There is evidence from twin studies to support the idea of a genetic vulnerabiity to pathological gambling (Eisen, Lin and Lyons, 1999). Comings et al 2001 have suggested the posibility that the genetic process involves the genes controlling the activity of the brain neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine.
The high or buzz they experience when they seem close to winning is one of the factors that appears to motivate gamblers. It has been found that certain neurotransmitter levels rise in gamblers after a winning streak. Raised levels of dopamine and noradrenaline have been found in people after episodes of gambling and in pathalogical gamblers, they have been found in the anticipatory stage before the gambling actually behins. Meyer et al 2004 compared a group of problem gamblers while they were engaged in gambling and during a control condition when they were playing cards but not for money. They found increades secretion of cortisol and increased heart rate in the gambling condition compared to the control condition. Both of these responses are linked to an acute stress response.
Stopping gambling seems to result in the same kind of withdrawal symptoms as stopping drugs. Rosenthal and Lesieur found that 60% of pathalogical gamblers reported physical side effects during withdrawal, eg insomnia, loss of appetite, chills etc and these were sometimes more severe than those reported by a comparison group during withdrawal from drugs.Other brain abnormalities may contribute. A number of studies have found a link between frontal lobe dysfunction and problem gambling and have also demonstrated high rates of EEG abnormalities.
People who have greater access to gambling opportunities are more likely to become social and problem gamblers. Ladouceur et al 1999 looked at gambling patterns in a number of different countries and found that pathological gambling rates increased as the availability of gambling increased. However, a national study in Australia found slightly different results. In spite f states and territories, there were…