Awakn Life Sciences is set to launch a ‘first of its kind’ human study in the UK to explore if ketamine can be used to treat gambling addiction.
Gambling is a serious issue globally with rates of addiction increasing. In a survey commissioned by the GambleAware charity, YouGov estimated that up to 2.7% of adults in Great Britain, or nearly 1.4 million people, were problem gamblers. At present, there are no licensed pharmacological treatments of gambling disorders available and the need to find a new treatment has never been more important.
The study, led by Celia Morgan, PhD, Professor of Psychopharmacology at the University of Exeter, will investigate a new treatment approach for gambling addiction, tackling both the urge to gamble and the “superstitious thinking” that accompanies gambling. The study will explore whether ketamine administration can modify the reward memories associated with gambling.
Professor Morgan said, “This study is an exciting first step toward a new treatment for gambling disorder, and one which will give new insights into the neurobiology of this damaging and often overlooked addiction, we are delighted that Awakn is able to take the lead in developing solutions to address this growing unmet treatment need.”
Awakn opened the UK’s first ketamine assisted psychotherapy clinic in Bristol in March 2021, providing alternative treatments for anxiety, depression, PTSD, and eating disorders. This study forms part of Awakn’s strategy to develop and deliver psychedelic medicine and therapy to better treat both substance addiction and behavioural addiction.
According to the Awkn website, ketamine is “an NMDA-antagonist, working across multiple receptors in the brain. At very high doses it acts as an anaesthetic; putting you completely to sleep. At lower doses (as we use) it creates an altered state of consciousness that when combined with psychotherapy allows you to carry out effective and safe treatment.
“Ketamine is understood to increase brain plasticity (flexibility) and connectivity meaning it can help a person become more adaptive and open to new perspectives.”