Double-blind naltrexone and placebo comparison study in the treatment of pathological gambling

Suck Won Kim, Jon E. Grant, David E. Adson, Young Chul Shin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

352 Scopus citations


Background: The authors' goal was to assess the efficacy and tolerability of naltrexone in the treatment of pathologic gambling disorder. Methods: Eighty-three subjects who met criteria for DSM-IV pathologic gambling disorder were enrolled in a 1-week single-blind placebo lead-in followed by an 11-week double-blind naltrexone or placebo trial. Naltrexone was started at 25 mg/day and titrated upward until maximum symptom improvement or 250 mg/day was achieved. Gambling symptom change was assessed with the patient-rated Clinical Global Impression (PG-CGI-PT), clinician-rated CGI (PG-CGI-MD), and the Gambling Symptom Rating Scale (G-SAS). Side effects were monitored weekly and liver function tests biweekly. Results: Data from 45 patients were analyzed. Using random regression analysis, significant improvement was noted in all three gambling symptom measures: patient-rated Clinical Global Impression, p < .001; clinician-rated CGI, p < .001; Gambling Symptom Rating Scale, p < .019. At study end, 75% of subjects taking naltrexone were much or very much improved on both the PE-CEI PT and the PG-CGI-MD, compared with only 24% of those on placebo. Elevated liver enzymes occurred in four subjects who were taking analgesics concurrently. Nausea was common during the first week of treatment. Conclusions: Results suggest that naltrexone is effective in reducing the symptoms of pathologic gambling. Until further studies corroborate the present findings, our report should be interpreted cautiously.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)914-921
Number of pages8
JournalBiological psychiatry
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 1 2001

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Supported in part by a grant from the National Center for Responsible Gaming (NCRG). The authors acknowledge Joel Hektner, Ph.D., for statistical analysis and Rory Remmel, Ph.D., for the expert advice on naltrexone and analgesics interaction.

Copyright 2007 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Impulse control
  • Naltrexone
  • Opioid antagonists
  • Pathologic gambling
  • Urges


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