Grant is about to launch a clinical trial of nalmefene, a drug to treat gambling addiction. It is the second large clinical study of the drug that he will be conducting.
BAM What does nalmefene do?
Grant It’s an opiate antagonist. It blocks opiate receptors—the things in the brain that process pleasure. At the same time it works indirectly on the chemical dopamine, which is involved in the processing of urges or cravings.
BAM Is it a cure?
Grant I think it’s going to go a long way. Most who take this type of medication say they no longer have a desire to engage in their addiction. If they do gamble, they tend to say it doesn’t feel the same. They can go home after half an hour.
BAM Do the patients need therapy too?
Grant The drug alone can often help with the gambling problem. But for most people, a gambling addiction affects their families, their self-esteem, their ability to function at work. Those problems won’t be answered by a pill. So you want therapy as part of any responsible treatment.
BAM How common is gambling addiction?
Grant About 4 percent of adults have some problem with gambling. It tends to be on the increase, maybe due to more availability. Internet gambling is very accessible. There are more problems now with gambling among adolescents and our elderly. And there is currently no medication approved by the FDA for treatment. A lot of physicians don’t know what to offer people.