2nd September 2021
By Emily Ledger
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Research into the therapeutic and medical potential of psychedelic medications is reaching an all-time high as the need for alternative treatments for a wide variety of conditions becomes increasingly apparent. Addiction treatments are one area of research that is gaining particular attention, with researchers now aiming to understand how ketamine could be used to treat gambling addictions.

When discussing addiction, most people will think of drugs, tobacco, and alcohol addiction, with gambling addiction often forgotten about or underestimated. However, an addiction to gambling is a serious and often life-destroying condition.

According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, problem gambling affects up to 1% of the population, with an estimated 340,000 problem gamblers in the UK and many more at risk. Extreme gambling is recognised as a disorder by the World Health Organisation.

As hospital admissions for gambling addiction continue on the rise, one company is aiming to research and develop a new medication that could help individuals to tackle the disorder.

Awakn Life Sciences Corp. is a biotech company that researches and develops a range of psychedelic and alternative medicines for the treatment of a range of mental health and other conditions – including addictions. Currently, the company has developed – or is developing – products for the treatment of anxiety, depression, PTSD, eating disorders, and various types of addiction.

Last month, Awakn announced that it had received ethical committee approval and initiated recruitment for the first-ever study investigating the potential of ketamine in treating gambling addiction. The research will be led by Celia Morgan, Ph.D, Professor of Psychpharmacology at the University of Exeter, UK.

The first-of-its-kind study will reportedly “explore whether ketamine administration can modify the reward memories associated with gambling.”

Professor Morgan commented: “This study is an exciting first step toward a new treatment for gambling disorder, and one which will give new insights into the neurobiology of this damaging and often overlooked addiction, we are delighted that Awakn is able to take the lead in developing solutions to address this growing unmet treatment need.”

Awakn’s research team for this study and other developments consists of world-leading experts in drug development, psychiatry and psychotherapy, and clinical research.

The company is also carrying out research to determine the potential of ketamine in other substance and behavioural addictions, as well as MDMA-assisted Psychotherapy for alcohol use disorder, and new chemical combinations for alcohol, opioid, tobacco, and behavioural addictions.

Awakn launched the UK’s first psychedelics clinic in Bristol at the start of the year with an aim to offer psychedelic drug treatments for conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and addiction.

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