Gambling is big business in America, earning the gaming industry nearly $51 billion in net revenue each year. Like most addictions, once you start, it's hard to stop. A drug treatment could get gamblers back on their feet.
Pulsing music, flashing lights and the elusive jackpots. That's what keeps gamblers coming back.
"I saw these people that were acting like zombies in front of these slot machines, just totally mesmerized by the video interactivity of those slot machines, winning enough to keep them coming back, and that was what was happening to me," says Jeff.
Jeff, who doesn't want to be identified, was gambling five times a week, losing about $400 each time, that's $2,000 a week.
"I'd drive 100 miles out of my way to go to a casino, spend the night, come back at three in the morning, totally drained, and have business meetings the next morning."
Dr. Suck Won Kim treats people like Jeff. He studies the connection between cravings and behavior.
"Traditionally, when people receive treatments, they may be able to refrain their behaviors, but they still had to live with their craving," Dr. Kim says.
Dr. Kim says naltrexone, a drug already approved to treat alcoholics, stops cravings and therefore stops the gambling urges. Jeff says the drug changed his life.
"It's helped my relationship with my wife, because I'm not lying to her anymore, covering things up or making excuses and draining our bank account. So, it's changed it in many, many ways."
And that's something he can bet on.
For more information, contact:
Suck Won Kim
University of Minnesota Medical School