Research by Menzies School of Health Research at Charles Darwin University is improving understanding of the treatment and prevention of chronic petrol and alcohol abuse.
Dr Kylie Dingwall, who will be conferred a PhD from CDU at its June graduation ceremony, researched and monitored the cognitive and psychological changes of a number of Indigenous Australians after they had been involved in petrol and alcohol abuse.
Dr Dingwall said that while significant damaging brain changes were associated with chronic petrol and alcohol abuse, recovery was possible with abstinence.
“Petrol and alcohol abuse causes a progressive decline of brain function,” she said.
“It affects people's memory, their ability to learn new things, their concentration, and the more that people abuse the more significant this impairment is.”
Dr Dingwall’s research involved selecting and evaluating an appropriate assessment process for monitoring changes in brain function and mental health among Indigenous Australians who had recently abstained from petrol inhalation or alcohol abuse.
Multiple assessments were conducted immediately following cessation of abuse, throughout treatment, and an average of 12 months later.
“Cognitive recovery was observed among petrol and alcohol abusers within six weeks,” she said.
“However, petrol and alcohol abusers showed residual impairments on some functions even at the end of treatment and for petrol, but not alcohol abusers, some impairment persisted even after 12 months.”
Dr Dingwall said that with the current lack of information about how petrol in particular affected the brain, she hoped her findings would be used to inform treatment and preventative measures.