Anti-Theft Drugs

Science, technology, and life.
April 9 2009 10:05 AM

Anti-Theft Drugs

Can a drug cure the urge to steal?

It looks that way. In the April 1 issue of Biological Psychiatry , scientists from the University of Minnesota School of Medicine report :

William Saletan William Saletan

Will Saletan writes about politics, science, technology, and other stuff for Slate. He’s the author of Bearing Right.

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An 8-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial was conducted to evaluate the safety and efficacy of oral naltrexone for kleptomania. Twenty-five individuals with DSM-IV kleptomania were randomized to naltrexone (dosing ranging from 50 mg/day to 150 mg/day) or placebo. ... Subjects assigned to naltrexone had significantly greater reductions in ... stealing urges ( p = .032), and stealing behavior ( p < .001) compared with subjects on placebo. Subjects assigned to naltrexone also had greater improvement in overall kleptomania severity ... Naltrexone demonstrated statistically significant reductions in stealing urges and behavior in kleptomania.

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It sounds like an April Fools' joke. But it isn't. In an interview with Reuters , the study's lead author explains that naltrexone "gets rid of that rush and desire" to steal.

Naltrexone is better known as a drug for alcohol or drug addiction . Many of us, while accepting these addictions as diseases, continue to regard theft as a matter of personal responsibility. Should we rethink that distinction? If the same drug relieves both conditions, should we take kleptomania more seriously as an illness?

The floor's open .