After it has worked on alcoholics, the drug Naltrexone will be trialled on addictive gamblers! The Australian researches at the University of Melbourne and St Vincent's Hospital are to conduct a clinical experiment: a pill that researchers hope will help problem gamblers to make better decisions.
Naltrexone is designed to dull the euphoria of opiates and therefore lessen cravings for those with addictive behaviours which might help half a million Australians at risk of becoming, or already are, problem gamblers, costing the country around A$ 4.7 billion a year.
The Australian Drug Foundation describes Naltrexone as a prescribed drug which may be used: 1) to help people who have withdrawn (detoxified) from opioids, such as heroin, to stay off drugs; 2) to help people with alcohol dependence to stay off alcohol; 3) as an experimental treatment during rapid withdrawal from opioids.
In pharmacology Naltrexone is classed as an opioid antagonist which blocks the opioid receptors in the brain. Unlike Naltrexone implants, low-dose Naltrexone tablets have been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
The difference between the previous studies into Naltrexone tolerance in problem gamblers and this study is in the fact that this will be the first to measure the effectiveness.
The study is being led by University of Melbourne problem gambling expert, Darren Christensen. It starts with nine problem gamblers who will be administered low-dosage Naltrexone tablets and then given a range of MRI, brain and blood pressure scans to observe the effects of the brain under Naltrexone while they carry out decision-making tasks similar to those when gambling.
"This is a world first, we are giving problem gamblers Naltrexone and scanning their brains pre and post treatment and looking at their urges to gamble and their gambling behaviour," said Christensen.
Addiction medicine expert Professor Jon Currie, observed: "We have to remember that Naltrexone is an absolutely TGA-approved treatment in its tablet form for alcohol and for heroin dependency, so it's fully approved by the Australian government for the treatment.”