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Addiction to Gambling Could Be Treated Using Psychedelics

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Addiction refers to a condition in which an individual is not able to stop engaging in a behavior or using a substance. Gambling addiction is a behavioral addiction that stimulates the reward system of the brain, much as alcohol and drugs do. This addiction is often treated using behavioral therapy, particularly cognitive behavioral therapy, which replaces unhealthy and irrational beliefs with positive, healthy ones.

Now, researchers at the Center for Psychedelic Research are using brain imaging to understand behavioral addictions such as gambling and discover new approaches to treat these addictions. They are particularly focused on psychedelic treatments, given the promising results observed in their use in treating substance addictions.

Dr. Rayyan Zafar revealed that the researchers were focused on learning whether psilocybin therapy could restore or reverse the dysfunction observed in the brains of gamblers.

The therapeutic use of psychedelics such as psilocybin and LSD has grown over the last couple of years, with numerous clinical trials on their effectiveness in treating mental conditions, including anorexia, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder being conducted. In the past, Zafar has used functional magnetic resonance imaging to research the neurobiology of gambling addiction. The results, which are yet to be published, show that when gambling addicts were presented with videos associated with gambling and videos associated with other primary rewards such as food, their brains lit up in regions of the brain that process rewards in response to the gambling videos, which wasn’t observed in healthy control subjects.

The researchers are now focused on conducting a trial to observe whether the mechanisms identified are impacted when psilocybin is administered. Their research is being funded by a UKRI Impact Acceleration Account grant designed to lessen the gap between scientific discoveries and their applications.

The investigators’ main objective is to determine whether there is an effect on brain function that is linked to the clinical end point, something that demonstrates that a person’s dysfunctional reward circuits have been reset or recalibrated. The use of brain imaging will help personalize the therapeutic process even further, with Dr. David Erritzoe adding that their interest is in determining whether imaging could help forecast patient reactions as well as how they respond to the treatment. Erritzoe highlights that psychedelic therapy affects an individual’s perception of the world, allowing them to enter an expanded state of consciousness.

The development of this approach will involve a partnership between Central and North West NHS Foundation Trust and the Center for Psychedelic Research. A brand-new MRI system is also being installed at Invicro, which will collaborate with Imperial College London on the research.

These studies will add to the available body of information on psychedelics generated by various stakeholders such as Seelos Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ: SEEL).

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