A psilocybin-based drug is showing effectiveness in altering negative behavior in laboratory rodents, and could be a key to treating problem gambling.
Researchers across the country are using the drug associated with magic mushrooms, a popular psychedelic drug, for several types of addiction, including drinking, smoking, and gambling.
Arizona lawmakers recently introduced a bill to fund a $30 million grant to explore the benefits of psilocybin in regard to treating abuse and addiction disorders, including gambling.
In Ohio, researchers at Miami University have set up a lab that simulates a casino, complete with flashing lights and casino sounds, to see if they can simulate a problem gambler, according to a story in Sports Handle.
A former state senator helped the university get funding to create Miami’s Institute for Responsible Gaming, Lotteries, and Sport two years ago. The goal was to see the connection between psilocybin and treating addictive gambling.
Lead psychologist Dr. Matthew McMurray and his team give the rats two choices: the first is to choose a lever and get a treat every time. The second is to touch another lever and get three treats sometimes and other times nothing.
McMurray uses two sets of rats—some that are healthy and others that are put in stressful situations for two weeks. They found that the healthy rats opt for the first lever, while the stressed-out rats tend to hit the second lever more consistently.
“If we expose those rats to chronic stress, we see their decision-making gets bad. They prefer the risky option regardless of its probability, just like a gambling addict,” McMurray told Sports Handle. “When we treat those stressed animals with psilocybin, their decision making gets much better.”
McMurray plans to publish a paper reporting on the results.
The idea of psilocybin as a treatment is not new. A 2016 story in Psychedelic Times explored the link between mind altering medicine and addiction, including gambling. The story concluded that it is indeed effective.
Now, however, it may be a matter of months before the theory is translated into human trials.
“We need companies to take drugs into this new marketplace, especially with the psilocybin-based therapies,” McMurray said. “Depending on the level of corporate involvement, it could be anywhere from a year to 20 years. I really have no idea. But we need new forms of treatment for this very complex disease.”