Science Questions

Is drug addiction the same as gambling?

Thu, 20th Jun 2013

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David Bailey asked:

Is the mechanism for addiction to drugs the same in gambling or computer games at a neurobiological level?


Dr Amy Milton from Cambridge University tackles this question.....

Amy -   Well, thatís a really timely question because the way in which Gambling chipspsychiatric disorders are diagnosed is according to a reference to this book which is called The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.  Up until last month, we were using DSM4 in which gambling was not really considered an addiction.  Pathological gambling was considered a mental disorder but wasnít considered along with addictions.  The new version, which came out in May, now classifies gambling along with drugs of abuse in a single category of addiction.  So, this is really quite a new field and there's some really good work being done actually here in Cambridge but also in the States as well, looking at the underlying neurobiological mechanisms of pathological gambling.  The compulsive aspects of the disorders seem to be quite conserved, so that sort of compulsive nature of gambling is thought to rely on the same sort of circuitry as the compulsive nature of drug-seeking and drug-taking behaviour.


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Seems even more bizarre than we have grown to expect from DSM!

You can measure an actual decrease in performance and a few other subtle physiological symptoms of withdrawal from caffeine, and sudden withdrawal from heroin is spectacular if not lifethreatening, but I've not heard of anyone having cold sweats, spasms, or decreased motor precision because horseracing has been snowed off for a day or two. Or is there really a  hardcore of compulsive gamblers who will kill in order to lose money?

Computer games is another story altogether - you need to be brain-dead to start. alancalverd, Sat, 13th Jul 2013

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