New information has revealed that gambling addiction could possibly cause a lessened feeling of exhilaration due to the Opioid system in the brain of some people. Brain alterations have been seen in other forms of addiction like drugs and alcohol. A new study suggests that pathological gamblers are different and their control levels, motivation, feelings and reactions to stress and discomfort could also be different.
As a result of this it is believed that the reduced sensations produce more dopamine and thus explaining their compulsion to gamble. In the study subjects were 14 compulsive gamblers and 15 healthy people. PET (positron emission tomography) scans were used to measure the level of Opioid receptor levels in the brain. All test subjects were also PET scanned after taking an amphetamine tablet. Interestingly, although the amphetamine was supposed to give the subject an endorphin rush but the gamblers were unable to release very many endorphins.
When asked, the gamblers told the survey that they did not feel very elated. This may help us to understand why a gambler becomes addicted.
Other studies have uncovered that it is not only the gambling addict that is affected by their situation but also their family. Offspring of a gambling addict may be more susceptible to mental illness and domestic violence.
With this new information it is hoped that different methods of treatment can be worked out for compulsive gamblers as it is clear the Opioid receptors in pathological gamblers are much lower than in those of an alcoholic. Current treatments for gambling addiction include Opioid antagonists that block receptors and stop the body from reacting to Opioids and endorphins and have been successful in those with a family history of alcoholism. The new study has put forward a different angle on how a gambling addict brain works and this will help with new treatments.