Behavioral Addictions

Behavioral Addictions


In August 2021, Awakn initiated the world’s first Ketamine treatment study for Gambling Disorder, which is a behavioural addiction that affects almost 10 million Americans alone.

In January of 2022 Awakn expanded this study to include several other behavioral addictions, including, Binge Eating Disorder, Compulsive Sexual Behaviour Disorder and Internet gaming Disorder.

The basket study was another world’s first and was led by Prof. Celia Morgan, Awakn's Head of Ketamine-Assisted Therapy for Addiction, Professor of Psychopharmacology at the University of Exeter, U.K., and an internationally respected expert in the therapeutic use of ketamine.

The study investigated ketamine as a new treatment approach for these behavioral addictions by opening a window in which the brain can make new connections to change behavior. The results indicated the desired effects via potentially novel mechanisms and that it merited a larger study and further exploration.

Awakn then announced the filing of a Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) application for the treatment of behavioral addictions with ketamine and ketamine-assisted psychotherapy. The PCT covers all behavioral addictions or any recognized disorder or condition with similar compulsive symptoms to those in the study. If granted, the patent claims would give Awakn exclusive rights to use ketamine and ketamine-assisted therapy for the treatment of behavioral addictions.

On the back of the successful study a larger behavioral addiction study investigating ketamine as a treatment for Gambling Disorder was immediately initiated. The larger study includes 42 patients who are suffering from Gambling Disorder and will see participants undergo a memory reactivation procedure, which is designed to weaken the link between reward and addiction memories. The larger placebo-controlled study will be the first investigation globally to explore this technique to treat Gambling Disorder.

The study will use advanced brain imaging technology EEG (Electro Encephalography) and will index the synaptic plasticity post-ketamine administration with the aim of identifying the window of greatest neuroplastic change. This would potentially allow Awakn to predict when therapy will be at its most effective due to the neuroplasticity. The study will also collect detailed pharmacokinetic (PK) data and analyze metabolites as well as examining neurological biomarkers.

There are currently no licensed pharmacological treatments for behavioral addictions or disorders available, and the need to find new and effective treatment options has never been more important. Behavioural addictions have devastating consequences for individuals and their families, affecting physical and mental health, and increasing mortality from suicide.

Gambling Disorder, Internet Gaming Disorder, and Binge Eating Order, all recognised in the DSM-5, affect up to 450 million[1], 235 million[2] and 100 million[3] people respectively, while Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder, which is included in the ICD-11, affects up to 350 million[4] people. Current standard of care for these conditions is poor.


1. Problem gambling worldwide: An update and systematic review of empirical research (2000–2015). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5370365
2. The prevalence and correlates of binge eating disorder in the World Health Organization World Mental Health Surveys https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23290497/
3. Global prevalence of gaming disorder: A systematic review and meta-analysis. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33028074/
4. Epidemiology, Prevalence, and Natural History of Compulsive Sexual Behavior. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0193953X08000725

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