Pathological gambling (PG) affects about 0.2-2% of adults and the impact extends to family members, employers and society as a whole. Recent research has identified similarities in the pathophysiologies of PG and substance use disorders (SUDs). As such, findings regarding SUDs provide a framework for investigating PG. The aims of the manuscript are two-fold. First, we will briefly review neural systems implicated in PG. Cortico-limbic circuitry involving the ventral striatum, ventromedial prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex are discussed as are the neurotransmitters norepinephrine, serotonin, dopamine, opioids, glutamate, and gammaaminobutyric acid (GABA). This background will provide a framework for reviewing the psychopharmacological treatments that have been tested for efficacy and safety in treating PG. Of medications, the strongest data suggest the efficacy and tolerability of opioid antagonists in the treatment of PG, and other agents have varying degree of empirical support. As behavioral therapies have also shown efficacy, they will be briefly considered as well. Future research is needed to understand how treatments work in PG and for whom specific treatments might work best.
Keywords: Neuropsychopharmacology, pathological gambling, psychopharmacology, treatment, tobacco, alcohol, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, trichotillomania, pyromania, Endogenous opioid, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), positron emission tomography (PET), Norepinephrine, catecholamine, Noradrenergic function
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