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Problem gamblers experience drug-like cravings: study

New research has found that images of gambling activity can produce “gambling cravings” similar to those experienced by drug addicts, according to research from the University of British Columbia (UBC).

The study involved 38 individuals previously diagnosed with problem gambling, half of which were shown four types of gambling imagery: photographs of the shop-fronts of bookmakers, as well as ‘action’ images from the three most common preferred forms of gambling among clients: electronic roulette, sports betting and slot machines.

Fourteen patients were shown the roulette and sports images, and five were shown the roulette and slot machine images, while the other 19 were shown neutral imagery as a control.

According to the test results, the 19 participants shown gambling related imagery reported a higher levels of cravings to gamble.

“In participants with gambling disorder, craving to gamble correlated positively with gambling cue-related activity in the bilateral insula and ventral striatum… Gambling cues… elicit increased brain responses in reward-related circuitry in individuals with gambling disorder (compared with controls), providing support for the incentive sensitization theory of addiction.”

Pathological gambling is the first behavioral addiction to be recognized in the substance-related and addictive disorders section of the DSM-5, said the study.

The study has revealed cravings to be one of the criterion for gambling disorder.

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