Using implicit associations to assess drug use trajectories of young people

Stream: Drugs: Experiences of drug use, prevention and treatment across different populations
Date: Thursday, 31 March 2016
Time: 11.15 am – 1.00 pm


Introduction: Understanding drug use trajectories for people who use drugs is important in order to reduce harms associated with more severe drug use and injecting. This research aims to develop an understanding of the different drug use pathways and to examine whether identification with drug use may predict aspects of future drug use.

Methods: This longitudinal study tracked young people who were either currently involved in or “at risk” of using illicit drugs to assess the association between implicit and explicit identification with drug use and change in their drug use over time. 228 participants took part in the first phase of the research and 78 participants were recruited for the follow up over a 19 month period. Results: Frequency and recency of use were significantly correlated with identification with drugs as well as several other known predictor variables including severity of use, peer networks, function of use and negative social sanctions. Regression analysis revealed that neither implicit nor explicit identification with drug use predicted frequency or recency of use at Time 2 after controlling for themselves at Time 1.

Discussion: Identification therefore seems not to play a causal role. The failure of implicit and explicit identification at time 1 to predict drug use at time 2 emerges despite the fact at time 2 these variables are all correlated. This suggests that these relationships track behaviour but identification as a user implicitly does not have an effect on actual use of drugs over time.


Robyn Horwitz (Presenter), Centre for Social Research in Health
Robyn is currently completing her final year as a PhD candidate through the School of Psychology at the University of Queensland, where her research focuses on using implicit associations to develop an understanding of the different drug use pathways. Robyn have been working at the Centre for Social Research in Health at UNSW for the past 7 years where her work has focused on hepatitis C and people who inject drugs. She has been involved with studies addressing knowledge of transmission and treatment of hepatitis C, as well as the stereotyping and stigmatisation of people who inject drugs and people with hepatitis C.

Loren Brener, Centre for Social Research in Health
Dr Loren Brener does primarily quantitative research and has a background in social psychology with a particular interest in stigma, dscrimination and implicit attitudes. Her work focuses on stigma and discrimination in relation to people who use illicit substances or people with stigmtised illness such as HCV, HIV, mental illness, and addresses the impact of this on health care service delivery.

Bill von Hippel, School of Psychology, University of Queensland
Dr Bil von Hippel is a professor at University of Queensland's School of Psychology. His research interests include evolutionary psychology, executive functioning and social intelligence, and implicit social cognition. He serves on the editorial board of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Social Psychological and Personality Science, Social Cognition, and is an associate editor Psychological Science.

Courtney von Hippel, School of Psychology,University of Queensland
Dr Courtney von Hippel joined the School of Psychology at the University of Queensland as a Senior Lecturer in 2007, having come from UNSW Australia. Her research is broadly defined as applied social psychology, testing and extending important theories from social psychology (e.g., stereotype threat; implicit attitudes) to the ‘real world’. Her research has been published in some of the top journals in the field.