Monitoring cognitive and psychological changes for indigenous Australians following petrol and alcohol abuse

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    The current research aimed to assess and monitor the incidence and recovery of cognitive and psychological changes associated with the abuse of petrol and alcohol among Indigenous Australians. Study participants included 224 Indigenous Australians recruited from educational or rehabilitation facilities in the Northern Territory, who were classified as petrol or alcohol abusers or healthy controls on the basis of detailed substance use histories. Baseline cognitive and psychological assessments were completed on admission to rehabilitation, and then fortnightly for the duration of treatment. Community follow up assessments were also conducted approximately one year after treatment. The cultural and psychometric validity of the selected assessments were first established by evaluating test-retest reliability, practice effects, and any demographic factors that impact on test performance for this group. Impairments were then identified for each of the petrol and alcohol groups across the study timeframe using cross sectional and longitudinal comparisons with matched control groups. At baseline, petrol sniffers aged 11-25 years with an average of five years chronic use demonstrated impairments on tasks of visual motor, attention, memory, learning and executive functions. Importantly, the majority of these impairments normalised within two months of abstinence by the end of treatment, however speed deficits on visual motor, memory and executive function tasks persisted after 12 months. Similarly, impairments in visual motor, attention, memory, learning and executive functions were observed among both chronic and episodic alcohol users aged 18-60 years with an average of 16 years use. Most resolved within four weeks of abstinence, although visual motor deficits recovered within 11 months. The impairment and recovery profiles of both chronic and episodic users were similar, suggesting that episodic alcohol use may be as damaging as chronic use. Cognitive deficits, psychological symptoms and continued petrol and alcohol availability were key factors that led to their continued abuse following treatment discharge.

    Note: Please note that Appendix A is available in hard copy only.
    Date of AwardSept 2010
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorSheree Cairney (Supervisor) & Paul Maruff (Supervisor)

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