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Drug used to reduce substance addictions could treat kleptomania

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A drug which has shown evidence of reducing substance addictions including alcohol and cigarettes may prove to be useful in reducing the urge to steal, a recent study reveals.

Kleptomania is a type of impulse control disorder characterised by recurrent patterns of stealing, even if afflicted individuals can afford to buy the items.

In a study carried out in the US, individuals who actively experienced urges to steal received either naltrexone or a placebo.

Naltrexone is a drug which blocks the effects of endogenous opiates that may be released during stealing, thereby blocking the parts of the brain that feel pleasure with addictive behaviours.

The findings showed naltrexone reduced stealing behaviour as well as the urge to steal in kleptomaniacs.

Editor of Biological Psychiatry, Dr John Krystal, notes that: ‘This work extends the findings in alcoholism, opiate dependence, smoking and other addictive disorders where naltrexone has shown evidence of reducing the abuse of substances.’

Biological Psychiatry (2009) 65:547

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