At the Society for the Study of Addiction Annual Conference

Stephanie Bramley is a Research Associate at the NIHR Health & Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King’s College London. (690 words)

Unit researcher Stephanie Bramley attended the Society for the Study of Addiction Annual Conference on  7th and 8th November 2019 in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.  During the conference Stephanie presented Unit research – Improving understanding of migrant gambling in the UK: Insights from three studies.

Day one of the conference covered a range of topics including the use of medical cannabis in the U.K.; the marketisation of addiction treatment provision; addiction and vulnerable populations; and for the first time a session about gambling addiction.

Gambling research was presented during an invited symposium with talks from three academics.  Steve Sharman (University of East London) presented research about gambling content/advertisements within Premier League and Championship football matchday programmes.  His analysis found that there was more exposure to gambling content compared to smoking, drinking or responsible gambling advertising.  Steve was particularly concerned about the exposure to gambling content within sections of the programmes which were specifically aimed at children and young people.

The second talk was given by Darragh McGee (University of Bath) who presented an ethnographic account of ‘Youth, masculinity and the growth of online sports gambling’.  Darragh employed focus groups, asked participants to keep a reflective gambling diary and conducted fieldwork to explore young male gamblers’ attitudes to and experiences of online sports gambling.  Darragh found that gambling was a “normalised feature of sport fandom” and that for some “working-class” males gambling and/or betting was considered as a possible route to wealth, social capital and masculine affirmation.

The final talk in the symposium was given by Amanda Roberts (University of Lincoln) who presented research about ‘neurocognitive performance as a function of preferred form of gambling in treatment seeking gamblers’.  Amanda conducted a laboratory study and found that certain gamblers may be more susceptible to the ‘gambler’s fallacy’ – the belief that past events affect the probability of something happening in the future.

In the second afternoon session, Stephanie presented findings from the migrant gambling project which was followed by talks about the introduction of managed alcohol programmes in Scotland;  personality risk-targeted coping skills training for young people with alcohol related- illnesses/injuries and barriers to recovery for those affected by human trafficking.

Day one concluded with the Society Lecture, which this year was given by Colin Drummond (King’s College London) who spoke about ‘Alcohol interventions: do the best things come in small packages?’. During his talk Colin spoke about the “prevention paradox” and the “Pareto principle” where 80% of effects come from 20% of causes.  Colin highlighted the importance of improving the accessibility of treatment/support/interventions for vulnerable populations.

Day two opened with a session about alcohol, substance and nicotine use.  Two presentations focused on alcohol use by military personnel.  Panagiotis Spanakis (University of Liverpool) presented research about the prevalence of alcohol misuse within UK military personnel and Laura Palmer (King’s College London) spoke about the value of employing mixed-methods (i.e. big data and lived experience perspectives) to investigate drinking patterns among the UK Armed Forces. Following this Sharon Dawe (Griffith University, Australia) informed the audience of an innovative programme being delivered in 11 sites in Australia and the U.K. to support families with parental substance abuse.  Sharon advocated the importance of empowering parents, developing nurturing and loving relationships and ensuring parents are able to understand and manage their own emotional state so as to improve their children’s development.  The last talk in this session was delivered by Frances Thirlway (The University of York) who highlighted barriers to e-cigarette use for smoking cessation in two working-class areas in Northern England.

After lunch the focus shifted to exploring “alternative approaches” which could be employed to support those living with addiction and during recovery.  Innovations included a chat-bot (Olga Perski),  a points-based reward card (Devon DeSilva and Antony Moss), positive reinforcement with financial incentives (Nicola Metrebia) and online support groups/forums (Sally Sanger).  The conference closed with a plenary session about addiction to prescribed drugs.

This was the first time that I had attended the SSA Annual Conference and given the Society’s desire to increase its focus on gambling research, I look forward to becoming a member and attending next year’s conference.  The conference presentations will be available at:

Stephanie Bramley is a Research Associate at the NIHR Health & Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King’s College London.