How the Brain Gets Addicted to Gambling
Research indicates that problem gamblers and drug addicts share similar genetic tendencies for reward-seeking and impulsivity. Compulsive gamblers just like addicts need strong hits to stay high. In fact, they even pursue riskier ventures. Similarly, they both experience withdrawal symptoms when separated from the thrill they so much desire. Some studies indicate that some individuals are predisposed to both gambling and drug addiction because of an inherently underactive reward circuitry, thus tend to seek big thrills. Neuroscientists have discovered that gambling and drugs affect the same brain circuits in the same way. The electrical activity of the prefrontal brain regions of drug addicts and compulsive gamblers is often altered. This section of the brain normally helps individuals suppress instincts and assess risks. Drug addicts are known to have a prefrontal cortex that is listless.
The issue of a similar change in the brain system of compulsive gamblers and drug addicts has also surfaced among individuals with neurodegenerative disorder Parkinson's disease. One gets Parkinson when neurons that produce dopamine die in a section of their midbrain. Researchers have determined that a significant number of Parkinson’s disease patients (up to 7%) are problems gamblers.
Researchers claim that the impacting chemical influx modifies the brain in a way that makes rewards and risks more appealing and rash decisions hard to resist. Scientists have also been able to redefine addiction through further understanding of compulsive gambling. Initially, experts referred to addiction as dependency on a chemical, but now they would like to think of it as a repeated pursuit of a rewarding experience even when facing serious repercussions.
Several studies indicate that the most appropriate treatment for addiction is cognitive-behavior therapy, that trains individuals to overcome unwanted habits and thoughts. For instance, gambling addicts should learn to erase irrational beliefs such as a string of losses signify an imminent win.
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