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Could Addiction Drug Help Problem Gamblers?

Sat, Dec 22, 8:10am by Ed Scimia

When heroin addicts are in recovery, one of the many drugs that have been used to lower their urges to start using heroin again is naltrexone. Now, a research group wants to try testing the drug on another group with compulsive urges: problem gamblers.

The idea comes from the Problem Gambling Research and Treatment Centre at the University of Melbourne. Since naltrexone has been used previously to treat people with drug an alcohol dependence issues, and it is known that compulsive gambling is based on similar neurological patterns of thought as these issues, researchers hope that it may prove effective in this case as well.

For the first trial, the Treatment Centre is currently looking for nine pathological or problem gamblers to participate in a study – preferably, those who can’t seem to stop playing pokies. Those individuals will then receive daily doses of the drug for 12 weeks. By measuring both activity and urges before, during, and after the use of the drug, researchers hope to get a better idea of the potential effectiveness of the drug as a treatment method.

“Innovative treatments like this have a place in the treatment of problem gambling because problem gambling is a disease like addiction to alcohol and other drugs,” said Greens Senator Richard Di Natale, a leading anti-gambling advocate. “We need to treat the problem with all the tools at our disposal, but we need to remember the most important and the most cost effective way to deal with problem gambling is through prevention.”

Problem gambling has been a hot topic in Australia recently, most notably through the debate over poker machine reform. However, there has been a significant amount of attention paid to the issue of compulsive gambling and other compulsive behaviours from scientists as well, both here and around the world. According to Research fellow Darren Christensen, pathological gambling is expected to be categorized as a behavioural addiction – under the same general heading as substance abuse – by the American Psychiatric Association next year. Given the significant influence of the APA, that categorization of problem gambling could soon become standardized in much of the world.

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