Researchers are studying how a medication used for treating drug and alcohol abuse may also be used to treat gambling addiction. The testing is underway at University Hospitals in Iowa City and at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. Study co-director Dr. Dennis McNeilly (mik-NEE-lee) says pathological gambling is a major problem in the United States.
Dr. McNeilly says: "If we can help people deal with their thinking that’s repetitive or their cravings that they have for gambling through a medication, then we can get them to a point where they can begin to look at, ‘Gee, how has this affected by life and maybe I need to make different kinds of decisions.’"
McNeilly says the drug, known as Campral (KAM-prahl), may not be a cure-all for gambling addiction and he says counseling is still a good idea as a supplement. He says the 12-step program and other cognitive behavioral therapies can be very effective in helping people overcome their addictions.
He says compulsive gamblers receive the same euphoria and excitement that alcoholics get from a drink. Campral is known to block the receptors in the brain that give a pleasurable response to alcohol consumption and diminish the desire to drink. McNeilly is hoping the drug will have the same effect for pathological gamblers. He says gambling can be just as addictive as alcohol. McNeilly says, "It might be compared to, if a person is depressed and they haven’t been sleeping and can’t focus on things, if we can give them a medication that helps them with their depression so they’re sleeping better, they’re focusing better, then they’re in a situation where they can start to make other decisions and say, ‘Well, gee, maybe I’m depressed because of this, or too much stress or whatever.’"
McNeilly, who’s heading up the research at the Omaha location, is president of the National Council on Problem Gambling.
Volunteers are needed for continued study of the drug, both in Iowa City and in the Omaha/Council Bluffs area. For more information, call (402) 552-6005.