Getting Sober / Staying Sober


Research into cocaine addiction

New research by scientists at  Michigan University show insight into way cocaine works in the brain, and how addiction loop might be broken

‘Researchers say cocaine alters the nucleus accumbens, the brain’s pleasure center that responds to stimuli such as food, sex, and drugs.

“Understanding what happens molecularly to this brain region during long-term exposure to drugs might give us insight into how addiction occurs,” says A. J. Robison, assistant professor in the department of physiology and the neuroscience program at Michigan State University.’

via futurity

Published in The Journal of Neuroscience 

Abstract : The transcription factor ΔFosB and the brain-enriched calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKIIα) are induced in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) by chronic exposure to cocaine or other psychostimulant drugs of abuse, in which the two proteins mediate sensitized drug responses. Although ΔFosB and CaMKIIα both regulate AMPA glutamate receptor expression and function in NAc, dendritic spine formation on NAc medium spiny neurons (MSNs), and locomotor sensitization to cocaine, no direct link between these molecules has to date been explored. Here, we demonstrate that ΔFosB is phosphorylated by CaMKIIα at the protein-stabilizing Ser27 and that CaMKII is required for the cocaine-mediated accumulation of ΔFosB in rat NAc. Conversely, we show that ΔFosB is both necessary and sufficient for cocaine induction of CaMKIIα gene expression in vivo, an effect selective for D1-type MSNs in the NAc shell subregion. Furthermore, induction of dendritic spines on NAc MSNs and increased behavioral responsiveness to cocaine after NAc overexpression of ΔFosB are both CaMKII dependent. Importantly, we demonstrate for the first time induction of ΔFosB and CaMKII in the NAc of human cocaine addicts, suggesting possible targets for future therapeutic intervention. These data establish that ΔFosB and CaMKII engage in a cell-type- and brain-region-specific positive feedforward loop as a key mechanism for regulating the reward circuitry of the brain in response to chronic cocaine.


Research into high energy levels and alcoholism

Research into why people drink excessively, become alcoholics, or simply heavy drinkers with an alcohol problem (if there is such a thing) is a hugely complex area because of the diverse nature of people, alcohol and the effects of alcohol on people.

This piece of research done at Yale, and published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, is potentially very significant because it identifies one of the factors that most alcoholics in recovery would confirm – that alcohol can induce a sense of energy to the brain. In the book Alcoholics Anonymous, a doctor writes something to the effect that alcoholics drink because they like the sensation that alcohol effects within them.

It is certainly true that alcohol can produce a different effect internally on alcoholics that it does not affect on people who are not alcoholics. Understanding what that effect is and how it contributes to the illness of alcoholism is hugely important. This piece of research could make a significant contribution to that evolving debate.

The research is titled

Increased brain uptake and oxidation of acetate in heavy drinkers


‘When a person consumes ethanol, the body quickly begins to convert it to acetic acid, which circulates in the blood and can serve as a source of energy for the brain and other organs. This study used  13C magnetic resonance spectroscopy to test whether chronic heavy drinking is associated with greater brain uptake and oxidation of acetic acid, providing a potential metabolic reward or adenosinergic effect as a consequence of drinking.

Seven heavy drinkers, who regularly consumed at least 8 drinks per week and at least 4 drinks per day at least once per week, and 7 light drinkers, who consumed fewer than 2 drinks per week were recruited. The subjects were administered [2-13C]acetate for 2 hours and scanned throughout that time with magnetic resonance spectroscopy of the brain to observe natural  13C abundance of N-acetylaspartate (NAA) and the appearance of13C-labeled glutamate, glutamine, and acetate.

Heavy drinkers had approximately 2-fold more brain acetate relative to blood and twice as much labeled glutamate and glutamine. The results show that acetate transport and oxidation are faster in heavy drinkers compared with that in light drinkers. Our finding suggests that a new therapeutic approach to supply acetate during alcohol detoxification may be beneficial.’

J Clin Invest. doi:10.1172/JCI65153.

Published March 8, 2013

Full article on The Journal of Clinical Investigation website, click here

For homepage of Graeme mason, lead rsearcher , click here

For the main Yale website, click here


Vispassana in prison

Research looking at the positive effects of a Vispassana course in prison, hold much interest and hope for alcoholics and drug addicts who are prison inmates.

The Practice of Positive Criminology

A Vipassana Course in Prison


Positive criminology  is a new term for a perspective associated with theories and models that relate to socially inclusive, positively experienced influences that assist individuals in desisting or refraining from criminal and deviant behavior. A qualitative phenomenological study of prisoners who were in recovery from substance dependency and who participated in a Vipassana course in a rehabilitative prison introduces features of positive criminology. A total of 22 male prisoners participated in a 10-day Vipassana course run by volunteers in prison. Deep interviews were conducted with participants before, immediately after, and 3 to 4 months after the course. The findings describe components of positive criminology that had meaningful impact on the prisoners in rehabilitation: perceived goodness, positive relationship with the prison staff, positive social atmosphere, and overcoming an ordeal. Implications for practice and further research are outlined.

Reference using The Harvard Reference system:

Ronel N, Frid N, Timor U ( 2013) The Practice of Positive Criminology, A Vispassana course in Prison : International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, Vol 57, No 2, pp133/153

For Full article, click here


Therapeutic programs

Really interesting piece of research by Gila Chen, looking at the effectiveness of different therapeutic programs as part of a process of rehabilitation for recovering addicts.

The research piexe was published in The International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminolgy and was entitled  Social Support, Spiritual Program, and Addiction Recovery.


This study compared personal and emotional modifications of inmates who were recovering addicts and who participated in one of two year-long therapeutic intervention programs, one including social support and experiential spiritual program components (Narcotics Anonymous, NA, meetings and the 12-step course), the other including primarily social support (NA meetings only, without the 12-step program). The hypothesis was that supplementing social support programs with a concrete spiritual program would result in more positive personal and emotional changes. The results seem to support the hypothesis: Inmates participating in the 12-step program demonstrated a higher sense of coherence and meaning in life and a gradual reduction in the intensity of negative emotions (anxiety, depression, and hostility) than those participating in NA meetings without the 12-step program. The research findings demonstrate the importance of the 12-step program as part of a rehabilitation process for drug addicts.

Full reference using the Harvard refering system

Chan G ( 2006) : Social Support, Spiritual Program, and Addiction Recovery. The International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminolgy, vol 50, No3, 306/323

Doi: 1177/0306624×05279038

For Full Article, click here


Quality of life

Hugely important piece of research by Professor Ann Bowling into the measurement of disease specific quality of life scales

Abstract underneath

‘The aim of this volume is to introduce the key literature on the psychometric properties of measures of disease-specific quality of life, including the symptom scales often used alongside them. In addition to updating the reviews published in the first edition of this book, the opportunity has also been taken to include additional scales. These include the Living with Heart Failure Questionnaire; the Heart Failure Questionnaire; the Seattle Angina Questionnaire; the Camberwell Assessment of Need, Quality of Life Enjoyment and Satisfaction Questionnaire; the Quality of Life in DepressionScale; the London Handicap Scale; the Breathing Problems Questionnaire; the Medical OutcomesStudy HIV Health Survey; the McGill Quality of Life Questionnaire; the McGill Nausea Questionnaire; the Support Team Assessment Schedule; and the Kidney Disease Quality of Life Questionnaire.Individualized measures are also included. For example, the Schedule for the Evaluation of Individual Quality of Life and the Patient Generated Index. The final chapter on measurement issuesin the first edition of Measuring Disease has been removed from this edition, as these are coveredmore fully in the author’s Research Methods in Health (Open University Press 1997). ‘

Refernce :

Bowling, A. (1997). Research Methods in Health. (pp. 241–270). Buckingham: Open University  Press.

For full article , click here


Spirituality and Depression

Relationship Between Spirituality and Depressive Symptoms Among Inpatient Individuals Who Abuse Substances

Naelys Diaz

  1.  1. E. Gail Horton
  2.  2. Diane Green1
  3.  3. John McIlveen
  4.  4. Michael Weiner
  5.  5. Donald Mullaney

This study aims to examine the relationship between spirituality and believing in God’s presence and depressive symptoms among 160 inpatient individuals who abuse substances. Findings indicated that both spirituality and believing in God’s presence were significant predictors of depressive symptoms, whereby spirituality was inversely related to depressive symptoms and believing in God’s presence was positively related to depressive symptoms. These findings may have implications for mental health practitioners considering implementation of spiritually based interventions that can develop and strengthen clients’ spirituality.


Counseling and Values

Volume 56,Issue 1-2,pages 43–56,October 2011

For full article and link , click here


Spirituality and Alcoholism

Research – Spirituality and


This is a piece of research by Stephanie Carroll into the relationship between spirituality and a sense of life purpose as realised through recovery from alcoholism and by practising the 12 steps as outlined in the book Alcoholics Anonymous.T

he research focused on spirituality as realised through step 11 and 12 of the AA program, and drew its conclusions at such. The drawback with this approach, is that it ignores the remaining 10 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

The wording of step 12 indicates clearly that the person practising the 12 steps undergoes a spiritual awakening or spiritual experience as the result of practising the 12 steps. Focusing on only two of the steps gives a distorted impression of the recovery process.

The added sense of a life purpose expressing itself through working with other alcoholics could be seen as either a healthy process, in some ways a continuation of a coping mechanism that is inherent in the nature of alcoholism.

Below is a quote summarising the research piece followed by a full reference and link. The research was published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

“This study examines the relationship between spirituality and recovery from alcoholism. Spirituality was defined as the extent of practice of Alcoholics Anonymous Steps 11 and 12 and was measured by a Step Questionnaire developed by the researcher. Step 11 suggests prayer and meditation and Step 12 suggests assistance of other alcoholics. Expressed degree of purpose in life was also seen as a reflection of spirituality. It was postulated that the extent to which Steps 11 and 12 were practiced would be positively correlated with the extent of purpose in life reported by 100 Alcoholics Anonymous members. The major findings of this study are significant positive correlations between practice of Step 11 and purpose in life scores (r = .59, p < .001) and between Step 11 and length of sobriety (r = .25, p < .01). Number of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings attended was significantly correlated with purpose in life scores (r = .24, p < .01) and length of sobriety (r = .25, p < .01). These findings suggest that a sense of purpose in life increases with continuing sobriety and practice of the spiritual principles of Alcoholics Anonymous. (J. Stud. Alcohol 54: 297-301, 1993)”

Reference using the Harvard System

Carroll S (1993) “ Spirituality and Purpose in Life in Alcoholism Recovery ‘ Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, Vol 54, pp 297/301

For link to website click here