Distorted Thinking in Gambling Addiction: What Are the Cognitive and Neural Mechanisms?

Fascinating new studies into brain activity and behavioral responses have highlighted the overlap between pathological gambling and drug addiction. The research, which is presented at the British Neuroscience Association Festival of Neuroscience (BNA2013)  has implications for both the treatment and prevention of problem gambling.

Dr Luke Clark, a senior lecturer at the University of Cambridge (UK), told the meeting that neurocognitive tests of impulsivity and compulsivity, and also positron emission tomography (PET) imaging of the brain have started to show how gambling becomes addictive in pathological gamblers — people whose gambling habit has spiraled out of control and become a problem.

“Around 70% of the British population will gamble occasionally, but for some of these people, it will become a problem,” he said. “Our work has been seeking to understand the changes in decision-making that happen in people with gambling problems. It represents the first large scale study of individuals seeking treatment for gambling problems in the UK, at a time when this disorder is being re-classified alongside drug addiction as the first ‘behavioral addiction’. Given the unique legislation around gambling from country to country, it is vital that we understand gambling at a national level. For example, 40% of the problem gamblers at the National Problem Gambling Clinic report that the game they have a problem with is roulette on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals; this kind of gambling machine is peculiar to the British gambling landscape.”

Full story of mechanisms of gambling addictions at Science Daily

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education

Commentary: Why the Term “Enabling” Does More Harm Than Good

Term Enabling in Support Addiction GroupsThe term “enabling” is commonplace in the field of addiction. It is used within support group settings, in treatment programs and throughout the professional literature about addiction and the family. I consider it one of the most frequently misunderstood terms in our field. In fact, as my research about family caregivers of people with substance use disorders has evolved, I have come to loathe the term “enabling.” Here is why.

There is a great deal of misinterpretation about what qualifies as behavior that is “enabling.”

Webster’s  definition of the term includes: “a) to provide with the means or opportunity; and b) to make possible, practical or easy.” Wikipedia notes that enabling also is used “to signify dysfunctional approaches that are intended to help but in fact may perpetuate a problem….” Examples include taking responsibility, blaming others or making accommodations for a person’s harmful conduct, so that the person is shielded from the harm it may do and the pressure to change.

Full story of enabling at DrugFree.org

Photos courtesy of and copyright PhotoPin, http://photopin.com/

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education

Addiction Expert: Treatment Providers Can Perpetuate Media Stereotypes of Patients

Providers Look at Stereotypes of PatientsStereotypes about addiction, perpetuated by the media, can be unintentionally reinforced by addiction professionals, according to a New York addiction expert.

“When you go to a diabetes clinic, you don’t expect your doctor to have diabetes. But many people treating those who are addicted have themselves been treated for addiction, and tend to use the same lingo as their patients to make them feel more comfortable,” Dr. Edwin A. Salsitz, MD, Medical Director, Office-Based Opioid Therapy at Beth Israel Medical Center, said at a recent meeting, “Solutions to the Addiction Crisis.” “They use terms like ‘dirty’ or ‘clean’ to refer to a urine drug test, instead of the more medical ‘positive’ or ‘negative.’ Using slang in addiction medicine can be confusing and demeaning, and reinforce the stigma attached to addiction.”

Salsitz encourages his colleagues to choose their words carefully. “We need to use medical terms for addiction medicine,” he said. “I never use the word ‘addict’—that pigeonholes someone, and defines who they are. I always talk about addicted patients.”

Full story of treatments based on stereotypes at DrugFree.org

Photos courtesy of and copyright PhotoPin, http://photopin.com/

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education

Are Antidepressants Overused?

People Overusing AntidepressantsAntidepressant prescriptions in the UK have increased by 9.6% in 2011, to 46 million prescriptions. Does this reflect overmedicalisation or appropriate treatment? Two experts debate the issue on bmj.com today.

Glasgow GP, Dr Des Spence, thinks that "we use antidepressants too easily, for too long, and that they are effective for few people (if at all)"

He acknowledges that depression is an important illness, but argues that the current definition of clinical depression (two weeks of low mood — even after bereavement) "is too loose and is causing widespread medicalisation." He also points out that 75% of those who write these definitions have links to drug companies.

National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines do not support the use of antidepressant medication in mild depression, nor necessarily as first line treatment of moderate depression. Instead, they promote talking therapies.

Full story of overusing antidepressants at Science Daily

Photos courtesy of and copyright PhotoPin, http://photopin.com/

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education

Maybe Pot Doesn’t Make Teens Dumb After All

Pot May Not Make Kids DumbMarijuana might not lower teen IQs. Last summer, a study making the rounds in mainstream media (including this very site) purported to show evidence that teens who frequently smoked pot would grow up to have lower IQs. But part of the scientific process involves revisiting studies with such bold claims, and upon further inspection a Norwegian researcher writing in the the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds no convincing evidence that pot makes youngsters dumb. Ole Rogeberg of the Ragnar Frisch Centre for Economic Research writes, "Simulation results suggest that SES-related cognitive decline is sufficient to reproduce" those earlier findings. Basically, Rogeberg is saying that those IQ declines earlier researchers saw were normal in subjects’ socioeconomic backgrounds, whether they smoked pot or not. [Los Angeles Times]

Music really can put you on a natural high. In semi-related news, musicians who talk about the transcendent high they get by playing in front of a crowd are only half exaggerating. A study published in Evolutionary Psychology shows that performing music gives the body an opiate massage similar to the "runner’s high." Oxford psychology professor Robin Dunbar found that endorphins released while playing music increased pain tolerance. And a sudden rush of endorphins also often correspond to a slight high. "Psychologically, endorphin release is experienced as a mild opiate ‘high,’ a corresponding feeling of well-being, and light analgesia," writes Dunbar. [The Atlantic]

Full story of pot making teens dumb at The Atlantic Wire

Photos courtesy of and copyright PhotoPin, http://photopin.com/

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education