Drug commonly used for alcoholism curbs urges of pathological gamblers

June 13, 2008

A drug commonly used to treat alcohol addiction has a similar effect on pathological gamblers – it curbs the urge to gamble and participate in gambling-related behavior, according to a new research at the University of Minnesota.

Seventy-seven people participated in the double-blind, placebo controlled study. Fifty-eight men and women took 50, 100, or 150 milligrams of naltrexone every day for 18 weeks. Forty percent of the 49 participants who took the drug and completed the study, quit gambling for at least one month. Their urge to gamble also significantly dropped in intensity and frequency. The other 19 participants took a placebo. But, only 10.5 percent of those who took the placebo were able to abstain from gambling. Study participants were aged 18 to 75 and reported gambling for 6 to 32 hours each week.

Dosage did not have an impact on the results, naltrexone was generally well tolerated, and men and women reported similar results.

"This is good news for people who have a gambling problem," said Jon Grant, M.D., J.D., M.P.H., a University of Minnesota associate professor of psychiatry and principal investigator of the study. "This is the first time people have a proven medication that can help them get their behavior under control."

The research is published in the June issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

Compulsive gamblers are unable to control their behavior, and the habit often becomes a detriment in their lives, Grant said. He estimates between 1 to 3 percent of the population has a gambling problem.

While the drug is not a cure for gambling, Grant said it offers hope to many who are suffering from addiction. He also said the drug would most likely work best in combination with individual therapy.

"Medication can be helpful, but people with gambling addiction often have multiple other issues that should be addressed through therapy," he said.

Naltrexone is sold under the brand names Revia and Depade. An extended-release formulation is sold under the name Vivitrol.

Source: University of Minnesota

Explore further: Nearly winning is more rewarding in gamblings addicts

Related Stories

Nearly winning is more rewarding in gamblings addicts

April 13, 2016

Pathological gamblers have a stronger brain reaction to so-called near-miss events: losing events that come very close to a win. Neuroscientists of the Donders Institute at Radboud University show this in fMRI scans of twenty-two ...

Slim pickings for two weight-loss drugs?

February 11, 2014

Options are limited in America's battle of the bulge. While diet and exercise can help in the short term, they are frustratingly ineffective in the long run.

Female libido drug remains in limbo (Update)

December 11, 2013

The 15-year search for a pill that boosts sexual desire in women has hit another roadblock, raising questions about the future of efforts to develop a female equivalent to Viagra.

High levels of dopamine may lead to increased risk-taking

July 7, 2015

Boosting levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine can lead to increased risk-taking, according to research published July 8 in the Journal of Neuroscience. Dopamine is involved in reward learning, and previous research has ...

US regulators to discuss 'female Viagra'

June 4, 2015

A drug nicknamed the "female Viagra" because it could help increase women's sex drive, will be discussed for a third time at a meeting of an advisory committee to US regulators Thursday.

Recommended for you

Universal flu vaccine designed by scientists

September 30, 2016

An international team of scientists have designed a new generation of universal flu vaccines to protect against future global pandemics that could kill millions.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.