Is drug addiction the same as gambling?

20 June 2013

Question

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

Answer

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

Amy - Well, that's a really timely question because the way in which psychiatric 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 wasn't 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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