Across the world, researchers are working to better understand the causes of gambling addiction so that we can discover more effective ways to treat it. By looking at the differences between problem gamblers and those not affected by addiction, and by looking at the similarities between problem gamblers and those facing other addictions, we may find clues about what makes millions of individuals more likely to be affected by gambling disorders than others.
Recently, new research was shared at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology Congress in Berlin that may help us understand problem gambling more. Though only a small study on a very limited population, this study gives researchers worldwide new ideas to test in larger experiments.
When studying 14 men with gambling disorders and 15 men who do not gamble, researchers found that, when provided an amphetamine capsule that would release endorphin, problem gamblers released fewer endorphins than those that didn’t gamble. The problem gamblers also reported feeling less happy during the test than the non-gamblers, when surveyed afterward.
What does this suggest?
Gamblers May Have To Work Harder To Feel Pleasure
Said simply, the study’s biggest takeaway is that problem gamblers may feel less excitement than non-gamblers, which could explain why they have to do more of an action to feel pleasure. If it takes longer for a problem gambler to feel a rush, they may in fact be inclined to gamble longer – regardless of the amount of time they’ve been gambling or the money they have lost.
As this study has been done on such a small scale, it’s hard to know yet if the same results could be found when studying hundreds or thousands of men and women. It does, however, reinforce the understanding that problem gambling is not simply a bad habit or poor decision making. Like alcoholism and drug addiction, gambling disorder is medically diagnosable and included in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Previous research has linked gambling addiction with the insula, another part of our brains.
Regardless of Cause, Help is Available
Whatever its physical causes, many different factors influence the severity of gambling addiction. One’s proximity to gambling opportunities may make him or her more likely to gamble, while others’ family history or the age that they started gambling could cause them to be more likely to gamble. Some individuals may choose to gamble to avoid stress, while others may choose to gamble to try to recover lost money.
Treatment options help you figure out the underlying causes of your addiction. We know that simply quitting gambling is not a long-term solution. Counselors and support groups help you determine why you gamble – and what healthy alternatives are available.
Support for problem gamblers is available throughout New York State. Our gambling support directory provides the names and contact information for organizations prepared to help problem gamblers talk about their addictions, hear the stories of others and work toward recovery. You can also call the New York State HOPEline any time for help: 1-877-846-7369.