Awakn Life Sciences starts study on ketamine treatment for gambling addiction

Toronto-based biotechnology company Awakn has a research program on ketamine-assisted psychotherapy against multiple addictions.

The Awakn study will explore how ketamine administration can modify a person’s “reward memories associated with gambling”. akan akdeniz/Getty Images

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Awakn Life Sciences Corp. has announced the start of a groundbreaking study on the use of ketamine to treat addiction to gambling.

The Toronto-based biotechnology company revealed that the research will be done in the U.K., where it also operates.

“There are no licensed pharmacological treatments of gambling disorder available and the need to find a new treatment has never been more important,” Awakn stated in a media release Tuesday (August 24).

To explain, ketamine is a fast-acting anesthetic.

Canada’s Controlled Drugs and Substances Act prohibits the sale, possession and production of ketamine.

However, the substance legally qualifies for medical, scientific or industrial purposes.

Online, Awakn explains that at very high doses, ketamine can put a person “completely to sleep”.

At lower doses, the substance produces a psychedelic effect.

As Awakn notes, ketamine “creates an altered state of consciousness that when combined with psychotherapy allows you to carry out effective and safe treatment”.

“Ketamine is understood to increase brain plasticity (flexibility) and connectivity meaning it can help a person become more adaptive and open to new perspectives,” the company explains.

On July 14 this year, Awakn announced that it will undertake clinical research to explore the effectiveness of ketamine-assisted psychotherapy against multiple addictions.

In a media release, the company noted at the time that between 15 percent and 20 percent of adults across the world suffer from addictions such as gambling, alcohol, and tobacco use.

Moreover, the August 24 media release states that in the U.S. alone, some 10 million people are said to be addicted to gambling, representing 2.5 percent of the country’s population.

Celia Morgan, a professor of psychopharmacology at the University of Exeter and Awakn’s head of ketamine-assisted psychotherapy for addiction, will lead the study.

“This study is an exciting first step toward a new treatment for gambling disorder,” Morgan says in the release.

Additionally, Morgan explains that the research will provide “new insights into the neurobiology of this damaging and often overlooked addiction”.

Awakn’s media release notes that the investigation will tackle “both the urge to gamble and the ‘superstitious thinking’ that accompanies gambling”.

“The study will explore whether ketamine administration can modify the reward memories associated with gambling,” the release continues.

Awakn is a publicly traded company. It trades at the NEO Exchange with the ticker symbol AWKN. As of this post, the last sale price was $1.80 a share.

Follow Carlito Pablo on Twitter at @carlitopablo

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