The Substance Use and Appetite Research Group investigates the social, biological and cognitive drivers of substance and appetitive behaviours. With a view to improving strategies for promoting successful behaviour change, we examine the psychological and social processes shaping alcohol, consumption of substances and food, as well as studying the consequences of intake across the lifespan.
Our research is facilitated by a state-of-the-art simulation laboratory which enables us to explore the effects of intoxication in a bar-like environment, meaning that our findings better represent the contexts in which people consume alcohol, and subsequent interventions can be effectively designed to work in real world settings.
The Substance Use and Appetite Research Group is a member of the Liverpool Centre for Alcohol Research, connected to Liverpool Health Partners. The Substance Use and Appetite Research group is a member of the Liverpool Centre for Alcohol Research, connected to Liverpool Health Partners. We also work across various sectors including public, health, education and charities to influence practice, policy, and public engagement. Our work is regional, national and international in its context and reach. We collaborate with colleagues in the UK, Ghana, US, France, China, Australia, Spain, and Singapore.
We use a variety of research methods in both laboratory and real-world settings that include:
- Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS)
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)/ Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS)
- Real-time examination of substance use behaviours, and cognitions, using field observation techniques, interviews, questionnaires and specifically-designed Smartphone apps
- Alcohol administration
- Blood, hair and saliva analyses under the Human Tissue Act (in accordance with Edge Hill University’s Human Tissue Act Committee)
Research Group Coordinator, Dr JoAnne Puddephatt outlines the work of the Substance Use and Appetite Research Group and how you can get involved.
Dr Lauren McGale’s research is situated around food marketing and impacts on eating behaviour, especially for children. She explores the impact of food packaging and how this relates to consumers’ purchasing behaviour particularly around sustainable food choicesRead more
Professor Philip Murphy’s research focuses on clinical aspects of treating heroin and cocaine dependence, and the implications for cognitive performance of the use of ‘ecstasy’ and cannabis. His recent research has explored the role of “psychological preparedness” in transitions in abstinence.Read more
Dr Rebecca Monk, Professor Derek Heim and Dr Adam Qureshi’s research focuses on the social and cognitive drivers relating to alcohol thoughts and behaviours. Their findings suggest that where we are, who we are with, and how we are feeling impact on how much we are likely to think about alcohol and engage in drinking behaviours.Read more
Insights for the community
Our research is being used to inform community initiatives and support. Specifically this relates to supporting people who may be coming off recreational drugs such as heroin and also about issues relating to alcohol consumption.
How to reduce your substance use
Our research into alcohol has produced some general insights listed below. However, these are general points. When it comes to you as an individual, always consider the importance of discussing their relevance with those who are supporting you.
- Your expectations of the effects of drinking alcohol play an important role in determining whether you start a drinking episode, and how much you actually consume. (see [2, 7, 10])Both the sight and smell of alcohol can lead to an increase in consumption beyond what you initially intended (see [3, 6])
- The context in which you consume alcohol can play an important role in how much you actually consume, sometimes leading to consumption beyond what was originally intended (see [2, 5])Pictures of alcohol can influence changes in the amount of food we eat and the amount of non-alcoholic drinks we consume. (see )
- Heavy social drinking can be related to impairments in memory (see )
- How alcohol is assessed and treated within community mental healthcare services, and how to tailor these to meet the needs of minority ethnic service users and staff . Read more here.
- Wanting to stop because you have legal problems, or cannot afford to use it, does not generally help you come off and stay off heroin. Always discuss your readiness for withdrawal carefully with the professional workers supporting you before making any withdrawal attempt (see ).
- Confidence that you can come off heroin and stay off can be a good predictor that you may succeed. Always discuss your readiness for withdrawal carefully with the professional workers supporting you before making any withdrawal attempt (see [1, 3, 13]).
- Going through a withdrawal programme before you are ready is unlikely to be successful. Always discuss your readiness for withdrawal carefully with the professional workers supporting you before making any withdrawal attempt (see [1, 4]).
- It is better to stay on maintenance until you are ready to try to withdraw, with appropriate support. Your feelings of dependence upon your maintenance treatment can be a good indicator of how ready you are for withdrawal. Always discuss your readiness for withdrawal carefully with the professional workers supporting you before making any withdrawal attempt (see [1, 4]).
- Coming out of prison is a point of high risk for death by overdose. You will have lost your tolerance to heroin, and may be keen to ‘make up for lost time’. What was previously a normal dose may now kill you. Seek professional help if you do not believe you can stay off heroin in this situation (see ).
The reference numbers cited above as providing a research base for each summary point refer to the research publications listed below. Each of these publications appears in a technical scientific publication and provide the scientific basis for the summary points given above. Although you may consult these publications using appropriate library facilities, you can also obtain more information through email. We will respond to your enquiry in a confidential manner.
Below are some further resources which you may wish to seek out:
- Mackridge, A. K., Krska, J., Stokes, E. C., & Heim, D. (2015). Towards improving service delivery in screening and intervention services in community pharmacies: A case study of an alcohol IBA service. Journal of Public Health, 2015, doi: 10.1093/pubmed/fdv010.
- Monk, R.L., Heim, D., Qureshi, A., & Price, A. (2015). “I have no clue what I drunk last night” Using Smartphone technology to compare in-vivo and retrospective self-reports of alcohol consumption. PLoS ONE.
- Fisk, J.E., Murphy, P.N., Montgomery C., & Hadjiefthyvoulou, F. (2011). Modelling the adverse effects associated with ecstasy use. Addiction, 106, 798-805.
- Murphy, P.N., Wareing, M. and Fisk, J.E. (2006). Users’ perceptions of the risks and effects of taking MDMA (Ecstasy). Journal of Psychopharmacology, 20, 447-455
- Mouktika Ayyagari
- Jonathan Williams
- Chloe Tarleton
- Dr Lauren McGale has been invited to speak about her research on food marketing and eating behaviour on several local and national radio stations, in addition to a TV interview on BBC Scotland’s news programme, The Nine, where she was asked to discuss recent legislation relating to mandatory calorie labelling on menus.
- Dr Lauren McGale explores whether ‘green labels’ increase sustainable food choice and purchase amongst UK consumers.
- Dr Lauren McGale has contributed to a series of WHO commissioned reviews (3 x published) which inform the pending update to the WHO recommendations for global policies on food marketing to children.
- Professor Philip Murphy submitted a review of findings in this field, including the findings from our own laboratory, to the Parliamentary Home Affairs Select Committee 2022 enquiry into drug use. That review was accepted by the committee and has been published on the parliamentary website.
- Professor Philip Murphy examines the link between intelligence and cannabis use in adolescence in an article for The Conversation.
- Professor Philip Murphy discusses the legal high ban in an article for The Conversation.
- Professor Philip Murphy et al explore methadone assisted opiate withdrawal and the importance of psychological preparedness.
- Dr Rebecca Monk, Dr Adam Quereshi and Professor Derek Heim examine the extent to which mood and context are associated with real-time alcohol consumption.
- Coverage of work by Dr Rebecca Monk, Professor Derek Heim and Dr Adam Qureshi has featured widely in national and international radio and media, including BBC Breakfast, The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Star (front page), The Daily Mail, Forbes, The Daily Express GQ.
- Dr Jo-Anne Puddephatt and colleagues research has been featured within Alcohol Change UK’s New Horizons programme for exploring how people’s experience of alcohol harm is affected by their membership of, identification with, or exclusion from, groups and communities.
There are various ways you can get involved in our Substance Use and Appetite research.