Gambling Addiction Treatment Can Also Help In Treating Alcoholism And Smoking

First Posted: Jan 04, 2017 03:42 AM EST

Researchers at the UBC's Center for Gambling Research have been experimenting on the application of gambling addiction treatment methods in rehabilitation of people with compulsive alcoholism, drug addiction and smoking. Previous experiments have revealed that there is a significant amount of similarities in the neural circuitry involved in the drug addiction and compulsive gambling and drinking behaviors.

According to a research article published in Translational Psychiatry, the insula and nucleus accumbens brain regions that are highly functional during gambling are also the major trigger points of drug addiction cravings, according to

The researchers did a comparative analysis of MRI brain scan images of 19 gambling addicts and 19 healthy control subjects, which captured their brain response when they were shown some neutral as well as gambling related images and videos.

Eve Limbrick-Oldfield, post-doctoral research fellow at UBC, said, "The insula has been identified as a key structure in craving for drugs and alcohol," and that "the insula is also involved in behavioral addictions like problem gambling."

It was found that the gamblers experience heightened feeling of craving while viewing the gambling related images such as gaming preference, roulette wheels and slot machines. According to the report by Ottawa Citizen, the subjects showed increased activity in parts of the frontal cortex and the insula when viewing gambling images when compared to control subjects. "In fact, the higher the craving reported by the subject, the more active the insula was," Limbrick-Oldfield said.

The present studies are focused on estimating the role of naltrexone in the brain activities associated with the craving of gambling in people having a problem of gambling disorder. Limbrick-Oldfield added that, "Naltrexone is mostly used to treat alcohol addiction and it's certainly effective in some people, though it's not universally effective" and that "The same is probably true for gambling disorders."

The naltrexone study records the response of the people suffering with gambling disorders and administered with placebo or naltrexone -- when they are shown the gambling related images to assess the impact of the drug. It is expected that the study will reveal the real time therapeutic impact of gambling addiction treatment methods and their implications in treatment of other addictions such as smoking and alcoholism.

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