Drug May Help Compulsive Gamblers

Maybe gambling should be treated like any other addictive substance. Researchers have found that the same antidepressants typically used to combat addictions to alcohol and drugs can help people who have a compulsion to gamble themselves into poverty.

That report is one of the highlights of this week's science conference at the Westin Diplomat in Hollywood. The annual meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology wraps up today.

After the jump, more on the research about gambling addiction.

The researchers divided a group of compulsive gamblers into two groups, according to the severity of the participant's condition. They then tested for reactions to a variety of antidepressants. From a release posted at Drugs.com:

The first group -- those driven by urge -- responded well to medications that block the brain opioid system (such as naltrexone) or certain receptors for the neurotransmitter glutamate (such as memantine). Gamblers with a family history of the problem responded especially well to the opioid blocker, the study found.

The second group -- those unable to control any impulse to gamble -- responded well to medications that target an enzyme called catechol-O-methyl-transferase (COMT), which plays a major role in the function of the prefrontal cortex.

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