, 200:521

Predicting response to opiate antagonists and placebo in the treatment of pathological gambling

  • Jon E. Grant
  • Suck Won Kim
  • Eric Hollander
  • Marc N. Potenza
Original Investigation

DOI: 10.1007/s00213-008-1235-3

Cite this article as:
Grant, J.E., Kim, S.W., Hollander, E. et al. Psychopharmacology (2008) 200: 521. doi:10.1007/s00213-008-1235-3



Although opiate antagonists have shown promise in the treatment of pathological gambling (PG), individual responses vary. No studies have systematically examined predictors of medication treatment outcome in PG. Understanding clinical variables related to treatment outcome should help generate treatment algorithms for PG.


We sought to identify clinical variables associated with treatment outcome in PG subjects receiving opiate antagonists.

Materials and methods

Two hundred eighty-four subjects [137 (48.2%) women] with DSM-IV PG were treated in one of two double-blind placebo-controlled trials (16 weeks of nalmefene or 18 weeks of naltrexone). Gambling severity was assessed with the Yale Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale Modified for Pathological Gambling (PG-YBOCS) with positive response defined as ≥35% reduction in PG-YBOCS score for at least 1 month by study endpoint. Depression, anxiety, and psychosocial functioning were included in stepwise logistic regression analyses designed to identify clinical factors independently associated with treatment response.


The clinical variable most strongly associated with a positive response to an opiate antagonist was a positive family history of alcoholism (p = 0.006). Among individuals receiving higher doses of opiate antagonists (i.e., nalmefene 50 or 100 mg/day or naltrexone 100 or 150 mg/day), intensity of gambling urges (PG-YBOCS urge subscale) was associated with a positive response on a trend level (p = 0.036). Among individuals receiving placebo, younger age was associated, on a trend level, with positive treatment outcome (p = 0.012).


A family history of alcoholism appears to predict response to an opiate antagonist in PG. Future research is needed to identify specific factors (e.g., genetic) mediating favorable responses.


Opiate antagonists Impulsivity Impulse control disorders Addiction Pharmacotherapy Placebo 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jon E. Grant
    • 1
  • Suck Won Kim
    • 1
  • Eric Hollander
    • 2
  • Marc N. Potenza
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Minnesota School of MedicineMinneapolisUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryMount Sinai School of MedicineNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Connecticut Mental Health CenterYale University School of MedicineNew HavenUSA
  4. 4.VA Connecticut Healthcare SystemYale University School of MedicineNew HavenUSA
  5. 5.Department of PsychiatryYale University School of MedicineNew HavenUSA
  6. 6.Child Study CenterYale University School of MedicineNew HavenUSA

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