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Gambling Addiction - It's All In The Brain

Author: Renee Israel

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UK researchers have broken ground in the area of problem gambling which shines interesting new light on the subject.

The findings of a small study was presented to the European College of Neuropscyhopharmacology Congress in Berlin, showing that the natural opioid system in the brains of problem gamblers responds differently to the brain of non gamblers.

This, claims the researchers, could explain why gambling becomes an addiction in some people and non in others,

Problem Gambling Research Explained

The researchers from the United Kingdom looked at 29 subjects - 14 of them pathological gamblers and 15 of them non-gamblers.

Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans were first used to measure the opioid receptor levels in all the participants' brains. These receptors facilitate cell to cell communication.

According to the research, at this stage there was no difference between the receptor levels in all the subjects. This is in contrast to the increased levels seen in other types of addicts such as alcoholics or heroin users, for example.

Next, the subjects were given an endorphin-releasing amphetamine tablet and the PET scan was repeated.

In the research presented, less endorphins were released by pathological gamblers than their non-gambling peers, and they also reported on less euphoria than the non-gamblers.

Lack of Natural Gambling Euphoria

The lead researcher, Dr. Inge Mick, explained some of the interesting findings of this study.

"From our work, we can say two things," said Mick. "Firstly, the brains of pathological gamblers respond differently to this stimulation than the brains of healthy volunteers. And secondly, it seems that pathological gamblers just don’t get the same feeling of euphoria as do healthy volunteers. This may go some way to explaining why the gambling becomes an addiction."

It will be interesting to see whether the findings of this noteworthy - albeit small - study will lead to changes in the way gambling addiction is treated in the United Kingdom.

 Posted by Renee Israel at 10:43 on 27 October 2014

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