Could Oats And Hay Be The Newest Treatment For Gambling Addiction?  (Put Down Those Playing Cards, And We’ll Throw In A Carrot)

You’re a horse and, in 1 year, you win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.  By winning all 3, you have bragging rights to say you were good enough to win the ____________.

Yes, it’s a bit far from poker, but you all-around bettors might have guessed the Trifecta or Triple Crown.

And just like those who bet on horse races, you poker players sometimes succumb to pathological gambling.  But we won’t shoot you for your disability – and there may even be hope for you – with a medication.

A new study looks at the antidepressant Wellbutrin in the treatment of gambling addiction.  On the plus side, 1/3 of patients reported “much improvement” in their problem gambling (and, no, that doesn’t mean they placed better bets).  The minus is that almost 50% of those treated with placebo also said they were better.  Which means Wellbutrin got stuck in the gate, actually faring worse than sugar pills.

Wellbutrin had showed promise for gambling addiction in some earlier races, so it was a good candidate to be put through the paces.  There were significant limitations to the study (including a very small sample size, a high placebo-response rate, and a high drop-out rate), so the final race has not yet been run.  But because Wellbutrin actually lagged a placebo, don’t plan on a pay-out for the medication.

But all hope isn’t lost.  Did you know that Wellbutrin is known to be useful for treating ADHD, as well as nicotine addiction?  So if you suffer from inattention and cigarette addiction – and chomp at the bit when cards are dealt – well, you possibly could hit the mental-illness-cure trifecta with Wellbutrin.  Now that’s something you could surely place a bet on!

(Study in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, 2007, vol 27.)

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