The brain of a kleptomaniac

Posted on April 1st, 2009 – 11:56 AM
By Josephine Marcotty

Do you know any kleptomaniacs? If so, here’s some news: A researcher at the University of Minnesota has found that a drug commonly used to treat alcoholism appears to work on kleptomania, too.
Here’s a pretty hilarious video on the study published today in the Journal of Biological Psychiatry. It features the researcher, Dr. John Grant, who explains the whole thing, and who also drew the cartoon. Be patient – he talks a while before it starts to get funny. No time for video? Keep reading below.

Grant, a psychiatrist at the university, says that kleptomania – an addiction to shoplifting – is similar to drug, alcohol, and gambling addiction. All seem to involve the pleasure receptors in the brain, the ones linked to “the rush and desire,” he said. They are the same receptors that respond to opiates.
The drug, Naltrexone, works on alcoholics and other addicts by blocking those receptors. All of a sudden, the urge to drink or use drugs goes away. So does that pleasurable feeling.

Grant decided to try it on kleptomaniacs. He found 25 people who spent at least one hour a week stealing, and a lot more time than that thinking about stealing. He put half of them on a placebo, and the other half on Naltrexone.
Everyone who took the drug reported less obsessive thinking about stealing, and reported less stealing when compared to the other group.
Grant said the drug is not likely to be a cure, but it could help especially when used in combination with therapy.

4 Responses to "The brain of a kleptomaniac"

dean says:

April 1st, 2009 at 1:02 pm

Hot Diggity, where can I steal some of this Naltrexone?

Ramone says:

April 1st, 2009 at 2:29 pm

The term “klepto” is actually derisive and a slur, FYI.

Allie says:

April 1st, 2009 at 6:46 pm

Naltrexone is a very cool drug. It is actually being used in very low doses by tens of thousands of people around the world to treat autoimmune diseases and some cancers. It is currently in formal clinical trials for treatment of fibromyalgia, crohn’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. Unfortunately research in these areas moves at a snail’s pace because Naltrexone has been around for 20+ years so it is a generic and no drug company can make any money off it.

DebateWeary says:

April 2nd, 2009 at 10:00 am

What about people who steal specific things…like pens or lighters?