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Various surveys have determined that around two million people in the U. The APA based its decision on numerous recent studies in psychology, neuroscience and genetics demonstrating that gambling and drug addiction are far more similar than previously realized. Research in the past two decades has dramatically improved neuroscientists' working model of how the brain changes as an addiction develops.
In the middle of our cranium, a series of circuits known as the reward system links various scattered brain regions involved in memory, movement, pleasure and motivation. When we engage in an activity that keeps us alive or helps us pass on our genes, neurons in the reward system squirt out a chemical messenger called dopamine, giving us a little wave of satisfaction and encouraging us to make a habit of enjoying hearty meals and romps in the sack.
When stimulated by amphetamine, cocaine or other addictive drugs, the reward system disperses up to 10 times more dopamine than usual. Continuous use of such drugs robs them of their power to induce euphoria. Addictive substances keep the brain so awash in dopamine that it eventually adapts by producing less of the molecule and becoming less responsive to its effects. As a consequence, addicts build up a tolerance to a drug, needing larger and larger amounts to get high.
In severe addiction, people also go through withdrawal—they feel physically ill, cannot sleep and shake uncontrollably—if their brain is deprived of a dopamine-stimulating substance for too long. At the same time, neural pathways connecting the reward circuit to the prefrontal cortex weaken.
Resting just above and behind the eyes, the prefrontal cortex helps people tame impulses. In other words, the more an addict uses a drug, the harder it becomes to stop. Research to date shows that pathological gamblers and drug addicts share many of the same genetic predispositions for impulsivity and reward seeking.
Just as substance addicts require increasingly strong hits to get high, compulsive gamblers pursue ever riskier ventures. Likewise, both drug addicts and problem gamblers endure symptoms of withdrawal when separated from the chemical or thrill they desire. And a few studies suggest that some people are especially vulnerable to both drug addiction and compulsive gambling because their reward circuitry is inherently underactive—which may partially explain why they seek big thrills in the first place.
Even more compelling, neuroscientists have learned that drugs and gambling alter many of the same brain circuits in similar ways. These insights come from studies of blood flow and electrical activity in people's brains as they complete various tasks on computers that either mimic casino games or test their impulse control. In some experiments, virtual cards selected from different decks earn or lose a player money; other tasks challenge someone to respond quickly to certain images that flash on a screen but not to react to others.
A German study using such a card game suggests problem gamblers—like drug addicts—have lost sensitivity to their high: when winning, subjects had lower than typical electrical activity in a key region of the brain's reward system. In a study at Yale University and a study at the University of Amsterdam, pathological gamblers taking tests that measured their impulsivity had unusually low levels of electrical activity in prefrontal brain regions that help people assess risks and suppress instincts.
Drug addicts also often have a listless prefrontal cortex. Further evidence that gambling and drugs change the brain in similar ways surfaced in an unexpected group of people: those with the neurodegenerative disorder Parkinson's disease.
Characterized by muscle stiffness and tremors, Parkinson's is caused by the death of dopamine-producing neurons in a section of the midbrain. Over the decades researchers noticed that a remarkably high number of Parkinson's patients—between 2 and 7 percent—are compulsive gamblers. Treatment for one disorder most likely contributes to another. To ease symptoms of Parkinson's, some patients take levodopa and other drugs that increase dopamine levels.
Researchers think that in some cases the resulting chemical influx modifies the brain in a way that makes risks and rewards—say, those in a game of poker—more appealing and rash decisions more difficult to resist. A new understanding of compulsive gambling has also helped scientists redefine addiction itself. Whereas experts used to think of addiction as dependency on a chemical, they now define it as repeatedly pursuing a rewarding experience despite serious repercussions.
That experience could be the high of cocaine or heroin or the thrill of doubling one's money at the casino. Redefining compulsive gambling as an addiction is not mere semantics: therapists have already found that pathological gamblers respond much better to medication and therapy typically used for addictions rather than strategies for taming compulsions such as trichotillomania.
For reasons that remain unclear, certain antidepressants alleviate the symptoms of some impulse-control disorders; they have never worked as well for pathological gambling, however. Medications used to treat substance addictions have proved much more effective. Opioid antagonists, such as naltrexone, indirectly inhibit brain cells from producing dopamine, thereby reducing cravings.
Dozens of studies confirm that another effective treatment for addiction is cognitive-behavior therapy, which teaches people to resist unwanted thoughts and habits. Gambling addicts may, for example, learn to confront irrational beliefs, namely the notion that a string of losses or a near miss—such as two out of three cherries on a slot machine—signals an imminent win. Unfortunately, researchers estimate that more than 80 percent of gambling addicts never seek treatment in the first place.
However, some people who gamble never experience any other addiction. For someone with a gambling addiction, the feeling of gambling is equivalent to taking a drug or having a drink. As the person becomes used to this feeling, they keep repeating the behavior, attempting to achieve that same effect.
In other addictions, alcohol, for instance, the person starts developing a tolerance. A vicious circle develops, and an increased craving for the activity. At the same time, the ability to resist drops. As the craving grows in intensity and frequency, the ability to control the urge to gamble is weakened. Neither the frequency of gambling nor the amount lost will determine whether gambling is a problem for an individual.
Some people engage in periodic gambling binges rather than regularly, but the emotional and financial consequences will be the same. Casinos and lotteries provide the opportunity to gamble. A gambling addiction occurs when a person can no longer control the compulsive behavior. Any type of gambling — whether racing, bingo, card games, dice games, lottery, slots, and sports betting — can become problematic. However, some types of gambling have particular characteristics that may intensify the problem and the consequences.
Reports indicate that a significant risk factor may be a fast speed of play. Types of games where there is a short time between placing a bet and seeing the results present a higher risk for players. This happens with slot machines, for instance. Gambling is widespread. Increased accessibility, for example, through online gambling, calls for greater awareness and appropriate legislation.
Anyone who provides gambling services has a responsibility to develop policies and programs to address underage and gambling addictions. If a person suspects they might have a gambling problem, there are a variety of self-tests available on the internet.
Those tests will not give a diagnosis and do not replace a face-to-face evaluation with a trained clinical professional, but they can help people decide whether to seek formal evaluation of their gambling behavior. Anyone who suspects that they have a gambling addiction should seek help.
A health provider will be able to refer the person to an appropriate treatment provider. Advice from the APA for those who care for a person with a gambling addiction includes the following :. Consuming alcohol while taking beta-blockers can potentially make them less effective, and it may increase the risk of side effects.
Learn more here. Bulimia nervosa is a mental health condition and an eating disorder. Here, learn about the signs, when to seek help, and what treatment and recovery…. Do we really use just 10 percent of our brains? We take a look at brain facts and myths, and reveal tips for improving brain functioning. Shrooms may show up on specific drug tests designed for hallucinogens, but many common drug tests do not test for these compounds.
Learn more. Generally speaking, people with diabetes can drink some alcohol, including wine, as long as they do not have another medical condition that makes…. What's to know about gambling addiction. Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, Ph. Share on Pinterest Gambling addiction comes in many forms, the primary symptom being a craving for gaming.
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The COVID pandemic has made matters even worse, according to Luke, a Chicago-area problem gambler who was able to get out of the game nine years ago. Economic uncertainty and the general malaise of the quarantine lifestyle make gambling all the more enticing. The companies that are doing it are publicly traded Fortune companies. In , about people received treatment for gambling disorders through state-sponsored programs across Illinois.
Hundreds more took the more drastic step of banning themselves from casinos and the smartphone betting apps that have them hooked. About 13, people were enrolled in the self-exclusion program maintained by regulators at the Illinois Gaming Board in mid, but that number has since shot past 14, Teresa Garate of the Gateway Foundation, a network of 16 addiction treatment centers statewide. About 10 former patients have already returned to the Way Back Inn for counseling this football season alone.
But often there is no set of limits or recognition of the limits until we get our credit-card bill, or somebody points it out. Besides financial ruin, experts say people who suffer from gambling addiction are more likely to suffer from substance abuse issues, turn to crime or even attempt suicide.
My relationships with my family and whoever I was dating, it just got out of control. I was lying, I was stealing, I was doing all these crazy things. It is, and help is out there. Just how many people need help is unclear. Know about breaking news as it happens. We follow the stories and update you as they develop.
These people are more at risk of developing problems with gambling. Certain personality traits such as being a workaholic, highly competitive, restless, and always in need of something new, exciting, and thrilling may make a person more vulnerable to develop problem gambling.
There are certain signs of addiction to gambling that one can be on the lookout for to determine if someone has a problem with gambling or not. When a person is a gambler, his feelings and actions are different depending on whether he is winning, losing, or in some other dilemma. Any kind of addiction can have devastating effects on the lives of the addicts and their close ones. Gambling is no exception. These include some self-help tips and things that their partners can do in order to overcome this obstacle together.
Some of the self-help tips that an addict can do to rid himself of this addiction are listed below:. When one is in a fight against any kind of addiction, perhaps the best support and help that anyone can provide is their spouse or partner. There are several ways if one is considering how to stop gambling. Gambling addiction treatment can take place via several approaches such as therapies, medications, and other techniques, some of which are discussed below.
According to a research , some of the therapies which show successful treatment options for addiction to gambling are elaborated below:. Cognitive-behavioral therapy CBT has gained popularity as a successful therapeutic technique for treating a compulsive gambler. This problem-oriented approach focuses on challenging the irrational thought processes and beliefs that result in compulsive behaviors. During this therapy, patients are taught skills and strategies that help them change those beliefs and addictive processes.
Motivational interviewing also provides a successful approach through which patients with compulsive gambling disorders can be treated. This strategy works by exploring and resolving reservations towards change while at the time, increasing their motivation and self-esteem by dealing with problem behaviors. Several other psychodynamic or psychoanalytic therapies are utilized, which help the gambler recognize the underlying source of his distress and confront it.
By treating the underlying causes, the path for the treatment of the current addiction is paved. Certain medications have also shown promising results in treating the addiction associated with gambling. Based on recent research , medications such as antidepressants and mood stabilizers may help. SSRIs show positive results by decreasing cravings and helping in abstinence Lithium carbonate and clomipramine have also been used to decrease cravings in such patients.
Carbamazepine, which is an anticonvulsant, has been used as a mood stabilizer and for treating this addiction. This technique teaches patients the courage to admit their loss of control over the habit, recognize a higher power that can give them the strength to overcome this problem, and examine and amend past errors and mistakes. This program has proven to be successful for many gamblers with varying degrees of addiction. This technique of treatment includes various approaches that are utilized in inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation programs.
This approach, as described in this study , considers gambling addiction to be similar to substance abuse and, therefore, uses similar treatment techniques. Relapse is considered a common part of recovery from any kind of addiction. It is not just an inability to tame the cravings. It is a dysfunctional response to a tempting situation. Typically, relapse occurs during the first few weeks after giving up an addiction.
Then the risk decreases gradually. However, this does not mean that it cannot be prevented. Usually, this addiction relapse can range from 1 day to 2 weeks. Sometimes, it may last for longer. Recognizing that a relapse has occurred and immediately trying to overcome it can go a long way in determining how fast the patient will recover from it. For many gamblers, the biggest problem is not to quit the habit but to stay on the road to recovery and prevent a relapse.
However, by making some healthier choices and looking for healthier alternatives can a past gambler prevent relapse. If there is someone with addiction issues related to gambling, they should talk about the problems with an addiction counselor. They can teach them ways to deal with the cravings and urges so that they overcome this addiction.
In case of serious addiction, rehabilitation programs and therapies can help the gambler overcome the addiction and prevent relapses. Anyone can easily contact them through their gambling addiction hotline and get all the required information. Through professional guidance, support, and medication, the addicts will be on their way to a full recovery.
Looking for professional medical help for addiction to gambling? Get the best rehabs page here and the corresponding gambling addiction hotline numbers also. Ahmed Zayed is a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery. He is graduated from the University of Alexandria, Egypt. Ahmed Zayed has a passion for writing medical and health care articles and focuses on providing engaging and trustworthy information to readers. He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.
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