Professor Michael Farrell

Q: What is your role at the Randwick Health & Innovation Precinct?
A: I am the Director of The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC). Before that, I was Professor of Addiction Psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College London. My research interests include treatment evaluation, national and international drug policy. I am also the Chair of the Australian National Advisory Council on Alcohol and other drugs (ANACAD). I have a long-standing interest in drug dependence, comorbidity and drugs in the wider criminal justice system. I am also a member of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Expert Committee on Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Q: What attracted you to this type of work?
A: I trained as a physician and then as a psychiatrist early in my career. One of my first jobs was in alcohol treatment, where I was amazed by the transformative power of good treatment. Also, the challenge of developing research in this area. It was early in the AIDS epidemic, so, responding with harm reduction to reduce injecting risk behaviour was urgently required. It became clear to me that this was a field where there was great need and opportunity to further develop research and practice. So, I was involved in establishing a large community-based alcohol and drug treatment service in South London and ran a research program at Kings College London during a very exciting time of service and research expansion.
We’re operating in a complex world, and one of the key challenges is behaviour that you can’t necessarily put into a neat little box. The field spans from international drug policy to clinical trials, anthropology, economics, pharmacology, neuroscience and genetics. Providing best practice and high-quality research that informs policy makers and reduces the harm of alcohol and other drugs is at the centre of, not only what I do, but what we are all doing here at NDARC. The work is dynamic, it changes and evolves, but the relationship between substances and the harm they can do to society remains, and so, I am proud to be a part of this vital work.

Q: What excites you most about the Precinct?
A: What we are seeing is greater synchronicity of health experts based on a shared objective – research and work that helps society in one form or another. It is an exciting chapter and will bring more leading researchers and clinicians under one roof, so to say. The more we communicate with each other, the better the outcome, not just for us, but the public at large.

Q: What do the next six months look like?
A: We are embarking on our annual keystone event, the 2023 NDARC Annual Research Symposium in October. This is an incredibly exciting event for us all here at NDARC because this will be a hybrid event, which is different to last year’s online-only event. It will be a fantastic experience and I would strongly encourage people in the sector to register. This is taking up a lot of our time right now, but it’s great to be close to such a major headline event.

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