This study was the first clinical trial investigating the use of naltrexone for individuals with gambling disorders. Naltrexone is a medication commonly prescribed to reduce alcohol cravings. Dr. Suck Won Kim and his team from the University of Minnesota examined whether naltrexone could be effective and safe in treating pathological gambling. They hypothesized that naltrexone would help decrease the uncontrollable urges to gamble and actual gambling behavior. Their hypothesis was based on previous research indicating that opioids could reduce human urges and influence animal motivation.
The study enrolled thirty participants who met the criteria for pathological gambling. They underwent a one-week single-blind placebo lead-in treatment and a twelve-week double-blind treatment with either naltrexone or a placebo. The study demonstrated that naltrexone effectively reduced cravings and diminished gambling urges. The positive
outcome of the investigation led to a grant of $464,463 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to expand the pilot program.
The findings of this pilot study were published in Biological Psychiatry and International Clinical Psychopharmacology in 2001.