The neurobiology of pathological gambling and drug addiction: an overview and new findings

Marc N Potenza

Abstract

Gambling is a prevalent recreational behaviour. Approximately 5% of adults have been estimated to experience problems with gambling. The most severe form of gambling, pathological gambling (PG), is recognized as a mental health condition. Two alternate non-mutually exclusive conceptualizations of PG have considered it as an obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorder and a ‘behavioural’ addiction. The most appropriate conceptualization of PG has important theoretical and practical implications. Data suggest a closer relationship between PG and substance use disorders than exists between PG and obsessive-compulsive disorder. This paper will review data on the neurobiology of PG, consider its conceptualization as a behavioural addiction, discuss impulsivity as an underlying construct, and present new brain imaging findings investigating the neural correlates of craving states in PG as compared to those in cocaine dependence. Implications for prevention and treatment strategies will be discussed.

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Footnotes

  • One contribution of 17 to a Discussion Meeting Issue ‘The neurobiology of addiction: new vistas’.

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