People will always use the methods they can rely on for the best results and this is also true for addiction treatment. Addiction counsellors and rehabilitation professionals will chose those methods that in their experience are tried and tested to get results. When some new research adds information to the addiction treatment database some may be forced to rethink their recovery strategies to include this new information.
Gambling addiction research has been undertaken by a British team from London and Cambridge and was presented to the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology at their 27th annual meeting in Berlin. The research was into the brain’s network of Opioid receptors and included the 14 compulsive gambler subjects and 15 control subjects.
In alcoholic and drug addict brains there are commonly more Opioid receptors which are there to pick up the pleasure hormones. Endorphins, the pleasure hormones, are set into action when an addict partakes in alcohol or drugs and is often described as a rush. It is this rush that is thought to be behind the addicts desire to consume more and more of the alcohol or drugs. Researchers thought that they would find a similar result in compulsive gamblers.
A PET scan showed that both compulsive gamblers and non gamblers had similar amounts of Opioid receptors in their brains. When all the subjects were given amphetamine pills to stimulate a rush, surprisingly the gambling addicts showed less ability to produce an endorphin rush than that of the non gamblers.
The findings suggest that compulsive gamblers have gradually reduced their ability to get high and so they have to gamble more and more often to get to the same level of pleasure that their first bet gave them. They have become far more tolerant to their activity and need to increase their use to get the same satisfaction. This is when family, friends and work suffer, not to mention their health and well being.
In the past other addictions were understood to activate Opioid receptors not counteract them. There are two medicines that block the activity of Opioid receptors, maltrexone and nalmefene, have successful treatment on gambling addicts who have a family background of alcoholism have been proven to treat alcoholism despite there being a difference in the Opioid receptors in these different addictions.
Whatever the difference in Opioid receptors in the different addictions it is the Opioid receptor that is thought to be behind the addiction. This is why medications that can prevent endorphins from being activated can be effective in treating these addictions.
The discovery that different addictions can rewire the brain in many ways depending on the situation. Research is important and with every new discovery can help addiction specialists find a better understanding of the problems faced by addicts and provide better ways to treat them.