Naltrexone, a drug commonly used to treat alcohol and drug addiction, has a similar effect on the compulsive behavior of kleptomaniacs; it curbs their urge to steal.
Kleptomania is a type of impulse control disorder characterized by persistent and recurrent patterns of stealing, where afflicted individuals often experience an irresistible urge to steal items they often don't even need.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine recruited individuals with kleptomania who were actively experiencing urges to steal and randomized them to receive treatment with either Naltrexone or placebo.
Naltrexone is a drug that blocks the effects of endogenous opiates that may be released during stealing; it blocks the part of the brain that feels pleasure with certain addictive behaviors.
After eight weeks of treatment, Naltrexone was able to reduce the urges to steal and stealing behavior in people with kleptomania.
Its side effects were generally mild.
A total of 25 men and women ages 17-75, who spent an average of at least one hour a week stealing, were enrolled.
Those who took the drug Naltrexone ( mean dose of 117mg/day ) reported significantly greater decline in stealing behavior compared to those taking placebo.
A recent, large epidemiological study of about 43,000 adults found that more than 11% of the general population admitted to having shoplifted in their lifetime. It is unclear, however, how many people who steal suffer from kleptomania.
While the drug is not a cure for kleptomania. It offers hope to those who are suffering from the addiction.
The drug would most likely work best in combination with individual therapy.
Naltrexone is approved by the FDA for use in alcohol and opiate dependence, but it also has been studied and proved successful in helping gambling addicts.
Naltrexone is sold under the brand names Revia and Depade. An extended-release formulation is sold under the name Vivitrol. ( Xagena )
Source: University of Minnesota, 2009