Gambling addiction affects a small percentage of people. But it can have disastrous effects on a person’s social, family, and professional life. And the worst part is that some people may be genetically predisposed to the disease. Genetics have been shown to play a role, but more research is needed to identify the exact causes of addiction.
Genetic variations in dopamine and serotonin transporter genes are associated with pathological gambling. These genes are located on the X chromosome. These genes influence several brain functions, including reward and decision-making. It has been hypothesized that this connection between genes and pathological gambling may help explain why some people develop gambling addictions.
The genetics of excessive gambling is complicated, as the DNA sequences of individuals differ widely. However, epigenetics, which affects gene expression, may explain gene alterations in addictive disorders. To examine this relationship, researchers used Wistar male rats that underwent an operant task to measure each rat’s propensity to gamble. They then sacrificed a portion of the rats to create a baseline gene expression profile. The remaining rats underwent the same task, but the probability of delivering a large reward was very low.
Several studies have shown a genetic link between some people and pathological gambling. In one study, Meyer G. identified two genes that mapped to specific chemical messengers associated with pathological gambling. Scientists confirmed this relationship in a second study published in Neuroendocrine Research in 2004.
While it is unclear if genetics cause gambling addiction, some genes influence the sensitivity to dopamine. Researchers found that some people have an increased sensitivity to reward behaviors. These genes also influence risk-taking, stress, and addiction.
Researchers found that people with a family history of gambling have an eight-fold higher risk of developing pathological gambling.
Genetic and environmental factors have been shown to interact to influence pathological gambling. A recent study looked at whether genetics contributed to twins’ early substance use and gambling involvement. This study involved 7869 male twins from the Vietnam Era Twin Registry (VETR), a US national twin registry. Participants were assessed with a diagnostic interview schedule to determine the presence or absence of pathological gambling.
Environmental and social factors may also contribute to compulsive gambling. Various factors such as peer pressure, loneliness, frequent substance abuse, or exposure to specific entertainment venues can make an individual more prone to developing a gambling addiction. Research suggests compulsive gamblers often gamble to alleviate loneliness, relieve stress, or get social approval.
Another study found that genetics may play a role in causing disordered gambling in both boys and girls. The study also evaluated whether gambling facilities were available nearby. However, the researchers noted that this might not capture all environmental factors. Because parents of gamblers might have known about the gambling habits of their siblings, the study results may not have been representative of the population’s gambling habits.
Among the social factors that may influence the risk of gambling addiction, a study of African-American students found neighborhood characteristics to be significant predictors. For example, exposure to deviant neighbors increases the risk of problem gambling. In addition, neighborhood violence and disorganization are associated with increased gambling risk.
The research showed that gambling is more likely to occur among those who live in low-income neighborhoods and are not socially or economically advantaged. People vulnerable to gambling addictions tend to have a family history of gambling, and a higher likelihood of gambling is also associated with a family history of substance abuse and personality disorders.
A new study suggests that a particular variant of a gene that regulates the release of serotonin may be the basis for a person’s tendency toward compulsive gambling. The researchers believe that the gene may make people more susceptible to the disease because it increases serotonin levels in the brain, making gambling more addictive. This mutation also increases the risk for pathological gambling in males compared to females.
Researchers have identified several genes related to pathological gambling. The genes that regulate serotonin and dopamine, as well as the dopamine transporter DRD4, are associated with the condition. Another study, led by Comes DE, examined the genetics of a 48-bp repeat polymorphism in the DRD4 gene, which is a subunit of dopamine receptors.
A study on twins found that genetics play an essential role in determining whether or not a person is prone to problem gambling. Researchers looked at a set of genetic traits in identical and fraternal twins and environmental factors. They found that identical twins were more likely to develop a gambling addiction than non-gambling twins. The researchers suggest that this suggests a genetic factor in gambling, which may be even more substantial than the effect of shared environments.
Another study by the University of Iowa showed that pathological gambling runs in families. People with a parent with the disorder are eight times more likely to develop it themselves. However, the study did not test for the full impact of environmental factors. However, it showed a connection between gambling disorders and other mental illnesses.
Researchers have also found an association between the dopamine receptor gene and compulsive gambling. This finding suggests that dopamine may be linked to the genetics of gambling addiction, although there is no solid proof.
Several treatment options for people suffering from compulsive gambling include therapy and medication. Depending on the severity of the problem, the treatment may also involve lifestyle changes. Problem gambling can sometimes signify bipolar disorder or another serious medical condition. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, for instance, helps patients change their beliefs about gambling and develop new ways to cope with the situation.
Gambling addiction often occurs along with depression, another severe mental disorder. Symptoms of depression include unhappiness, lethargy, and changes in appetite. Often, depression can make a person feel worse, which is why it’s essential to simultaneously receive treatment for both issues.
Other risk factors include bipolar disorder and certain medications for restless leg syndrome. Genetics and personality traits may also increase a person’s risk for gambling addiction. Identifying risk factors is an essential first step in determining the cause of gambling addiction. Detailed physical and psychological assessments and appropriate laboratory tests are crucial for a thorough diagnosis.
Gambling addiction can be a life-altering condition that can severely impact an individual’s life. A treatment program may include psychotherapy, medication, 12-step programs, or self-help techniques. In some cases, pathological gambling may clear up over time, but for others, it can profoundly impact their lives. Gambling addiction may even affect other members of a person’s family. It can lead to family breakdown and increased risk for substance abuse. Furthermore, children of problem gamblers are at increased risk of depression and behavior problems.
Genetic research on the origin of gambling addiction suggests many genetic factors influence the addiction. A study from Columbia University describes the connections between genes and gambling addiction. The MAO-A gene plays a significant role in addiction. This gene is involved in the transport of serotonin and dopamine. In addition, abnormalities in this gene have been linked to addictive behaviors, such as compulsive gambling.
Research has shown that people genetically predisposed to gambling addiction are more likely to be males. Those with mental health problems are also at higher risk. The serotonin gene is associated with excitement-seeking behavior. People exposed to alcohol or drugs are also more likely to develop a gambling addiction.
Symptoms of compulsive gambling can include loss-seeking behavior, impulsivity, and impulse control. People with gambling addiction are often affected by other mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Some people also suffer from anxiety, depression, or other personality disorders.
The most common symptom of addiction is a loss of control. In addition, the individual may experience social withdrawal and attempts to reduce their behavior. Gambling addiction is an escape from reality. It can lead to a lifelong problem if the individual does not seek help. Medically-assisted treatment can relieve the physical and psychological symptoms associated with addiction.