Memantine shows promise in reducing gambling severity and cognitive inflexibility in pathological gambling: A pilot study

Jon E. Grant, Samuel R. Chamberlain, Brian L. Odlaug, Marc N. Potenza, Suck Won Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


Rationale Although pathological gambling (PG) is relatively common, pharmacotherapy research for PG is limited. Memantine, an N-methyl D-aspartate receptor antagonist, appears to reduce glutamate excitability and improve impulsive decision making, suggesting it may help individuals with PG. Objective This study sought to examine the safety and efficacy of Memantine in PG. Methods Twenty-nine subjects (18 females) with DSM-IV G were enrolled in a 10-week open-label treatment study of memantine (dose ranging from 10 to 30 mg/day). Subjects were enrolled from January 2009 until April 2010. Change from baseline to study endpoint on the Yale Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale Modified for Pathological Gambling (PG-YBOCS) was the primary outcome measure. Subjects underwent pre- and post-treatment cognitive assessments using the stop-signal task (assessing response impulsivity) and the intra-dimensional/extra- dimensional (ID/ED) set shift task (assessing cognitive flexibility). Results Twenty-eight of the 29 subjects (96.6%) completed the 10-week study. PG-YBOCS scores decreased from a mean of 21.8±4.3 at baseline to 8.9±7.1 at study endpoint (p<0.001). Hours spent gambling per week and money spent gambling both decreased significantly (p<0.001). Subjects also demonstrated a significant improvement in ID/ED total errors (p=0.037) at study endpoint. The mean effective dose of memantine was 23.4±8.1 mg/day. The medication was well-tolerated. Memantine treatment was associated with diminished gambling and improved cognitive flexibility. Conclusions These findings suggest that pharmacological manipulation of the glutamate system may target both gambling and cognitive deficits in PG. Placebocontrolled, double-blind studies are warranted in order to confirm these preliminary findings in a controlled design.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)603-612
Number of pages10
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2010


  • Addiction
  • Cognition
  • Glutamate
  • Impulsivity
  • Pharmacology
  • Treatment

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