From Crystal Meth to Cannabis

April 20, 2018

The 2018 Australian and New Zealand Addiction Conference will be held next month over Monday 28 and Tuesday 29 May with optional workshops on Wednesday 30 May at the QT Gold Coast.

Mr Benjamin Kearney, After Hours Social Worker with NSW Health joins us at the Conference to discuss ‘From Crystal Meth to Cannabis – Advocating for substance users on the emergency department; Social Work Consultation Liaison services in Drug & Alcohol.


This presentation introduces the role of the Hospital Drug and Alcohol Consultation Liaison (HDA-CL) Social Worker, an initiative of the Nepean/Blue Mountains Local Health District, which provides social work services to the emergency department and other wards that are increasingly impacted by admissions related to substance use. The presentation highlights the primacy of advocacy in social work practice in hospital EDs for patients whom may often be stigmatised by the label of apparently drunk or substance affected, and whom are particularly vulnerable as a result of the environmental impacts.

Hospital presentations involving substance use constitute approximately a third of all ED presentations in Australia, according to the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (2016). The public face may be that of a patient presenting with drug-induced psychosis, often as a result of using crystal methamphetamine or cannabis. However, the use of alcohol and prescribed opiates, for example, present significant issues for patient care if untreated, particularly over the long term.

The location of Nepean Hospital in Western Sydney presents unique challenges for the local health district, with a high proportion of populations with historically low income, high rates of substance use, an often transient homeless population and associated social and cultural stigma. The role of the hospital social worker is primarily one of brokerage and advocacy, working closely with medical and nursing staff to advocate for holistic care and the primacy of a biopsychosocial approach to treatment.

This presentation will:
– introduce to the HDA-CL Social Work role at Nepean Hospital
– contextualise drug and alcohol services within a hospital setting
– explore the impact of advocacy in emergency departments with substance affected patients
– evaluate the utility of advocacy in a social work role with substance using populations


Benjamin Kearney is an Accredited Member of the AASW with over ten years’ experience across the fields of social work and education, in Australia, Canada, and the United States. Benjamin holds a Master of Social Work and a Master of Education and has been employed in both the government and NGO sectors as a social worker and counsellor in the fields of drug and alcohol, child protection, youth work, social work training, and policy writing and development. Benjamin is the Consultation Liaison Social Worker, Drug and Alcohol for the Centre for Addiction Medicine at Nepean Hospital in Western Sydney.

For more information on the upcoming 2018 Australian and New Zealand Addiction Conference please visit the conference website.



Add your Comment