New technology could help prevent addicts from giving in to temptation.
This is the conclusion of Frank Ryan, from Birkbeck College who was speaking yesterday, Thursday 11 December, at the Annual Conference of the British Psychological Society's Division of Clinical Psychology, held at the Congress Centre, Great Russell Street, London WC1.
Anyone who has tried to quit smoking or stop drinking will know that the world then seems full of cigarettes and alcohol. Research has shown that this is not just a figment of the imagination, but a common sequel to stopping an addictive habit: triggers for our once favourite drugs seem to jump out at us like a familiar face that pops out in a crowd.
Frank Ryan, chair of the seminar, explained: 'This is known as the "reward radar", it is always on and always detects precisely the triggers someone trying to quit drugs or gambling might want to avoid. Because this happens so fast it is difficult to control.'
In one study described at the conference, a group of 92 excessive drinkers significantly reduced their alcohol intake following specially designed computerised training. This involved learning to divert the focus of attention away from images of their favourite drink. Repeated many times, this simple procedure seems to 'reprogram' how our minds react to the all too familiar images that have the potential to prompt us to drink alcohol or use drugs.
Frank continued; 'These new findings point to the potential to develop a new tool for tackling addictive habits in the clinic or perhaps as a form of self-help.'
This research was funded by Central & North-West London NHS Foundation Trust