May 23, 2016 8:25 AM

Does Marijuana Have Potential to Treat Gambling Addiction?

Medical cannabis has already proven its beneficial effects in treating a plethora of severe diseases. But can you even imagine that this natural remedy may help people struggling with gambling addiction? In a new study published in the journal Behavioural Pharmacology, scientists have revealed that marijuana may improve “choice performance” in rats with gambling disorders.

At the beginning of this year, scientists from Boston and Toronto carried out a cannabis study that investigated the cannabinoid effects on choice behavior in a rat model of gambling. The study findings allowed the researchers to conclude that synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists can improve the choice-making of rats with gambling problems and even imply cannabis as a potential medication for gambling disorders.

The study monitored the behavior of the laboratory rats that participated in a gambling test similar to the Iowa Gambling Task, which is commonly used to identify gambling addiction in humans. At first, the rats took the test prior to receiving cannabis, and then they were gotten high on synthetic cannabinoids, which are easier to acquire for scientific purposes than THC and CBD.

During the test, the rats were given the chance to choose among four holes with an increasing probability of a tasty food result. The high probability holes had low portions of food, while the holes with a low probability contained larger portions. The rats that chose the holes with the high-risk, high-reward system were considered addicted.

After getting high, the gambling-addicted rats changed their behavior—they started choosing the holes with a higher probability of food. Thus, the test revealed that cannabinoids increased the propensity of the gambling rats to make more healthy choices. The animals without gambling disorders showed no change in their behavior even after taking synthetic cannabinoids. The scientists also noticed that most rats needed more time to make their decisions when they were high.

Nowadays, gambling addiction affects 1-2% of the population of Canada and the U.S. This disorder causes many problems in the sufferer's life, from health and career to family relationships and housing. Thus, scientists need to investigate marijuana's properties in further studies to shed more light on the role of the endocannabinoid system in compulsive gambling.

Substance abuse scientists have already conducted studies that confirm the efficiency of cannabis in treating opioid addiction, while marijuana advocates are promoting the importance of considering opiate addiction as a qualifying condition for medical cannabis in Maine. Perhaps marijuana science will also prove that weed can affect behavior addiction as well as the physical one. Moreover, these promising findings could also make researchers study cannabinoid's influence on other addictions, like obsessive-compulsive or sexual ones.

If you know that someone weaned from gambling or if you lost your interest in games after using marijuana, please share your experience in the comments below.

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