Truths (And Questions) About Gambling & Other Behavioral Addictions

You may have read the recent news about “Facebook Addiction” — a subdivision of Internet addiction that pertains to social media use, which, research says, women are more at risk of developing than men because we dames are more social animals. Because I do spend time on the Internet, blogging as well as socializing and gambling; because I do like to gamble “in real life” too; I thought now would be a good time to address the subject of behavioral addictions.

Internet/computers, shopping, work, sex/pornography, cutting, exercise, food, and gambling are all considered behavioral addictions.

Behavioral addictions, sometimes referred to as “impulse control disorders,” are those compulsive actions — acts continued without consideration of their potential negative consequences — which do not rely upon chemicals, like alcohol, nicotine, &/or other drugs. But this can be a bit misleading because behavioral additions are driven by chemicals — chemicals in our brains. The “high” folks get from behavior addictions is linked to Dopamine and Serotonin, which is as chemical as it gets in our brains. And there is evidence which shows that genetics plays a role in deciding just who is more susceptible.

According to this review, published in 2006:

[T]hese results point to the complex relationship between different psychiatric conditions, such as addictions, mood disorders, and antisocial personality disorder. It is possible to hypothesize that studies on genetic vulnerability factors could help unravel not only the commonalities between substance and behavioral addictions but also the extent to which addictions, depression, and personality disorders are intertwined.

This review and neurobiology studies on pathological gambling and other behavioral addictions suggest that future studies should investigate genes involved in impulsivity and the brain’s reward system. Dopamine receptor genes should be further investigated, especially those with a higher possibility for drug development, such as DRD3.87 Serotonin receptor and transporter genes are also associated with impulse control and are important candidate genes in the study of behavioral addictions. Other genes that have been associated with conditions that are highly comorbid with behavioral addictions are also important to be investigated. One of these is the brain derived neurotrophic factor gene, which has been recently associated with depression88 and nicotine dependence,89 both conditions being frequently comorbid with pathological gambling. Of interest, brain derived neurotrophic factor and DRD3 genes have been shown to interact and this combination may be a fruitful direction to investigate in future genetic studies.

This review also pushed for additional family studies — and more studies which include female subjects. (Women are often left out of medical studies.)

But it’s important to note that the percentages of such additions are relatively small; most state the number for gambling addictions are between 2%-5%. I’m not minimizing the pain of any addiction, and even that small percentage means millions of people in the United States alone, but it’s still a small percentage of the population.

It makes me wonder why the casino industry is required to set aside funds for gambling addiction programs (efforts of which vary widely). Do shopping malls or the retail industry have to finance similar programs for shopaholics? Does the food industry have to pay into some sort of pool to help food addicts? I don’t see similar requirements for employers, computer manufacturers, etc. Why does Bally’s the casino have to pay for such things but Bally’s fitness centers do not?

Which makes me think that the requirements for casinos are really just a form of a sin tax — more directed, perhaps, but a sin tax all the same.

Perhaps no industry is as persecuted for addictions (and other issues) than the adult sex industry. But it certainly is starting to feel like gambling is being treated like porn.

Are all adult entertainment pastimes just destined to be scapegoated for “society’s ills”? Even when there’s proof that these problems are weighted by genetic factors?

That just doesn’t seem right, does it?

Didn’t we learn anything from prohibition?

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2 Responses to Truths (And Questions) About Gambling & Other Behavioral Addictions

  1. Pingback: Addictions: The Fix Is In? | Dames of Chance

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