It’s not surprising that drug addiction and gambling have so many similarities. Both alter brain circuits in similar ways. For example, both drugs and gambling alter blood flow and electrical activity. Neuroscientists study brain activity by using computer tasks that mimic casino games and test impulse control. In gambling, players use virtual cards to earn money. A similar reward system links scattered brain regions. This new understanding of addiction is expected to influence how psychiatrists treat those who can’t stop gambling.
Gambling is an international activity. In 2009, the legal gambling industry generated $335 billion. Some types of gambling may involve materials that have value. A player of marbles might bet on the value of the marbles, while a Magic: The Gathering player may stake on a card collection, creating a “meta-game” in which the collection of cards of the other players is valued. This form of gambling is popular with people from all walks of life.
A person suffering from an addiction to gambling may experience thoughts of self-harm or suicide. If you experience any of these symptoms, call 999 or visit a hospital. People who suffer from mental health problems are more likely to develop gambling problems. They may gamble to distract themselves or to feel better about themselves. Another cause of gambling addiction is financial crises. If you or a loved one is experiencing financial difficulties, consider seeking help for your gambling problem. StepChange offers free debt advice, and many financial specialists can help you get started on a path towards recovery.