Substance Use and Behavioural Addictions

World leading research into the causes and consequences of substance use on an individual and societal level

Group leaders

Dr Abi Rose, Professor Harry Sumnall

About the Group

The Substance Use group is a multidisciplinary team of researchers from across the university with backgrounds in public health, psychology, neuroscience, pharmacy, criminology, law and performing arts. This group was established in 2022 with the aim of increasing coproduction, participatory research, and multidisciplinary collaboration in substance use and addiction. We aim to increase the representation of seldom heard populations in our research and ensure that it is responsive to a wide variety of stakeholders needs and views. We work to produce impactful research that improves the lives of those affected by substances and contributes towards national and international policy and guidelines.

We use a range of research methodologies to conduct empirical research into existing literature and datasets, as well as primary data collection. Members of the group have expertise in areas including systematic reviews, mixed methods, trials research, epidemiology, data monitoring, ethnography. Service development and evaluations, implementation science, laboratory science, and brain imaging techniques

Research Themes

The members of the group work with a range of external stakeholders. We bring together practitioners, affected populations, policymakers, and academics to research important societal topics. Our current research themes include:

  • Cognitive effects of substance and alcohol use and their recovery
  • Substance use prevention
  • Image and Performance Enhancing Drugs (IPEDs)
  • Harm reduction
  • Drug policy
  • Monitoring and early warning systems
  • Responses to drug use
  • Maternal drinking
  • Marketing of alcohol
  • Epidemiology of substance use
  • Stigmatisation of substance users
  • Intervention and service development and evaluation
  • Human rights and international development
  • Drug-related deaths


We work collaboratively with a range of stakeholders to build impact into our research and coproduce meaningful outcomes. Our stakeholders include members of the public who will benefit from our work or are affected by the issues we research, in addition to organisations in the public, private and voluntary sectors.

We have strong links with Local Authorities, national and international policymakers, UN agencies such as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Harm Reduction International, and NHS trusts and Integrated Care Systems. Locally we work with Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Liverpool Health Partners, the UK Probation Service and the World Health Organisation. We also work with charities and community care providers such as We Are With You, Change Grow Live, Transforming Choice, Phoenix Futures, Merseyside Violence Reduction Partnership and the Pain Relief Foundation.

Members of our group translate research directly in to practice and policy through work undertaken with national Government departments, committees and advisory groups, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the World Health Organisation, and the European Union. We are currently leading and collaborating on NIHR funded projects to reduce substance-related harm and understand epidemiology of substance use. Examples of these are shown below:

Safe inhalation pipe provision (SIPP): A mixed method evaluation of an intervention to reduce health harms and enhance service engagement among people who use crack cocaine in England. NIHR Public Health Research Programme.

Improving Hospital Opiate Substitution Therapy (iHOST): implementation and assessment of an intervention to reduce late presentations, discharges against medical advice and repeat admissions among people who use opiates. NIHR Health Services and Delivery Research Programme.

AMOUNT: A mixed methods investigation of the individual, sociocultural, and societal factors that underly the recent increase in substance use among young people to inform policy. NIHR Central Commissioning Facility.

Research Impact

Published reports from the Substance Use and Behavioural Addictions Group can be found with our Public Health Institute reports. You can also access our recent REF Impact Case Study summaries.