UK University Seeks Gamblers to Trial Ketamine’s Effect on Problem Gambling

  • Its the world’s first study into whether ketamine can dampen the urge to gamble
  • Participants get a low dose of ketamine over the 30-day course of the experiment
  • The study will examine if the dose of ketamine can alter gamblers’ memory of money
  • The university labeled the risk of addiction to the drug through the trial as “low”
Doctor with Ketamine card
The recreational drug ketamine is to be given to regular gamblers in a UK trial to uncover any beneficial effects it may have on problem gambling. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Groundbreaking research

Ketamine, a strong psychostimulant, is to be given to regular gamblers in a UK trial as scientists attempt to uncover any beneficial effects it may have on problem gambling.

world’s first study to test if ketamine can dampen the urge to problem gamble

Late last week, a University of Exeter news release called on participants to join its groundbreaking trial, the world’s first study to test if ketamine can dampen the urge to gamble compulsively. The university in the southwest of England also took to Twitter to publicize its need for participants:

The study intends to find out if ketamine’s “influence on human memory can be used to break down the positive reinforcement associated with gambling addictions while also preventing the urge to gamble.”

Heading up the study will be the university’s professor of psychopharmacology, Celia Morgan, a researcher focused on the benefits and side effects of recreational drugs.

Controlled experiment

In the University of Exeter news release, Morgan spoke of the urgent need for fresh treatments for problem gamblers.

may eventually lead to new treatment options”

“We feel privileged to be running this innovative and important study at University of Exeter and hope this may eventually lead to new treatment options for people struggling with gambling problems,” the professor stated.

The new study will involve giving eligible participants a low dose of ketamine, with some receiving a placebo, over the 30-day course of the experiment. The anasthetic properties of the drug, which is also widely known as a horse tranquilizer, “blocks a receptor involved in learning and memory,” the university news release stated.

The historic study will therefore examine if ketamine can alter participants’ memories of making money through their gambling behavior.

Addiction risk low

Eligible participants will first attend a face-to-face session at the university’s St Luke’s Campus where they will perform a gambling task and answer online questionnaires. The second in-person session involves taking ketamine (or a placebo), completing a computer task, and providing blood samples.

While the university acknowledged it was concerned participants would get hooked on ketamine, it added that the risk of someone becoming addicted to the recreational drug through the trial was “low.”