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RADAR study: protocol for an observational cohort study to identify early warning signals on the pathways to alcohol use disorder

21 Aug 2017

Introduction

Harmful alcohol consumption, particularly alcohol use disorder (AUD), is a worldwide health priority, contributing substantially to global morbidity and mortality. The peak age of onset of AUD is 18–24, thus a deeper understanding of the young adult experience is vital if we are to identify modifiable risk factors and intervene early in the developmental course of this disabling disorder. Critical unanswered questions include: How soon after drinking initiation do AUD symptoms begin to emerge? Which symptoms come first? Do the symptoms unfold in a predictable pattern? In what ways do the emerging symptoms interact with individual, peer, family and environmental risk factors to impact on the transition to disorder?

Methods and analysis

The proposed RADAR study will examine the prospective development of AUD symptoms over the young adulthood (18–24) years. We will capitalise on an existing cohort of 1911 community-based adolescents who were recruited at age 13 and have completed a baseline and five annual follow-up assessments as part of an observational cohort study. We will interview these adolescents every 6 months between the ages of 19 and 23 to derive monthly histories of both alcohol use and AUD symptomatology, along with a comprehensive battery of risk and protective factor scales hypothesised to predict the emergence and course of AUD. The results of this study will inform the natural history of AUD and will be used to identify specific targets for prevention and early intervention of AUD.

Ethics and dissemination

Ethical approval has already been granted for the study (UNSW HREC 10144). We will disseminate the results of the study through published manuscripts, conferences and seminar presentations. Data used in published manuscripts will be made available through a suitable online repository (eg, Dryad–datadryad.org).

Click here to view the full article which appeared in BMJ Open