David Gach

New research indicates that cannabis may be beneficial in improving ‘choice performance’ in rats with gambling disorders.

The study, entitled “Effects of various cannabinoid ligands on choice behaviour in a rat model of gambling,” concludes that synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists, which imitate the effects of cannabis, can improve choice-making in rats with such disorders.

Gambling addiction occurs in humans at rates close to those of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, but receives less attention from researchers. Because of its neural complexity, scientists as yet know less about it than other addiction disorders. There are essentially no drug treatments for gambling addiction, but this new research points toward cannabis as a potential treatment.

In the study, published in the journal Behavioural Pharmacology, researchers identified a subgroup of rats that made gambling choices indicating they had a gambling addiction similar to that present in some humans. They then gave this group synthetic cannabinoids (which are more easily obtainable for research than is cannabis) and retested the group’s gambling choices.

The cannabinoids increased the propensity of the ‘addicted’ rats to make optimal (‘healthy’) choices. They had no effect on the group that was not initially identified as addicted. Not surprisingly, the cannabinoids increased the time it took both groups to make decisions.

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