Medical studies have advanced greatly in the last 50 – 60 years and it is now believed that our understanding of addiction is much better. Studies have shown that gambling addiction has a lot to do with our biological make up and how our brain’s pleasure receptors work. Maturity of our biological makeup is dependent on certain factors that include psychological, social and spiritual factors.
It has only been a recent view that those who are addicted to gambling are not selfish or weak willed. Their bad behaviour of being without regard for themselves or others is not something they consciously carry out. No amount of willpower will stop an addicted gambler from gambling and our biological makeup could provide us with the reason why.
Addicts are addicted to the feeling of euphoria they get when they participate in a certain activity or action. Addict was always used to describe substance abuse but we now know that some activities such as sex and gambling are also addictive. Brain function has a lot to do with this as we become addicted to the chemicals our brains release and our genetics effect or brain function.
Biology dose not completely drive us or our behaviour and people can make a choice. We can chose treatment over addiction. Many addictions and diseases need lifestyle change to aid recovery. An example of this is a person who is diabetic must regularly check the type of foods they consume are in line with their blood sugar levels or those with heart disease chose to eat healthily and exercise.
The brain’s ability to change and adapt to our environment is incredible but it is also the ability to adapt that contributes to the formation of addiction.
- Addiction will motivate change in the brain’s balance – These changes can cause Impaired decision making, impulse and compulsiveness. The changes also make the urge to gamble hard to resist, despite the ramifications
- Addiction changes brain chemistry – The reward system has a big impact on craving. We will continue to carry out activities that are pleasurable.
- Addiction alters the brain’s communication system – The brain will store memories of pleasure associated repeated actions. These are then used as cues. An example of this is you have decided to stop drinking after work. Every night you drive to the cash point and take out money, most times you are given a £20 note, you drive to the pub and order a drink. The route home passes the cash point and then the pub. On the first night of your new routine you struggle at the point you pass the cash point, then you have to fight your body not to drive into the pub. Your brain has programmed these regular actions into a trigger for pleasure and they will also contribute to a relapse.
- Addiction can change the brain structure and function – Withdrawal from an addictive activity is stressful and if you have been using gambling as a stress reliever the brain will be confused. The brain’s ability to regulate stress will be changed or diminished.