Gambling Addiction Treatment, Compulsive Gambling

A common amino acid dietary supplement may help fight pathological gambling addictions, a new study suggests.

Pathological gambling (also called compulsive gambling) occurs when individuals are unable to control their gambling behaviors. These individuals thrive on the thrill and excitement of gambling, rather than the actual winnings. Individuals who are addicted to gambling will go to extreme lengths, which may include lying, stealing, cheating, or fraud, to perpetuate their addictions when money is scarce.

Researchers from the Department of Psychiatry from the University of Minnesota School of Medicine explained that although pathological gambling is relatively common, pharmacotherapy research for the condition is limited.

N-acetyl cysteine, an amino acid, seems to restore extracellular glutamate concentration in the nucleus accumbens, which is often associated with reward in the brain, and therefore offers promise in reducing addictive behavior.

Twenty-seven subjects (12 women and 15 men) with DSM-IV pathological gambling were treated in an eight-week open-label trial with n-acetyl cysteine. The participants were randomly chosen to receive either n-acetyl cysteine or placebo for six weeks.

The researchers found that 60 percent of the participants reported having less urges to gamble. Additionally, 13 out of the 16 participants who responded to the amino acid the first time around agreed to continue in the double-blind study for an additional six weeks.

Of these, about 83 percent who received the supplement continued to report fewer urges to gamble, and nearly 72 percent of those who took the placebo went back to gambling.