The Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs


The Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol & other Drugs (APSAD) is the Asia Pacific's leading multidisciplinary organisation for professionals involved in the alcohol and other drug field. APSAD is dedicated to increasing the profile of the issues related to the use of alcohol and other drugs, through the dissemination of information from the wide range of professions involved in this field. In addition, we strive to promote improved standards in clinical practice and in research into this and allied subjects. It also provides a network of drug and alcohol professionals in Australia and New Zealand.

Through its internationally recognised scientific journal, the Drug and Alcohol Review, and its annual Scientific Conference, APSAD provides a forum for the latest research on the nature, prevention and treatment of physical, psychological and social problems related to the use of psychoactive substances.

APSAD is dedicated to:

  • promoting evidence-based improvements in the treatment and prevention of drug and alcohol-related problems
  • raising awareness about the problems related to the use of alcohol and other drugs
  • promoting best standards in research in the drug and alcohol field
  • providing development and support to professionals working in the drug and alcohol field.


APSAD offers various forms of professional development for health professionals.

  • Subscription to the Society's scientific journal, the Drug and Alcohol Review.
  • Online access to all back issues of the Review.
  • Discounted registration to the Annual APSAD Scientific Drug & Alcohol Conference.
  • Discounted registration at selected AOD conferences including the DANA conference
  • Subscription to the APSAD e-newsletter

APSAD offers a range of other activities for members. A conference is held annually, with the next conference scheduled to take place in Adelaide 12-15 November 2023. Regional conferences and workshops are also supported, often jointly with other professional organisations. APSAD also produces a bi-monthly newsletter, to keep members up-to-date and provide a forum for discussion.

The Drug and Alcohol Review is the Society's official journal. Celebrating its 42nd year of publication, the journal is listed on the international database, Medline. With seven issues a year published, the Review presents original research, policy development and information in the drug and alcohol research field.


Presidents of the Society

  • Prof James G. Rankin
  • Dr L.H.R Drew
  • Dr Joseph Santamaria
  • Dr David Hawks (the society's first non-medical president)
  • Dr John Price
  • Dr Lou Goldman
  • Dr René Pols
  • Prof David Hawks
  • Greg Whelan
  • Prof Jason White
  • Dr Allan Quigley
  • Prof Ann Roche
  • Dr Ingrid van Beek
  • Prof Alison Ritter
  • A/Prof Adrian Dunlop
  • Prof Amanda Baker
  • Dr Rose Neild
  • Dr Lynda Berends
  • Dr Anthony Gill
  • Prof Michael Farrell
  • Prof Leanne Hides

Founding of the Society

In the late 1970s Dr Les Drew and Prof James Rankin discussed the needs, feasibility and value of establishing an Australian medical group in the drug and alcohol field. They believed that at that time, no suitable national professional and scientific organisation had developed in Australia within which medical scientists and practitioners could effectively meet to discuss, pursue and promote matters of mutual interest in the field.

The first board members were:

  • Dr L.R.H Drew (ACT)
  • Dr Alan Freed (QLD)
  • Dr Louis Goldman (NSW)
  • Dr William Hennessy (NSW)
  • Dr Basil Hetzel (SA)
  • Dr Frank McDermott (VIC)
  • Dr James Rankin (NSW)
  • Dr Eric Saint (WA)
  • Dr Joseph Santamaria (VIC)
  • Dr Malcolm Whyte (ACT)
  • Dr George Wilson (NSW)

They extended their discussions to a group of medical colleagues who agreed to support the establishment of the Australian Medical Society on Alcohol and other Drugs (AMSAD), and to become members of its first board of directors when the society was established in 1981.

The founders of the society were concerned with and in agreement on a number of central issues. Their intention was that the society should:

  • be primarily a medically-oriented organisation established to meet the needs of medical scientists and practitioners
  • endeavour to attract a broad medical membership from individuals who had a scientific or professional interest in alcohol and drug-related problems, their prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

They also recognised that scientists and practitioners from other disciplines could make important contributions to such a society, and that they should be encouraged to participate in the society's activities.

The First Annual Meeting of the society was held at the Australian National University, Canberra, on July 31 and August 1, 1981.

A major change in focus occurred during the first 10 years of the society's existence, following its acceptance of non-medical professionals as full-members. In recognition of this, the society's name was changed to the Australian Medical and Professional Society on Alcohol and Drugs (AMPSAD).

The name was subsequently changed again in November 1993 to the Australian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs (APSAD) and on 1 December 2004 to the Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs (APSAD) to encompass our New Zealand colleagues. In 2010 the society is truly a multidisciplinary organisation representing professionals involved in the drug and alcohol field.

There are currently over 400 members of APSAD located in every state and territory of Australia and New Zealand, and in countries across the globe, including, Singapore, Canada, USA, UK, Israel, and Switzerland and South Korea.

The following professional disciplines are well represented by the membership:

administrators educators
educators nurse practitioners
counsellors medical researchers
general practitioners pharmacists
nurses policy advisors
physicians psychiatrists
social/behavioural psychologists


The Drug & Alcohol Review was established as the Journal of the Australian Medical Society on Alcohol and other Drugs in 1981. It has remained an integral part of the society ever since. The Foundation Editor was Dr Les Drew from 1981 - 1984, who then approached Prof John B. Saunders to take over the editorship in 1985. John continued in the role of Editor-in-Chief of the Journal to 2008. In 2009 Prof Robin Room took over as Editor-in-Chief and continues to the present day.

Other Significant Developments

  • Between 1989 and 1993 the society established an alcohol and other drugs curriculum, and conducted a continuing professional education and training program.
  • In addition, a Certificate Training Program for medical practitioners was conducted with the support of the Royal College of Physicians, GPs and Psychiatrists in Australia. Most recently, APSAD has collaborated closely with the Royal Australasian College of Physicians to establish a Chapter of Addiction Medicine. APSAD is now a specialty society of the College.
  • The Society worked with the NSW Drug and Alcohol Directorate to develop the NSW Methadone Prescribers Accreditation Course, which was subsequently replicated in other States and was internationally recognised.
  • The Society became involved with the National Methadone Conference in 1994, and this Conference was held in association with the annual APSAD conference until 2002.
  • The Society has developed many policy position papers over the years, and will continue to do so into the future.
  • The Society has developed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Drug and Alcohol Nurses Association (DANA) to benefit members from both societies.

APSAD Council Members