Rebecca McKetin

Associate Professor, National Drug Research Institute
October 2017
Each issue we ask someone from the alcohol and other drugs sector to share a little about their work and life.

This weekend I will... entertain my parents who are coming over from the East Coast to visit our new house in Perth. I’m still trying to decide whether this will involve a trip to the Northbridge Hotel for Karaoke night.

I wish I'd never... nothing. I’m truly grateful for all the mistakes I’ve made in my life. It would have been boring otherwise.

I'd originally planned to work... as an astrophysicist. I wanted to know how the universe could be infinite and yet be an entity. It was a paradox to me. But I enrolled in psychology because the courses looked interesting, and that took me on a different trajectory.

The qualities I most value in my colleagues are... their ability to inspire new and exciting ways to see problems and solve them. 

I'll never forget... working as a street sweeper and doing the Darlinghurst run on a Sunday morning. 

If I had more time, I'd... do more gardening. And then I’d travel around the world trying to write a book. The book would be about the stories of people, mostly women, who I’d met on my journey, and how different the world can seem when you see it through another lens. Or something similarly virtuous.

I'm most scared of... can’t decide between Donald Trump and snakes.

For my next holiday... home to stroll on the beach every afternoon and watch movies at the Sawtell Cinema. 

I can't get enough of... analysing data. I love the numbers.

I'm really terrible at... being tidy. And filling in forms.

Career wise, I’m most proud of... one evening I was flying home from Nairobi to Vienna. I was in the business class section of the plane along with about 30 or so other passengers. After dinner, the female flight attendants came to question me about what I was doing (there…). It was a curious experience. I was trying to work out why they were so interested in me. As I looked around the cabin, I realised I was the only woman (aside from the flight attendants). At that point, I realised that it wasn’t what I was doing in my career that would make a difference, but the fact that I was a woman doing it. 

My big hope for the drug and alcohol sector is... that one day we’ll be able to say to people “these are the treatment options that we can offer, and this is what benefit they will deliver”, not unlike what you would expect if you went for cardiac surgery or a knee replacement.

The sector's biggest challenge going forward is... being brave enough to admit to the limitations of our current sector in order to improve what we can offer people. Being brave enough to shift to evidence-based practices that are driven by consumer needs.

Rebecca McKetin

Associate Professor Rebecca McKetin is a Curtin Research Fellow at the National Drug Research Institute. Much of Rebecca’s research has focussed on methamphetamine (‘ice’ or ‘crystal meth’), for which she has received a NSW/ACT Young Tall Poppy Science Award.

Her major achievements include developing methods to estimate the number of people dependent on methamphetamine use in Australia, establishing a world-first longitudinal treatment outcomes study for methamphetamine use (the Methamphetamine Treatment Evaluation Study), quantifying the risk of mental health problems associated with the use of the drug, and developing an online intervention for people who use methamphetamine (Breaking the Ice).

She is currently an investigator on NHMRC funded research to develop novel responses to methamphetamine use in Aboriginal communities, to trial two new medications for methamphetamine dependence (N-acetylcysteine and lisdexamfetamine), and a longitudinal cohort study examining the relationship between mental health and mid-life outcomes.

Rebecca's research has attracted high-profile media coverage both in Australia and internationally, and has been used in parliamentary enquiries and the National Ice Taskforce. She has also worked as an epidemiologist for the United Nations, consulting to them on the development of drug monitoring systems in Asia and Africa. She is currently Drug and Alcohol Review’s Regional Editor for Asia, an Assistant Editor for Addiction, and a member of the Australian Institute of Policy and Science.