Feasibility study of a brief telephone-based cannabis intervention

December 2015

NDARC:  Dr Peter Gates, Professor Jan Copeland (NCPIC)

Other Collaborators: 

Peta Jesse (Cannabis Information and Helpline, NSW)

Project description: 

The majority of calls to the Cannabis Information Helpline and indeed all counselling interventions in specialist treatment services are only one session. To date, no Australian data exists on the efficacy of a brief one session telephone-based intervention with a specific focus on an illicit drug.

This study aims to examine whether such a brief telephone-based counselling service can act as an efficacious treatment option for people with cannabis-related problems.

Aim: To examine whether a single session telephone-based counselling intervention can act as an efficacious treatment option for people with cannabis-related problems.

Design and Method: All treatment seeking callers to the Cannabis Information Helpline will be informed of the study and offered a call back from a researcher to detail the study and gain consent.

A total of 100 eligible individuals giving consent to participate in the randomised trial will each be asked a set of questions that will act as baseline data. The questions will cover: the participant's concerns over their cannabis use; emotional wellbeing; mental health; as well as profile their overall drug use with particular focus on cannabis. Directly after the initial baseline survey, each participant will be randomly allocated to be in one of two groups. The first group (n = 50) will be called by trained counsellors and will receive the single session intervention. The second group (n = 50) will be mailed a self-guided work-booklet aimed to assist them with reducing their cannabis use. Each group will be followed up at three months following the baseline survey.

The counselling session that takes place in the randomised control trial will be based on motivational interviewing techniques, cognitive behavioural therapy, models of behaviour change, relapse prevention theory and relationship building techniques. In addition, the work-booklet is a routinely delivered resource available through the NCPIC website.

Benefits: Seeking treatment for cannabis use can be difficult due to accessibility issues and stigmatisation concerns. The availability of an evidence-based brief intervention for reducing or quitting cannabis may encourage treatment seeking among individuals who would otherwise not receive treatment. In addition, the results from the randomised trial may validate decisions to support the funding of telephone based services or introduce similar services for other illicit drugs. Finally, if the intervention is found to be efficacious, the CIH will be able to offer the service to the public on an ongoing basis.