Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Chocolate as Addictive as Heroin?

Multiple studies find that typical sweets like chocolate or cookies can be as addictive as cocaine or morphine. So is chocolate the gift that keeps on giving or is it merely hysteria?

A university of Michigan study found that chocolate locks a rodent’s brain into an addictive cycle of addiction, joy and despair, much like other addictive drugs. Rats fed M&Ms produced a naturally occurring opioid-receptor binding compound called enkephalin which binds to similar reward pathways in the neostriatum area of the brain as opiates like heroin. The neostriatum region is linked to food and drug addiction in humans. When these same rats were given an opioid injection to this area of the brain, they proceeded to eat double the amount of M&Ms as previously. Even exposing a human food or drug addict test subject to photographs of their desired “fix” will stimulate the neostriatum, so this particular study shows a strong correlation between addiction and the enkephalin receptor site to be valid.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Another non-invasive “maze” study conducted by Connecticut College revealed that rats chose the cookie side of the maze as often as they chose the cocaine side. Later when the researchers “used immunohistochemistry to measure the expression of a protein called c-Fos, a marker of neuronal activation, in the brain’s ‘pleasure center,’” they discovered that “the Oreos activated significantly more neurons than cocaine or morphine.”

Researchers at the University of Tampere in Finland found that people who identified themselves as chocolate addicts salivated more profusely when exposed to chocolate, as well as showing elevated levels of anxiety.

Chocolate undoubtedly contains biologically active ingredients that have the potential to stimulate behaviours and psychological sensations similar to other addictive substances. It must be pointed out however that so does broccoli. In fact broccoli possesses these chemicals in higher concentrations than chocolate and few people, if any, would claim an addiction to broccoli. This would suggest that smell, texture, taste and possibly other cultural phenomenon, together with hormonal and mood swings play an important role in chocolate cravings.

A balanced view of the whole nature vs nurture and how it relates to chocolate cravings would take a holistic view. Massive advertising budgets and glossy chocolate displays compete with size zero expectations and swirl around in a world full of the stresses of modern living. We seek comfort, often in the form of food, then punish ourselves with restrictive diets and administer lashings of guilt when we fail to achieve our perception of perfection. To make matters worse, when we restrain our inner chocolate cravings before we are satisfied we inadvertently increase our desire for more chocolate, creating a viscous cycle of reward and guilt.

Top 10 tips to control chocolate cravings

  1. Replace chocolate with healthy snacks. Eat less more frequently to balance out blood sugar levels.
  2. Avoid those “trigger events” that you naturally associate with consuming sugar/chocolate.
  3. Cut back on coffee. The crash is inevitable and will require yet another “pick me up”.
  4. Identify whether your cravings are actually related to emotional/comfort/self-esteem issues and take action accordingly.
  5. Avoid boredom. Go for a walk, call a friend or read a book to take your mind off cravings.
  6. Increase exercise levels to burn calories and release helpful endorphins.
  7. Apply a ten minute rule to satisfying cravings. Give yourself ten minutes to come up with a better plan.
  8. Avoid the food/consumption/guilt/over consumption wheel of pain. If you blow your plan the worst thing you can do is to eat another tub of ice cream as punishment. You already know how that ends.
  9. Ban chocolate from the house if necessary.
  10. Explore the world of natural healthy treats like yogurt and honey. Get a recipe book and get inspired!


Research Shows Cocaine And Heroin Are Less Addictive Than Oreos

Is Chocolate as Addictive as Heroin?

Control Your Cravings for Good

The Peril of Palatability


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Study: Nicotine Changes Marijuana’s Effect On Brain

New research is changing the way that science evaluates marijuana’s effects on the brain. Until now, marijuana research tended to neglect tobacco users from the research studies.  However, a study just completed at the Cognitive Neuroscience of Addictive Behaviors at the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas may change all that.  New results demonstrate significant differences between the brains of those who use both cannabis and tobacco and those who only smoke cannabis.

“Approximately 70% of individuals who use marijuana also use tobacco,” according to Francesca Filbey, Ph.D., the study’s principal investigator and Director of Cognitive Neuroscience of Addictive Behaviors at the Center for BrainHealth. “Our findings exemplify why the effects of marijuana on the brain may not generalize to the vast majority of the marijuana using population, because most studies do not account for tobacco use. This study is one of the first to tease apart the unique effects of each substance on the brain as well as their combined effects.”

The hippocampus is that part of the brain associated with learning and memory. It tends to be smaller in marijuana smokers compared to non-using control subjects. In non-users, the size of the hippocampus has a direct relationship to memory: the smaller the hippocampus, the worse the memory function of the test subject. So far so good, however users who smoked marijuana and tobacco together demonstrated an inverse relationship between hippocampus size and memory. In their case, the smaller the hippocampus, the better for their memory and learning functions. The role of nicotine in the relationship was directly proportional to hippocampal size. The more tobacco was smoked alongside marijuana, the smaller the hippocampul volume and better the memory performance. Most interestingly, there were no significant  associations between hippocampul size in individuals who only use tobacco or only use marijuana on its’ own.

Scientists have always been aware of the physiological affects of tobacco and marijuana but now they are becoming interested in the compound interactions between the two. For now, the study may offer hope for users who fear their marijuana use has done permanent or irreparable damage to their memories. Don’t throw in the towel or give up hope just yet!

Gladstones Clinic has a specialist cannabis detox and cannabis rehab programme that successfully empowers clients to break their addiction to cannabis.


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An Invitation To Our Annual Reunion

Attention all former clients and their family members:

Gladstones Clinic cordially invites you to attend our annual reunion!

Saturday 10th October, 2015

Location: The new Gladstones Clinic Cotswolds

annual gladstones clinic reunion invitation

This is an R.S.V.P. event

Please contact to confirm participation

Click this link for directions to Gladstones Clinic Cotswolds

We very much look forward to seeing you all there!

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Eternal Sunshine Of An Addict’s Mind?

Gladstones Clinic always endeavors to stay up-to-date on the latest scientific studies and research into addiction and recovery. Sometimes new findings look promising, and other times, like the following recently published study, they look decidedly disturbing. Have a read and decide for yourself.

Most people are familiar with the cult-classic 2004 film “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” starring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet. In the film, Carrey and Winslet’s characters go to extreme lengths to get over a difficult break-up. Eventually they opt to have their memories of the entire relationship mechanically and permanently erased in order to move on. Madcap non-linear cinematic hilarity ensues as the characters inevitably discover that some memories, even painful ones, are best left alone to do their jobs.

Back in the real world, research conducted at the Department of Neuroscience at The Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Florida and just published in this month’s Molecular Psychiatry  has revealed a method of using a specific chemical to wipe away memories. And they claim that the new procedure will only suppress memories of drug use.

“The idea is that someone would go into a rehab program with the typical abstinence therapies and while they are in the treatment program they would receive this medication one time and it should remove all of the associations with the drug,” said Courtney A. Miller, Associate Professor in the Department of Neuroscience at The Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Florida.

These researchers are convinced that reducing memory invoked “triggers” will reduce relapses that can occur one to three months into recovery. They are also certain that they can show that addiction memories are different to ordinary memories and so can be excised from the brain safely..

“Memories that are storing associations with drugs like methamphetamine seem to be using different mechanisms in the brain than other, more mundane memories,” “When the [meth] memory is sort of sitting there in the brain it’s behaving differently than other memories.” according to Miller. This would allow that memory to be safely dumped.

Strategies to reduce triggers are certainly welcome, however we do wonder just how certain any one can be when declaring that memories of one’s first kiss differ enough from one’s memory of drug use that the latter could be safely targeted by a hunter-seeker chemical while ignoring the first kiss memory completely.

“The findings here are real game changers,” Gary S. Lynch, professor of psychiatry and human behavior at University of California School of Medicine, told Discovery News. “What this points to is a completely new strategy for treatment of addiction. For the past 10 years there have been many challenges to the notion that memories are cemented in. But this study shows that memory really is still a dynamic, malleable business and that there can be another way of dealing with dependency.”

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Intellectual pursuits protect against addiction

Intellectual Stimulation A Defense Against Addiction?

A new study recently conducted by the University Of California, Berkely challenges the assumption that addiction is hard-wired in the brain. In short – the study indicated that even a short time spent in a stimulating learning environment could rewire the brain’s reward system and protect it against cocaine addiction. If correct, this would negate any assumption that addiction is a hereditary destiny or foregone conclusion.

Let’s have a look at the actual study: Scientists at Berkely tracked the cocaine cravings of around 70 adult mice. They noticed that those mice that had a daily routine that included exploration of their environment and learning how to find hidden and tasty treats were less likely than their enrichment-deprived neighbors to seek out the “cocaine chamber.” Those mice who’s activities and diets were artificially restricted or were not intellectually challenged were eager to return to the source of their cocaine “fix.”

A quote from the actual study report: “We have compelling behavioral evidence that self-directed exploration and learning altered their reward systems so that when cocaine was experienced it made less of an impact on their brain,” said Linda Wilbrecht, assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at UC Berkeley and senior author of the paper just published in the journal, Neuropharmacology.

Studies previous to this have often found that poverty, trauma, mental illness and other environmental and physiological factors can alter the brain’s naturally occurring reward circuitry and lead to higher instances of substance abuse in individuals.

Quoting Dr Wilbrecht again: “Our data are exciting because they suggest that positive learning experiences, through education or play in a structured environment, could sculpt and develop brain circuits to build resilience in at-risk individuals, and that even brief cognitive interventions may be somewhat protective and last a relatively long time,” Wilbrecht said.

From this study, the results suggest that that introverted, anti-social, stimulation-deprived mental and physical environments may be associated with an increased vulnerability to drug seeking behavior. The study also suggests that mentally and socially stimulating environments offer at least some protection against addiction.

Of course, these results come as no surprise to those who work in the field of addiction on a daily basis. In fact, clients who successfully complete the detox and primary care phases of drug and alcohol rehab are encouraged to seek stimulating and socially supportive aftercare environments to encourage and increase the likelihood of long-term and permanent sobriety.

The study also suggests that the same would apply as a preventative measure with young people who should be encouraged to seek out healthy and stimulating activities rather than being left in a deprived environment with too much time on their hands. That old adage that “idle hands are the devil’s workshop” may have been based on simple country wisdom that are now being validated by science.


University of California – Berkeley. “Intellectual pursuits may buffer brain against addiction: Study finds that mice who were intellectually stimulated were less likely to seek a cocaine high.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 July 2015. <>.
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Alcohol Abuse Costs Britain £20 Billion A Year

A report just released by the UK government puts the total cost of alcohol abuse in Britain at a staggering £20 billion per year. That’s right, when you total all the hidden costs of alcohol on the national economy and divide it by the total population of 64 million, it comes to just over £312 per person. Here are some of the data points:

  • 17 million work days lost to hangovers – costing employers £6.4 billion per year
  • Cleaning up alcohol related crime – £7.3 billion
  • 1 in 26 hospital “bed days” occupied by alcohol related illness. 4/10 casualty visits alcohol related, rising to 7/10 at weekends after pub closing time
  • Hidden “social costs” tagged at £6 billion per year (1.2 million cases of alcohol related violence per year, 16year olds drinking twice as much as 10 tears ago)
  • 40% of men and 22% of women binge drink

Home Office Minister Hazel Blears is calling for better education about the dangers of alcohol. She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

“I think young people will say to you that we get lots of information about drugs but perhaps we don’t get as much information about alcohol as we really need to get,” “We have got to try to get into a culture that the whole of our entertainment isn’t just about alcohol. It should be about the theatre, about cinema, about bowling – about a range of things.”

Ministers intend to draw up a strategy to combat the above problems and they intend to implement it next year. Observers have noted that a great deal of money may need to be thrown at the problem. “The recently-announced £250 million Smirnoff vodka revamp represents more than double the amount spent on alcohol treatment and counselling services across the country,” said chief executive Eric Appleby of Charity Alcohol Concern.

Because alcohol consumption is seen as such a “normal” part of life in Britain, it is easy to lose site of the bigger picture. Brits regularly consume levels of alcohol that leave their European neighbours shaking their heads in disbelief. And they tend to drink purely for the purpose of getting plastered, rather than as part of a cultural evening surrounded by food, culture and family.

The government may have a tall order to deliver, considering the imbedded cultural differences between Europe and the UK, but the intended lessons to be learned may well be worth the attempt. Let’s hope that any increases in funding are spent wisely on both education and treatment.

If you are concerned that either you or a loved one has crossed the line from alcohol abuse into alcohol dependency (alcoholism) feel free to get in touch on the number below. Our residential alcohol detox and rehab programmes are highly successful and have helped hundreds of people to kick their bad habit for good

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Internet Addicts & Screen Zombies

Despite the growing anecdotal evidence that children and young people in the West spend far too much time in front of their game consoles and video media screens, little, if anything is being done to either assess the risks or adopt a policy of discretionary caution in the mean time.  A 2013 policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics cited the following alarming statistics from a Kaiser Family Foundation study in 2010: “The average 8 to 10-year-old spends nearly eight hours a day with a variety of different media, and older children and teenagers spend more than 11 hours per day.”

11 hours of electronic stimuli per day as opposed to thousands of years of human evolution based upon physical activity, mental imagination skills and social interactions must surely have an affect on individuals and society of some kind mustn’t it?

Studies Reveal Very Real Dangers

According to a recent study reported in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, teenagers who devote hours a day to playing violent video games or watching violent shows on television have been found to be more aggressive in general and more likely to fight with their peers and get into troubles at school.

Another aspect of sedentary video game and electronic media addiction is the correlation between lack of physical activity and childhood and youth obesity. Factor in high fat and high sugar fast and convenience foods to this couch-bound youth cocktail and it doesn’t take a degree in rocket science to start worrying about the future health of the nation’s young people.

Texting could well be the next national epidemic, with half of US teenagers sending 50 or more text messages a day and those aged 13 through 17 averaging 3,364 texts a month, according to a 2012 study by Amanda Lenhart of the Pew Research Center.

Only China has taken the step to label the condition of internet addiction an actual clinical disorder. Not surprisingly, they have also taken a somewhat extreme approach to treatment of the individual and their affliction. For those interested, next week the US station PBS will be airing a documentary called Web Junky on Daxing Boot Camp, a center in Beijing that offers treatment to young addicts.

Gladstones Clinic is well aware of the risks and dangers of addiction to electronic media. To be fair, adults are equally at risk of addiction as young persons, but young people have had less time to establish their identities and so their risks may well be greater.


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Afghan poppy farmer

Cold Turkey & Shackles

In Uruzgan, a rural province in southern Afghanistan, a private home is the only drug rehabilitation clinic in the entire, impoverished southern region. Considering that a recent US study suggests that up to 11% of the Afghan population use drugs and that this year’s opium crop is supposed to break all previous records, it seems fair to wonder if western NGO’s and governments are doing their fair share to help.

A patient in ankle shackles waits for treatment with others at the drug rehabilitation centre in Tarin Kot. Photograph: Andrew Quilty/Oculi

Photograph: Andrew Quilty/Oculi

The only drug rehab clinic in Uruzgan is run by Hamidullah Bawari, who opened his home to addicts three years ago. Despite having only four days of rudimentary training from the Afghan ministry of counter narcotics, Bawari felt compelled to open his clinic after Save The Children recently closed the only rehab clinic in the region after treating nearly 500 patients free of charge. Jennifer El-Sibai, spokesperson for Save the Children, says that the closure was an indirect result of aid cuts in Australia which funded the clinic.

Treatment at Bawari’s clinic costs $100 a month and some might find the treatment model to be rather basic, but patients agree that it is effective and necessary. Upon arrival, they are shaved and placed in leg shackles to prevent escape. “If we didn’t have chains on, we would escape like this,” says patient Agha Shahi as he snaps his fingers. Treatment mainly consists of pain killers purchased from a local pharmacy, and a cold turkey philosophy which even bans cigarettes. For anyone familiar with the drug detox experience it is easy to see why the chains are necessary, as giving up the tobacco and the opium at once must surely require some form of monumental strength or at least an inability to do anything about obtaining that fix in the first place.

While many westerners might find the idea of a drug rehab shackling its’ clients to be a bridge too far, there can be no doubting that there is simply no other option for some addicts in the poorest regions of the world. It would  also be fortuitous if westerners were able to apply pressure on their regional governments and NGO’s to contribute more towards organisations like Save The Children who were forced to depart for lack of funding.


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A quick word of warning. Some of you might find the following news alarming or even slightly scary. Especially if you fall into the category of a long-term alcohol dependent person or alcoholic.

89377_web-217x300A joint study between scientists from the Department of Psychotherapy at the University of Bonn Hospital and colleagues from the UK reveals that alcoholic patients die earlier than non addicts. And they die quite a bit earlier too. Almost 8 years earlier than their sober peers in fact. That’s nearly a decade trimmed off the life a victim of alcohol dependency.

The study happens to be a long-term observational study conducted over a 12 year period. 23,371 alcoholic patients were compared against a control group of 233,710 randomly selected patients who were not alcohol dependent.

The research team used statistics gathered from seven general hospitals in Manchester UK. The data clearly showed a correlation between alcohol dependency and multiple physical illnesses and morbidities. The data also showed that alcoholics treated in Manchester’s hospitals for health problems died an average of 7.6 years earlier than non-alcohol dependent patients.

27  Physical Illnesses Occur More Often in Alcoholics

The study results show that 27 physical illnesses occur at a higher frequency in alcoholics. The most affected conditions relate to the liver, pancreas, digestive tract and nervous system. The data did reveal one ray of sunshine for alcoholics however. Incidence of heart attacks and cataracts were lower than the control group.

More Screening and Quicker Application of Therapies

Conclusions drawn from the study  are that alcohol dependent patients must be treated at an earlier stage. There must be an increased awareness of multiple physical consequences in alcohol dependents. Diligent screening for both mental and physical illness in patients affected by alcohol dependency must be aware of the link between alcohol and multiple health issues and these must be addressed as a whole and not as separate parts.

Reach Out For Help Now

If you or a loved one are suffering from alcohol dependence consider seeking help before the long-term consequences to health set in. It’s never too late or too early to seek advice and begin your journey back to sobriety.


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Is The Scottish Methadone Programme Out of Control?

Methadone Dispensing Increases in Scotland

Methadone-245x300Whatever is going on up in Scotland? Despite a general trend of decreasing drug use throughout the UK, the Scottish government handed out 22,980 more prescriptions of methadone in 2014 than they did in 2013. A staggering 470,000 doses costing the tax payer more than £17.9 million disappeared into what Dr Neil McKeganey from the Centre for Drug Misuse Research called “literally a black hole into which people are disappearing.”

Community Safety Minister Paul Wheelhouse told the BBC: “Fewer Scots are taking drugs – numbers are continuing to fall amongst the general adult population, and drug taking among young people is the lowest in a decade.” So how to explain the methadone increases?

Data obtained from National Services Scotland under a freedom of information request may hold an answer. The number of methadone prescriptions increased in more than a third of all Scottish local authorities in the period covering the last two years. The largest increases were found in  Renfrewshire, Inverclyde and East Ayrshire.

Methadone has been central to drug treatment strategies since the 1980’s. Despite widespread criticism by recovering addicts and drugs workers it is by far the most widely used opioid replacement therapy. Most recipients take it for years without being weaned off it altogether.

Some doctors like Dr Neil McKeganey fear that the long-term approach to prescribing methadone must be re-looked at. He believes that methadone has a role to play in helping the addict to wean themselves off heroin, but it should not be so widely prescribed, or for so long as it is now. He says that a two year assessment period would be ideal. If the “highly addictive” methadone isn’t getting the addict to quit after two years they could either try the more expensive suboxone or be admitted to a drug-free residential heroin rehab facility to kick the habit.

Figures released by the NHS in 2012 show that methadone-implicated deaths increased dramatically in cases where the addict had been prescribed methadone therapy for more than a year. This lends weight to the call for a timed review and reassessment evaluation to determine whether the methadone use is leading to decreased use or merely parking the addict on an endless cycle of addictive prescriptions.

Gladstones Clinic has a policy of complete abstinence from drugs during the primary treatment phase of heroin rehab. Our clients need to be sober and fully functionally aware in order to benefit from the intense group and one-to-one therapy sessions. Intensive psychoanalysis, cognitive behavioral therapy and complementary therapies work best when the individual receiving treatment is 100% involved in their recovery. For these reasons we do not prescribe methadone therapy to any of our clients. Our goal is to eliminate addiction, not redirect it to another unhealthy addiction.



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