Author: Renee Israel
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
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 donâ€™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