Pathological gambling: An update on neuropathophysiology and pharmacotherapy

Iulian Iancu, Katherine Lowengrub, Yael Dembinsky, Moshe Kotler, Pinhas N. Dannon*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Neurobiological research has shown the potential involvement of serotonergic, dopaminergic and opioid dysfunction in the pathophysiology of pathological gambling. In this review, we present current theories of the neuropathology of pathological gambling, paying particular attention to the role of the neural circuitry underlying motivation, reward, decision-making and impulsivity. This review also presents a literature review of current pharmacological treatment strategies for pathological gambling, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), opioid receptor antagonists, anti-addiction drugs and mood stabilizers, and also discusses the role of nonpharmacological interventions. A hypothetical model of the clinical subtypes of pathological gambling is presented, e.g. the impulsive subtype, the obsessive-compulsive subtype and the addictive subtype. This model attempts to integrate current knowledge in the field of pathological gambling regarding neuropathology, psychiatric co-morbidity, family history, genetics, course of illness, gender and response to pharmacological treatment. Finally, it is proposed that the existence of possible clinical subtypes of pathological gambling may provide a potential framework for matching the various subtypes with specific pharmacotherapies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-138
Number of pages16
JournalCNS Drugs
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2008


  • Bupropion, therapeutic use
  • Gambling
  • Impulse control disorders
  • Mood stabilisers, therapeutic use
  • Opioid receptor antagonists, therapeutic use
  • Psychotherapy
  • Serotonin reuptake inhibitors, therapeutic use


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