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 reward processing perturbations in nicotine and cannabis addictions. I then worked as a post-doctoral research associate on the KARE clinical trial investigating ketamine as a treatment for alcohol dependence. I have also worked with Professor Adam Winstock on his Global Drug Survey data and with Dr Gill Bedi at Columbia University’s Psychiatric Institute in New York.

Current work

I currently work as a post-doctoral research associate at University College London, in the Clinical Psychopharmacology Unit. I am working on an MRC-funded project which examines whether adolescence represents a vulnerable period for cannabis-related harms. And if teenagers are at greater risk, in which psychological and neural domains does this additional harm manifest itself.

Areas of particular interest

My main interest, and research focus, is teenage cannabis dependence. I am also interested in the neural substrates of drug-related decision-making; theories of addiction; and the application of psychedelic drugs in treating addiction.

Future work

I would like to further investigate the reasons behind teenagers’ greater vulnerability to developing cannabis dependence compared to adults. I would also like to help improve treatment and prevention strategies for teenagers with cannabis use disorder.

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