Dr Will Lawn


I studied Natural Sciences (Experimental Psychology) at the University of Cambridge and then completed a PhD at University College London, supervised by Professor Val Curran and Professor Celia Morgan. My PhD examined drug and non-drug reward processing alterations in nicotine and cannabis dependence.

I then worked as a post-doctoral research associate on a clinical trial investigating ketamine as a treatment for alcohol dependence (KARE). Subsequently, I co-ordinated a 4-year MRC-funded project which examined whether adolescence represents a vulnerable period for cannabis-related harms (CannTeen). Then I moved to KCL to work with Prof Sir John Strang on a project about the use of wearable devices to detect opioid overdose.

Current work

I now work as a lecturer in the Department of Psychology at KCL. I run the Addictions 3rd year module as well as continuing my active research interests.

Areas of particular interest

My main research areas: adolescent cannabis addiction, the use of wearable devices to detect opioid overdose, the relationships between reward processing and addictive drug use, and the use of ketamine in the treatment of addiction.

Substance-linked sex in homosexual, heterosexual and bisexual men and women: an online, international, self-selecting survey

Aims: Use of alcohol and drugs in sexual contexts has received increasing attention recently, although this has often been restricted to men who have sex with men. We aimed to explore use of licit and illicit substances in sexualised settings  –  referred to as ‘ substance-linked sex ‘ (SLS) – in homosexual, heterosexual and bisexual men and women.

Methods: An international online self-selecting cross-sectional survey: the Global Drug Survey (GDS) 2013 (n=22,289). Respondents were asked about: which drugs they had had sex on; frequency of enhancing sex with drugs; and how different drugs changed the sexual experience.

Results: SLS occurred across sexual orientations, in both men and women. All groups reported alcohol, cannabis and MDMA were the most commonly used drugs with sex. Homosexual men reported using poppers, Viagra, methamphetamine, GHB/GBL and mephedrone with sex more than other groups. Homosexual men also reported using drugs or alcohol with the specific intent of enhancing the sexual experience (45%) the most; heterosexual women reported this practice the least (20%). There were clear dissociations between the effects of different drugs on different aspects of the sexual experience; although GHB/GBL and MDMA were rated consistently highly.

Conclusions: All groups reported SLS to some degree. Homosexual men tended to report these practices more than other groups. Alcohol, cannabis and MDMA were most commonly used with sex across groups. ‘ Chemsex ‘ drugs were most commonly used by homosexual men. An understanding of the pleasures associated with SLS should inform harm reduction strategies.


Co-authors (who will not be presenting) Ms Alexandra Aldridge – Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom Mr Richard Xia – Substance Use Research Centre, New York State Psychiatric Institute, University of Columbia, New York, USA Dr Adam Winstock – Institute of Epidemiology & Health, University College London, London, United Kingdom

Conflicts of interest:

Adam Winstock is the founder of the Global Drug Survey