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Current Projects

Drugs and Addictive Behaviour Research Group

List of current projects

Dominic Conroy

Dominic’s research to date has focused on studying non-drinking and non-drinkers. This mixed methods research programme has provided discursive accounts of perceptions of non-drinkers, and experiences of individuals who do not drink alcohol from phenomenological research. Non-drinking mental imagery has also been used in a behaviour change intervention designed to promote moderate drinking behaviour among university students. For a full list of studies published from this research programme please visit Dominic’s Google Scholar profile. Dominic has recently had an article reporting a meta-analysis of mental imagery interventions in the context of health behaviour with Prof Martin Hagger (Curtin) accepted in Health Psychology (PROSPERO CRD42015016943). More recently Dominic has been collaborating with Prof Christine Griffin (Bath) on a discursive analysis of interview data concerning ‘drinker categories’ (e.g. non-drinkers, light drinkers, binge drinkers). Two additional alcohol-related research activities include a survey study to provide initial validation for a Beliefs about Successful Moderate Drinking questionnaire and a longitudinal study exploring dark triad personality trait predictors of alcohol consumption in a community sample.

Recent Publications

Conroy, D. and Hagger, M. (accepted) Imagery interventions in health behaviour: A meta-analysis. Health Psychology.

Kirstie Soar, John Turner

Kirstie is leading on these projects and is one of the first know 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 JJD, Dawkins LE (under review) Cannabis Vaping: an online survey assessing usage patterns, experiences and beliefs.  Addictive Behaviours.

Soar K, Greenhill R, Dawkins LE, Turner JJD (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 JJD, 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 JJD (2017) Cannabis Vaping: experiences, advantages and practicalities as voiced in internet forums. Society for the Study of Addiction (SSA) Nov 2017 Annual Conference.

Kirstie Soar, Emma Chapman

The group have worked on a number of projects assessing nicotine and smoking addiction, the cognitive effects of cigarette smoking and the implications that current addiction theory has for behaviour, namely reward motivation, anhedonia, and response inhibition. In collaboration with Prof. Lynne Dawkins (LSBU), Kirstie is currently exploring whether cognitive deficits associated with smoking recover or remain following a period of lengthy abstinence in ex-smokers.  She is also involved in a systematic review with Dr Sharon Cox (LSBU) assessing smoking and smoking cessation in the homeless (PROSPERO 2017 CRD42017081843)

Recent Related Publications

Soar K, Cox S (2017) Smoking, Smoking Cessation and the Homeless: A Systematic Review. PROSPERO 2017 CRD42017081843.

Chapman E, Soar K, Turner J, Dawkins LE. (2016) Exploring the effects of response inhibition training on cigarette-seeking behaviour. Poster presenting at the UKNSCC (UK Nicotine & Smoking Cessation Conference) 9th-10th June 2016, London.

Soar, K., Dawkins, L., Begum, H., & Parrott, A.C. (2008). The effects of cigarette smoking and abstinence on auditory verbal learning. Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental, 23(7), 621–627. doi:10.1002/hup.968

Kirstie Soar, John Turner, Catherine Kimber (former PhD student)
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.

  1. Current work is exploring:
    EEG and vaping: a series of studies assessing EEG activity associated with vaping and e-cigarette use (in collaboration with colleagues from the Cognition and Neuroscience Research Group

  2. JUUL use: An online survey assessing awareness of JUUL (a new e-cigarette product) within the UK, devise use amongst smokers and vapers, willingness to use or past experience with the device, use and patterns. In collaboration with Prof. Lynne Dawkins, Dr Sharon Cox and Catherine Kimber (LSBU) Status: data collection

  3. 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

Soar K, Kimber C, McRobbie H, Dawkins LE (2018): Nicotine absorption from e-cigarettes over 12 months.  Addictive Behaviours. Available online 21 July 2018

Kośmider L, Kimber CF, Kurek J, Corcoran O, Dawkins LE. (2017) The Effects of Compensatory Puffing with Lower Nicotine Concentration E-liquids on Carbonyl Exposure (accepted) Nicotine and Tobacco Research.

Kimber C. Eyewitness: E-Cigarette Summit ’16. Opinion piece 2017-02-14.

Cox S, Kośmider L, McRobbie H, Goniewicz M, Kimber C, Doig M & Dawkins L, (2016). E-cigarette puffing patterns associated with high and low nicotine e-liquid strength: effects on toxicant and carcinogen exposure. BMC Public Health, 16 (1). DOI: 10.1186/s12889-016-3653-1

Dawkins L, Munafo M, Christoforou G, Olumegbon, Soar K (2016) The effects of e-cigarette visual appearance on craving and withdrawal symptoms in abstinent smokers.  Psychology of Addictive Behaviours 30(1): 101-105

Dawkins, L., Kimber, C., Doig, M., Feyerabend., C., Corcoran, O. (2016) Self-Titration by Experienced E-cigarette Users: Blood Nicotine Delivery and Subjective Effects. Psychopharmacology 233: 2933-2941.

Dawkins, L., Kimber, C., Puwanesarasa, Y. and Soar, K. (2015), First- versus second-generation electronic cigarettes: predictors of choice and effects on urge to smoke and withdrawal symptoms. Addiction, 110, 669–677. doi: 10.1111/add.12807.

Dawkins, L., & Corcoran, O. (2014). Acute electronic cigarette use: nicotine delivery and subjective effects in regular users. Psychopharmacology, 231(2), 401–407.

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.

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 is currently conducting 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 to 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 is 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 publication:

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. 

Kirstie Soar, John Turner, Meredith Terlecki

Following on from the groups 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.An online survey assessing measures of psychological ‘stress markers’ in NPS users, in collaboration with Assistant Prof. Helen Fox (Stoney Brook School of Medicine, USA).

Recent related publications:

Turner J, Soar K (2017) Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS): No Longer Legal, not always highs. University and College Counselling, March 2017 pgs16-21

Zetta’s leads in this area of research and her interests primarily lie in the processes, mechanisms and factors that facilitate desistance and recovery in both community and secure settings. Additional research interests include non-traditional, non-interventionist and strengths-based approaches to offending and substance use.   There area number of ongoing projects:

  1. Zetta, is currently working on a project called Boxing Futures: evaluating a 12 week boxing programme delivered in a medium secure forensic unit (in collaboration with Dr Richard Buscombe & Dr Paul Watts, HSB).
  2. Zetta and Kirstie are working on a metasynthesis into women’s pathways to recovery from alcohol dependence: Women’s pathways to recovery from alcohol dependence: an initial metasynthesis (Prospero protocol: and further ethnographic exploration.
  3. In collaboration with colleagues from HSB and a local community drug and alcohol service, Build on Belief, Kirstie and Zetta are currently exploring 'non-interventionist, peer-led’ approaches to supporting those with alcohol and drug problems within the local community and have secured Alcohol Change UK funds to deliver a UEL networking event in this area.

Recent related publications on processes and mechanisms of change:

Kougiali, G.Z., Fasulo, A., Needs, A., Van Laar, D. (2019). Broken and Mended: Therapeutic Processes, recovery and desistance in a substance use programme for life-sentenced prisoners in Best, D. & Colman, C. (Eds.) Strengths-based approaches to offending and substance use. From drugs and crime to recovery and desistance. Routledge: London.

Soar K, Kougiali Z, Casalotti S, Pendry, B (2018). User perspective of the effectiveness of a peer led community-based alcohol support service. Society for the Study of Addiction (SSA) Nov 2017 Annual Conference.

Kougiali, Z., Einat, T., & Liebling, A. (2018). Rhizomatic affective spaces and the therapeutic potential of music in prison: a qualitative meta-synthesis. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 15(1), 1-28. Caine, G., McGrath, L. & Kougiali, G.Z. (2018). The Tale of Two Selves: Identity Narratives Through the Process of Incarceration. Qualitative Research in Psychology

Kougiali, G. Z., Fasulo, A., Needs, A., & Van Laar, D. (2017). Planting the seeds of change: Directionality in the narrative construction of recovery from addiction. Psychology & Health. 32(6), 639-664.