Gambling and Its Dangerous Consequences


Gambling is an activity in which people place something of value on an event that is primarily a matter of chance with the intent of winning a prize. It has existed in virtually every society since prerecorded history and is incorporated into local customs, rites of passage and other activities.

People gamble for different reasons, and the motivation to do so varies by person. For some, gambling offers an opportunity to escape reality and for others it is a way to get a feeling of excitement or reward. The act of gambling triggers a brain response that releases dopamine, a chemical similar to that released by drugs of abuse. It has been suggested that problem gambling is linked to an underactive brain reward system, impulsiveness and low levels of inhibitory control.

Understanding the adverse consequences of gambling is complex. Researchers, psychiatrists and other treatment care clinicians, public policy makers and lay people approach the topic from a variety of paradigms or world views. These paradigms or world views inform, but do not necessarily agree with one another.

The nomenclature that is used to describe problem gambling has also been evolving. This is reflected in and stimulated by the changes that have occurred over time in the clinical classification of pathological gambling in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (called DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association.

If you have a loved one who is struggling with gambling addiction, it is important to seek support for yourself and the family. Reach out to friends and family, consider joining a book club or sports team, enrolling in a class, or volunteering for a cause you are passionate about. You may also want to consider finding a peer support group for problem gamblers, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which follows a twelve-step program modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous.