Link Between Antidepressants and Gambling Addiction

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Link Between Antidepressants and Gambling Addiction

Depression is a serious mental illness that can have a devastating impact on a sufferer’s physical well-being and overall quality of life. Therefore, it’s no wonder that so many people turn to antidepressants to help them manage the symptoms of chronic depression.

In recent years, however, critics of these types of drugs have spoken out about their potential drawbacks and questioned their overall effectiveness. In fact, many studies have shown that antidepressants can in some cases worsen depression and cause a range of effects like nausea, weight gain, fatigue and insomnia. In addition, there appears to be a troubling new side effect that is making medical providers hesitant to prescribe antidepressants: gambling addiction.

Gambling Addiction and Antidepressant

A quick search of the Internet reveals countless studies and anecdotal accounts that show a startling link between the use of anti-depressants and compulsive gambling. People who were only casual gamblers or who had never stepped into a casino before all too often find themselves compelled to overspend at gaming tables, at the slot machines and on online gambling websites.

Scientists believe that the link between gambling addiction and antidepressant use lies in brain chemistry. Certain antidepressants cause changes in levels of a brain chemical called dopamine, with these changes having been linked to uninhibited behaviors. Not only could this cause problem gambling, but it could also lead to other consequences such as reckless driving, unprotected sex and binge drinking.

Asa result, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a statement verifying that there is a link between antidepressants, dopamine levels and gambling addiction. Nevertheless, more research is needed in order to determine who is most at risk of developing a gambling addiction due to antidepressants, and to find out if all types of antidepressant drugs pose similar risks for the problem.

Consultation Before Prescription

In the meantime, it’s important that people who are on or considering taking antidepressants for depression and other mental health conditions talk to their doctor first about the risks of gambling addiction. Doctors may subsequently recommend other treatments for those individuals who have a history of addictive behavior, or are already struggling with gambling addiction. Furthermore, people with a family history of addiction or problem gambling may also be advised to explore other treatments.

It is also important to realize that for those people taking antidepressants, and experiencing symptoms of gambling addiction, help is available. Most US states and countries that have legalized gambling, for example, offer toll-free numbers for addicts to call and receive assistance. It’s also possible to place a self-imposed gambling ban in many US states and countries, with one type of ban available enabling a person suffering from a gambling addiction to be denied access to online gambling sites permanently, or alternatively for a set period of time.

Depression Statistics

In 2016, the UK’s National Health Service prescribed a record number of antidepressants to its patients, while the World Health Organization has said that the previous year over 322 million people suffered from depression, representing around 4.4 percent of the worldwide population. Even more concerning is the fact that the past decade has seen the number soar by 18.4 percent across both the developed and developing world.

The worrying trend seems to fly in the face of a more connected digital world in which people are able to gain quicker access to goods and services leading to a pathway towards greater happiness.Tackling the important subject, Robert Lustig, a paediatric endocrinologist, has written a book recently called The Hacking of the American Mind, and as an article on the subject that appeared in the Financial Times explains:

“Part of the issue, according to Dr Lustig, is that in the modern age we have come to conflate pleasure with happiness. Pleasure, he notes, is all about the phenomenon of reward. This can be achieved by way of everything from impulsive shopping sprees to outright substance abuse. Happiness, on the other hand, is a state of general contentment that requires little in the way of a trigger.”

Addressing that point, while antidepressants do seem to help some people, those concerned about gambling addiction must carefully weigh the risks and benefits for themselves under the guidance of their doctors as science works to learn more about the link between the drugs and problem gambling.

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