Ten years ago the idea that someone could become addicted to a habit like gambling in the same way a person gets hooked on a drug was controversial.

Back then, a counsellor never would have told you that you were an addict. However, researchers are agreeing in that certain cases gambling is a true addiction and needs to be dealt with and treated as such.

In the past, the psychiatric community generally regarded pathological gambling as more of a compulsion than an addiction, a behaviour primarily motivated by the need to relieve anxiety rather than a craving for intense pleasure.

More effective treatment is increasingly necessary because gambling is more acceptable and accessible than ever before, the era of going to casinos and splurging all of your cash at the roulette table is a thing of the past. An Internet connection and a mobile device means you can basically gamble from wherever you are, whenever you want.

Recent studies in psychology, neuroscience and genetics are demonstrating that gambling and drug addiction are far more similar than previously realized. Research in the past two decades has dramatically improved neuroscientists’ working model of how the brain changes as an addiction develops. In the middle of our cranium, a series of circuits known as the reward system links various scattered brain regions involved in memory, movement, pleasure and motivation. When we engage in an activity that keeps us alive or helps us pass on our genes, neurons in the reward system send out a chemical messenger called dopamine, giving us a little wave of satisfaction and encouraging us to make a habit of enjoying hearty meals. When stimulated by amphetamine, cocaine or other addictive drugs, the reward system disperses up to 10 times more dopamine than usual.

This is the main cause of the ‘hunt to get higher’, the more a person takes a drug or indulges their habit the more of a tolerance they build up and therefore need more and more of it to reach the ‘high’.

What’s the real cost of gambling?

For most people gambling is an expensive form of entertainment, but for some people it is a seriously dangerous product that can cause debt, homelessness, prison and much more.

Many casinos are now giving gamblers the option to ban themselves and displaying Gamblers Anonymous brochures near ATMs and pay phones. This is a great step in the right direction for helping people that may not even know gambling is a real addiction.

All casinos should take responsibility, as they may save many people from very unfortunate circumstances. Contact Step One Recovery now to talk to the experts about your gambling addiction and take control of your life again.