Current projects

Cannabis Vaping

Kirstie Soar, John Turner

Kirstie (now at LSBU) is leading on these projects and is one of the first known researchers in the UK to focus on cannabis vaping, in particular, exploring and documenting the experiences and extent of the practice of vaping cannabis and comparisons relative to smoking cannabis.  Her research involves a number of lines of enquiry, with a current study assessing experiences, advantages and practicalities of cannabis vaping as voiced in internet forums in collaboration with Prof. Lynne Dawkins (LSBU).  A qualitative interview study with cannabis vapers, in collaboration with Dr Caitlin Notley (UEA), and Prof. Lynne Dawkins (LSBU) and an online scale survey exploring the issues identified in these previous studies in a larger cohort of cannabis vapers, in collaboration with Prof. Lynne Dawkins (LSBU). 

Recent Related Publications
Soar K., Lea K., Gualberto R., Turner J.J.D., Dawkins L.E., (under review) Cannabis Vaping: an online survey assessing usage patterns, experiences and beliefs.  Addictive Behaviours. 
Soar K., Greenhill R., Dawkins L.E., Turner J.J.D., (under review) Vaping cannabis 'on the go': experiences, usage patterns and practicalities of using electronic portable devices as voiced in internet forums.  International Journal of Drug Policy. 
Soar K., Lea K., Gualberto R., Turner J.J.D., Dawkins L., (2018). Cannabis Vaping: an online survey characterising patterns of use, reasons for use and the effects of vaping. Society for the Study of Addiction (SSA) Nov 2018 Annual Conference. 
Soar K., Greenhill R., Dawkins L., Turner J.J.D, (2017) Cannabis Vaping: experiences, advantages and practicalities as voiced in internet forums. Society for the Study of Addiction (SSA) Nov 2017 Annual Conference.

Electronic Cigarette Projects

John Turner
Since 2009, colleagues have been part of the first team within the UK to conduct research into electronic cigarettes. Projects include exploring the efficacy of electronic cigarettes for reducing craving and nicotine withdrawal symptoms, self-titration, effects on cognitive performance, surveying attitudes and behaviours of current users, investigating usability in novice users and changes in nicotine exposure. Research has been presented at both national and international conferences and formed part of the UoA 44, 4* impact case study in REF 2014, and continues to have impact.

Current work is exploring: 

  1. A CRUK project assessing parental and carer behaviours and views on the use of electronic vaporising devices by their 11-18-year-old children. In collaboration Dr Caitlin Notley (UEA), Dr Lynne Dawkins (LSBU) and Dr Mark Finn (UEL).

Recent Related Publications

Dawkins, L., Turner, J., & Crowe, E. (2013). Nicotine derived from the electronic cigarette improves time-based prospective memory in abstinent smokers. Psychopharmacology, 277, 377-384. 
Dawkins, L., Turner, J., Roberts, A., & Soar, K. (2013).  'Vaping' profiles and preferences: an online survey of electronic cigarette users. Addiction, 108(6), 1115–1125. 

Dawkins, L., Turner, J., Hasna, S., & Soar, K. (2012). The electronic-cigarette: effects on desire to smoke, withdrawal symptoms and cognition. Addictive Behaviours, 37(8), 970–973. 
Dawkins, L., Kent, T.S., & Turner, J. (2010). The electronic cigarette: acute effects on mood and craving. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 24 (suppl. 3), A32

Greenhill, R., Dawkins, L., Notley, C., Finn, M. D., & Turner, J. J. (2016). Adolescent awareness and use of electronic cigarettes: a review of emerging trends and findings. Journal of Adolescent Health59 (6), 612-619.

Gambling Projects

There are a number of gambling-related projects being conducted within the research team: 

  1. The role of neuromodulation for cognitive processing and behavioural inhibition in gambling disorder (Elena Gomis-Vicent, John Turner & Volker Thoma) 

Elena recently completed  a PhD investigating the effects of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) in Gambling Disorder (GD). GD is a behavioural addiction characterised by compulsive and maladaptive gambling behaviour. GD has been associated with dysfunctional cognitive functions linked to a dysregulation of the prefrontal cortex (PFC), and the manifestation of high impulsivity and excessive risk-taking behaviour.  The clinical phase of the research consists of studying the effects of tDCS in combination with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) in patients that attend the UK National Problem Gambling Clinic. The main objective of the project is to study whether tDCS on the PFC can modulate cognitive processing, helping to decrease impulsivity and risk-taking behaviour, and therefore offer improved opportunities for the treatment of disordered gamblers.

Recent Related Publications: 
Gomis-Vicent, E., Thoma, V., Turner, J.J.D., Hill, K.P. & Pascual-Leone A. (2019). Review: Non-invasive Brain Stimulation in Behavioral Addictions: Insights from Direct Comparisons with Substance Use Disorders. Manuscript submitted for publication. 

2. Gambling and Virtual Reality (Steve Sharman & John Turner) 

Steve Sharman was awarded a fellowship from the Society for the Study of Addiction (SSA) to use virtual reality to better understand gambling behaviour. The major aim of this research is to design and build fully immersive virtual reality gambling environments (VRGE) that can be used to host a suite of environments that will further understanding of gambling addiction within different forms of gambling behaviours and situations, such as sports betting, and slot machines. Conventional laboratory studies in gambling behaviour using students that retain the necessary experimental control to measure the impact of manipulation of within game constructs have been criticised for lacking the ecological validity of naturalistic studies, however, naturalistic studies lack experimental control. The use of virtual reality allows the researcher to retain experimental control, whilst creating a naturalistic gambling environment.  
This innovative methodology will enable a more comprehensive understanding of the cognitions that become distorted in disordered gambling and will allow us to investigate a range of constructs found in different forms of gambling that distort cognitions and behaviour  (e.g. stake size, speed of play, win frequency).  The VRGE will enable us to isolate and examine each of these components and associated psychological phenomena. 

3. Gambling and Homelessness (Steve Sharman & Amanda Roberts) 
Steve Sharman also researches the relationship between gambling and homelessness. His previous work has identified that disordered gambling has a higher prevalence in homeless samples than in the general population, that gambling can be a cause of homelessness, and that both awareness and utilisation of services for gambling problems are lower for gambling than for substance use. He has also developed a population-specific screening tool for gambling problems. Ongoing research includes qualitative analysis of in-depth interviews with homeless gamblers and statistical evaluation of the screening tool. 

Recent Related Publications: 

Sharman, S. (2019) Gambling and Homelessness: Prevalence and Pathways. Current Addiction Reports, in press.

Sharman S, &  D'Ardenne, J. (2018) Gambling and Homelessness: Developing an information sheet, screening tool and resource sheet. London: GambleAware . 

Sharman, S., Dreyer, J., Clark, L., & Bowden-Jones, H. (2016). Down and out in London: Addictive Behaviors in Homelessness. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 5(2), 318-324.  

Sharman, S., Dreyer, J., Aitken, M., Clark, L., & Bowden-Jones, H. (2014). Rates of Problematic Gambling in a British Homeless Sample: A Preliminary Study. Journal of Gambling Studies, 31 (2), p.525-532. DOI: 10.1007/s10899-014-9444-7.  

4. Gambling Treatment Evaluation: (Steve Sharman, Amanda Roberts, Raegan Murphy & John Turner). 

Steve Sharman and John Turner are also working with Dr Amanda Roberts (now at Lincoln University) on a collaborative project with the Gordon Moody Association, a registered charity that has been helping rehabilitate compulsive gamblers through its residential treatment programme since 1971. The Association has a residential treatment programme in Dudley, and Beckenham and the team are conducting an extensive evaluation of their programme. Research findings have informed both the Gordon Moody Association and the wider gambling addiction therapeutic community. The unique place of the Gordon Moody service in residential treatment means that this research is the only study of its kind in the UK. 

Recent Related Publications:   

Sharman, S., Roberts, A., Bowden-Jones, H., & Strang, J. (2021). Gambling in COVID-19 Lockdown in the UK: Depression, Stress, and Anxiety. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 12, 1. 

Roberts, A., Rogers, J., Sharman, S., Melendez-Torres, G. J., & Cowlishaw, S. (2021). Gambling problems in primary care: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Addiction Research & Theory, 1-15. 

Both Sharman and Turner are co-signatories on a letter published in the BMJ (and covered in the media) in Jan 2020: Open letter from UK based academic scientists to the secretaries of state for digital, culture, media and sport and for health and social care regarding the need for independent funding for the prevention and treatment of gambling harms - July 16, 2020 

Sharman, S., Murphy, R., Turner, J., & Roberts, A. (2019). Trends and Patterns in UK Treatment Seeking Gamblers: 2000-2015. Addictive Behaviors, (89), pp. 51-56. 

Roberts, A., Murphy, R., Turner, J., & Sharman, S. (2020). Predictors of dropout in disordered gamblers in UK residential treatment. Journal of gambling studies36(1), 373-386.

Sharman, S., Murphy, R., Turner, J., & Roberts, A. (2019). Psychosocial correlates in treatment-seeking gamblers: Differences in early age onset gamblers vs later age onset gamblers. Addictive behaviors97, 20-26.

Novel Psychoactive Substances

John Turner, Meredith Terlecki

Following on from the group's established research record exploring the psychobiological effects of MDMA/Ecstasy use.  This research has now developed to explore other drugs used recreationally, in particular novel psychoactive substances (NPS), otherwise known as 'legal highs', 'research chemicals' and/or SMART drugs. 

A number of related projects are currently underway:   

  1. An online survey aimed at characterising NPS use amongst young adults in relation to social anxiety and related traits in individuals with extensive use of NPS, both prior to and after the Psychoactive Substance Bill in 2016. This project is in collaboration with Prof. Daniel Frings (LSBU).
  2. The team have recently begun international collaborations looking at 'stress markers' (with Assoc Prof Helen Fox etc.) and the role of social anxiety (with Prof Julie Buckner, Louisiana State University) in use of NPS

Recent Related Publications:

Turner J., Soar K., (2017) Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS): No Longer Legal, not always highs. University and College Counselling, March 2017 pgs 16-21.

MDMA/Ecstasy projects

Florentia Hadjiefthyvoulou and John Turner

MDMA research at UEL has a long and impactful history (forming the basis of a REF2014 4* rated Impact Case Study); including an international $3million project (founded by Turner with Prof Lynn Singer at Case Western Reserve University in the US) looking at effects of in utero exposure to MDMA. Dr Florentia Hadjiefthyvoulou continues to work in this field with ongoing projects at UEL and at Nottingham Trent University.