Planned Clinical Trial to Explore Psychedelics for Gambling Addiction Treatment

August 15, 2023 14:16:49

Researchers from the Imperial College London’s Center for Psychedelic Research have announced plans to carry out a clinical trial exploring the potential of psychedelics as gambling addiction treatments. After recently studying psychedelics-assisted therapies in treating depression, the center is now looking to investigate whether psilocybin has therapeutic potential against addictions such as gambling.

It will be the first study exploring psychedelics as treatments for addiction and is slated to begin in October 2023 with five participants and a control group. According to the study’s recruitment page, the study’s main aim is to determine how gambling-related activities affect the brain’s reward system. Researchers will also analyze the reward system’s reaction after exposing gambling-addicted men to gambling-related stimuli while using individuals of a similar age without gambling addictions as a control.

The study will be part of a swiftly growing body of literature exploring the therapeutic potential of various psychedelic compounds.

Although federal law classifies psychedelics as CSA Schedule 1 drugs with no medical applications, an increasing number of studies have revealed that the drugs may be able to treat mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, anxiety and depression, Furthermore, some studies have found that psychedelics such as psilocybin may have applications as chronic pain treatments.

Participants in the upcoming clinical trial will have to go through a health screening and an EEG test (electroencephalogram) before the trial begins. Researchers will then dose the participants with psilocybin and take them through gambling tasks or show them gambling-related videos before providing talk therapy.

The research team will use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to follow changes in the study participants’ reward systems. Based on results from prior psychedelic-related findings, psychedelics may be able to treat gambling addictions more effectively than existing treatments.

Rayyan Zafar, PhD, a researcher for the study, explains that current treatment protocols for gambling addictions mostly involve Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with some cases requiring the prescription of off-label naltrexone. Zafar theorized that the similarities between behavioral addictions and substance-use addictions in terms of brain and clinical characteristics make psychedelics a possible treatment because they could target the underlying physiological and psychological mechanisms associated with gambling addictions.

Estimates from show that more than 80% of U.S. adults gamble every year with around three to five gamblers out of every 100 dealing with gambling problems. In addition, data shows that people with alcohol use disorders have a 23-fold risk of becoming addicted to gambling.

Young people aged 20 to 30 years old exhibit the most excessive rates of problem gambling with 75% of college students reporting having gambled within the past 12 months and around 6% of university students struggling with gambling issues.

As more companies such as Seelos Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ: SEEL) also conduct their own trials aimed at developing psychedelics treatments, the world is likely to see widespread use of these substances to treat different ailments in the years to come.

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