Nasal Spray the Cure for Problem Gambling?

Researchers in Finland testing nasal spray to curb gambling addiction.

Nasal Spray to Curb Gambling AddictionImagine taking a deep breath of air, and within moments your urge to gamble subsides? That’s what researchers in Finland are hoping for. According to recent reports, clinical trials are going to be run on a nasal spray for gambling addicts.

A group of Finand’s finest scientific researchers are looking into the effects of a drug known as naloxone. It comes in a nasal spray, and has been in use to treat opiate overdoses for the last three years.

The naloxone spray is fast-acting, and targets the brain within minutes of inhalation. Nalaxone blocks to release of dopamine in the system; a chemical that triggers the pleasure sensors in the human body. The nasal spray has been an effective tool in treating opiate overdoses of heroin, morphine and opium.

Studying a Cure for Gambling Addiction

Hannu Alho is a professor of addiction medicine at the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki. As he explains it, this new nasal spray treatment could provide immediate relief for problem gamblers whenever the compulsion arises.

“The spray goes to the brain in a few minutes so it’s very useful for a gambler,” says Alho. “If you crave gambling, just take the spray.”

The plans are all drawn up, but the researchers still need subjects. They’re currently seeking 130 volunteers to participate in the study. All of the chosen subjects must have an existing gambling problem. The study will begin next week, and continue for one year. Half of the volunteers will receive the naloxone nasal spray, the other half a placebo, for a period of three months.

Alho is particularly excited about the upcoming research, as it will be “the first of its kind globally to use nasal spray.” The professor says studies have been conducted in the past using a pill form of a medicine akin to naloxone. Those results of those studies were beneficial to patients, but he notes that it took at least one hour for the pill’s effect to kick in.

US FDA Approval of Naloxone for Opiates

In 2015, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) previously conducted studies on the use of naloxone nasal spray for opiate addiction. In those studies, it was proven that the nasal spray acted just as quickly as an intramuscular injection, and that the same level of the drug, if not more, was absorbed into the body.

Based on those findings, the FDA approved nalaxone kits for distribution. The kits have since been instrumental in the instant treatment of opiate overdoses. Alho is confident that blocking the body’s production dopamine will be just as useful to curb gambling addiction.

“Gambling is a very impulsive behaviour,” says Alho. He explains that, when a gambling addict feels the urge, it doesn’t come on slowly. “The need to gamble starts right away,” he says.

“For this reason we are seeking a medication with a quick effect,” Alho says. Naloxone could very well be the answer researchers all over the world have spent years looking for, because “the nasal spray acts in just a few minutes.”

A recent population survey conducted in Finland suggests that 2.7% of the country’s residents aged 15 to 74 (approximately 110,000) are suffering from some level of problem gambling.

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