related projects


The following groups work closely in the research and education of alcohol and drugs, helping people recover from long-term addiction.

  • Fresh Start Recovery Program
  • GoMedical Industries
  • School of Medical and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University
Research collaborators 

Contact Professor Gary Hulse