Finnish Scholars Test Nasal Spray to Reduce Addicts’ Urge to Gamble

A group of Finnish scholars is planning to conduct somewhat unusual research, the results from which could help in curing problem gambling behavior, Finnish news outlet Yle has reported.

Health experts from the country’s National Institute for Health and Welfare (Terveyden ja hyvinvoinnin laitos, THL) will test whether a naloxone nasal spray could help in deterring people with problem gambling behavior and gambling addiction from succumbing to their gambling urge.

The nasal spray is a form of the drug naloxone, which is usually used to reverse the effects of opioids, including heroine, in case of an overdose. The nasal spray’s effects on people with gambling addiction have not been explored before. The THL is currently looking for volunteers to participate in its research, and once enough people are recruited, scholars will be able to commence their work.

The Institute conducted a similar study several years ago. However, scholars explored the effects of a naloxone pill on gambling addicts. The results showed the pill form of the drug was of certain benefit to patients.

Hannu Alho, a research professor at the THL, told local media that they are very optimistic about the results of their future experiment. The scholar further explained that the urge for gambling is quite an impulsive one, and that it comes extremely quickly. A pill could take about an hour to kick in. However, if the drug is taken in the form of a nasal spray, it could take effect within several minutes.

This could mean that if a person with problem gambling behavior feels the urge to gamble, they can use the naloxone spray and suppress that urge before they reach a slot machine or access a gambling website.

Gambling in Finland

Legal gambling services in the Scandinavian country are provided by a single operator, the state-run Veikkaus. Of the legal gambling options available to Finns, slot machines are probably the most popular such option. The gaming devices can be found in practically every supermarket across the country.

A recent THL research showed that around 120,000 of all Finns have problem gambling behavior. What is more, the number of people who suffer from gambling addiction or are at risk of falling victims to gambling addiction increased from 11% in 2011 to 15% in 2015.

Despite previous proposals for Finland to scrap the existing monopoly on the provision of gambling services, the country’s lawmakers have decided to keep the current model for the time being. According to them, state-run services are the best approach to ensure the protection of players from gambling-related problems.

Unlike Finland, its Scandinavian neighbor Sweden is marching towards liberalizing its gaming market. Late in 2017, the country submitted its new regulatory regime for approval from European authorities. If the European Commission gives the regulatory framework the necessary green light, it is expected to come into effect in the country in early 2019. Norway, another Scandinavian country, has too remained firm on its denial to scrap the monopoly system for a more liberalized approach towards the provision of gambling services, both online and across land-based premises.

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