A wide range of drugs may help gambling addicts to get rid of the disorder, suggests a psychiatrist.
Pathological gambling addiction, like any other addiction, affects both the individual and society, and often leads to suicide, job loss, and criminal behaviour. It affects more men than women and can become worse over time.
Scientists have found that a wide range of drugs can be effective for treating this disorder in the short term, including Naltrexone, used to treat alcohol addiction.
Psychiatrist Prof. Pinhas Dannon of Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine is recommending an extended treatment regimen for optimal results.
For best success in kicking the gambling habit, Dannon says, drug therapy with Naltrexone should last for at least two years and be complemented with other treatments, including group therapy.
Earlier studies reported that after six months of treatment, a majority of the gamblers would not go back to gambling. Dannon believes that a longer course of treatment is more effective.
"The initial results were too optimistic," Dannon said.
His data indicates that a drug regimen lasting two years keeps 80 percent of gamblers "gamble-free" over a four-year period. By contrast, only 30 percent of gamblers who were treated over a six-month period remained gamble-free four years later.
Dannon said the preliminary study, conducted in 2006 and 2007, was encouraging, but for long-term effectiveness gambling addicts need to stick out a course of treatment for at least two years in order for Naltrexone to work most efficiently.
Complementary treatments such as group therapy and regular attendance at Gamblers' Anonymous meetings can also help the addict lead a healthier, gambling-free life.
"Gambling addiction is a chronic disorder. We need much more time to treat these patients. They require careful monitoring and holistic treatments over the longer term to avoid relapse," Dannon concluded.
Dannon presented preliminary results from his new clinical findings at the EPA 2011: 19th European Congress of Psychiatry this March.