This Nasal Spray Could Cure Gambling Addiction

A fast-working nasal spray is being tested as a cure for gambling addiction by a group of researchers from Finland, it was announced this week.

A New Weapon Against Gambling Addiction

The spray contains a chemical called naloxone. This is used frequently as an emergency treatment for when individuals have overdosed on drugs such as heroin, morphine, and opium. It is now seen as a potential cure for addiction to gambling.

It works by acting as a blocker against the production of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is linked to creating the emotion of pleasure. It has been medically associated with playing a key role in addictive behavior in individuals.

Professor of addiction medicine at the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki, Hannu Alho, said, “The spray goes to the brain in a few minutes so it’s very useful for a gambler … if you crave gambling, just take the spray.”

The National Institute for Health and Welfare logo
Image Credit: mc3.sk

The Nasal Spray Study

The researchers involved in carrying out the tests for the nasal spray are on the hunt for 130 volunteers. 30 participants have already come forward to take part in the research already and it is being labelled as the first experiment of its kind.

Half of the test subjects will be required to use the treatment for a period of three months. The other half will be given a placebo treatment for the same period of time.

Previous research has shown encouraging signs that the nasal spray could prove effective. A prior experiment using a pill showed signs of success. Unfortunately, the time delay between the pill being taken and being absorbed made it redundant. It is hoped a faster-working nasal spray will have be more efficient.

Due to gambling addicts generally suffering from spontaneous and impulsive urges to gamble, the treatment needs to be effective immediately. Otherwise it fails to complete its task of preventing the addicts from gambling.

Alho stated, “The urge to gamble is a very impulsive one. The need comes on very quickly. It could take up to an hour for a pill to work… But then we got this idea to dilute the medicine in water and develop a nasal spray. We assume it will work quickly.”

He added, “We studied the response rate at the University of Turku, and yes, it did seem to work in the space of just a few minutes.”

Hannu Alho, a professor of addiction medicine
Image Credit: yle.fi

In theory, it is hoped that the nasal spray will allow an individual to deal with any urges to gamble with immediate action. Hypothetically, if a player was drawn to a slot machine then they could take the nasal spray and the desire to gamble on the slot machine would quickly disappear.

Gambling Addiction – A Global Pandemic?

The issue of gambling addiction is one that is increasingly becoming more of a concern across the globe. In Finland, a report showed that 2.7% of citizens in Finland between the ages of 15 and 74 were suffering from a degree of gambling addiction.

In the UK, a similar report by the UK Gambling Commission revealed that more than 2 million people were either addicted to gambling or were at severe risk of becoming addicted to gambling.

Las Vegas slot machines
Image Credit: en.wikipedia.org

The statistics are just as alarming for US citizens. A report discovered that up to 15 million Americans are considered to be at risk of developing a gambling addiction. The fact that this is in a country that has largely outlawed online gambling is a particularly worrying concern.

The nasal spray experiment is anticipated to start later this month and the entirety of the research is expected to last for a 12 to 18 months. If successful, Alho’s team will look to research the impact of the nasal spray on alcohol addiction.