Gambling Concerns Mount During Pandemic

A weekly roundup on the latest in addiction science, medicine and care

By William Wagner

September 7, 2020

COVID-19 has exposed all sorts of shortcomings in our society’s safety net, including those related to addiction care. From a spike in drug overdoses to increased abuse of alcohol, the pandemic has wrought considerable collateral damage. And it isn’t just limited to the misuse of substances. It seems those who are susceptible to gambling addiction also have been affected.

For more on gambling and COVID—as well as the latest on naloxone, a potential medical use for psilocybin mushrooms and the continuing fight against the opioid epidemic—read on.

From Journal of Addiction Medicine:
COVID’s Impact on Gambling Habits

Add gambling to the list of addictive behaviors that have been exacerbated by the age of COVID-19. Although research thus far has been limited, the stress associated with the pandemic seems to be a trigger for increased gambling activity. Financial insecurity is a particularly worrisome stressor for public health officials, as people who are strapped for cash might increasingly turn to gambling to solve their financial woes. And while the pandemic has forced the shutdown of many casinos, online gambling outlets remain plentiful. The authors of the article, “Gambling during the COVID-19 Crisis—a Cause for Concern,” call for more research into this area, and without haste.

From the Federal Drug Administration:
New Recommendations on Naloxone

The FDA recently released new recommendations on naloxone, a medication used to reverse opioid overdose. The guidelines center on increasing communication about naloxone between healthcare professionals and relevant patients. For those patients who are being prescribed opioids to relieve pain, the FDA says doctors should discuss with them the availability of naloxone. With patients who are being given medication such as methadone and buprenorphine for opioid use disorder (OUD), doctors should “strongly consider” prescribing naloxone as well. Finally, patients who aren’t being administered medication for OUD also should be candidates for a naloxone prescription.

From Vice:
The Promise of Psychedelics-Based Care

Psychedelics got a bad rap following the Age of Aquarius, but they seem to have mounted a comeback over the past several years…at least in clinical circles. Psychedelics-based medications are afoot that show promise in breaking the cycle of addiction. And now psilocybin mushrooms are being deployed in Canada to soothe people who are dying. In August, the nation’s health minister approved the use of psilocybin for four patients with terminal cancer. A study published in early 2020 in the Journal of Psychopharmacology concluded that psilocybin has the potential to ease anxiety and depression in patients with late-stage cancer.

From the American Medical Association:
The Long Slog Toward an Opioid Answer

Much has been done to end the opioid epidemic in the United States, but a new report by the AMA Opioid Task Force—“Physicians’ Progress Toward Ending the Nation’s Drug Overdose and Death Epidemic”—argues that there’s still a long way to go. For one, states the report, “health insurance companies continue to delay and deny access to non-opioid pain care and evidence-based treatment for opioid-use disorder (OUD), while pharmacy chains, pharmacy benefit managers and state laws continue to inappropriately use arbitrary guidelines to restrict access to legitimate medication that some patients need to help manage their pain.” Additionally, illicitly produced fentanyl and fentanyl analogs has created an even more dangerous dimension to the epidemic. According to the report, deaths linked to illegally manufactured fentanyl and fentanyl analogs jumped an astounding 510% from 2015 to 2019.

Photo: Heather Gill