Could Naltrexone Treat Gambling Addiction?

Gambling addiction can be as destructive as any of the more well recognized addictions that people struggle with. Betting shops on every high street can make life difficult for those in recovery. New evidence indicates that a drug could help in controlling the impulse to place a bet.New guidelines have been released from the Monash University in Australia which suggest that gambling addiction should now be treated as a medical condition. It is thought that about 2% of the population have an addiction to gambling and that the new guidelines may offer more help whilst making drugs such as naltrexone available to those suffering.  Naltrexone is more commonly known for its use in helping drug addicts recover from substance abuse.

Shane Thomas, Director of the Problem Gambling Research and and Treatment centre at the university said, "You have in the body overproduction of endogenous opioids, so in the brain, and what happens is that this leads to reductions in impulse control. Now what Naltrexone does effectively is to block that and to improve the extent of impulse control."

Other drugs such as anti-depressants have been used in the past when trying to help individuals with gambling addictions but they were not found to be beneficial. Professor Thomas believes more research is needed and said, "The body of evidence is not as strong as the others, but there's, you know, some promising indications. So our recommendation is that this is definitely the subject of further research to determine the effectiveness, I think the current evidence is in favour of psychological therapies, you know, we have more and stronger evidence for that. You know, people are often very interested in the use of pharmacological agents for treatment of conditions because they hope it'll be, sort of the golden bullet, you know, that we can take a pill and cure or attend to these problems. But actually we already have effective therapies in the psychological therapies. So I think that's where we should focus our current attention and focus our research attention on the pharmacological agents in the future."

The team of researchers at the university led by Professor Thomas studied 13,000 papers on gambling addiction and discovered that medical help both psychological and with the use of drugs heightened the chance of recovery for problem gamblers when compared to those who tried self help therapies and online programmes.

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