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

Jon E. Grant, Suck Won Kim, Eric Hollander, Marc N. Potenza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

101 Scopus citations


Rationale: 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. Objective: 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. Results: 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). Conclusions: 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)521-527
Number of pages7
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Addiction
  • Impulse control disorders
  • Impulsivity
  • Opiate antagonists
  • Pharmacotherapy
  • Placebo

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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