Can genetics influence gambling addiction?

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Gambling addiction, also known as pathological gambling, is an impulse control disorder characterized by the difficulty of resisting gambling, despite the fact that this can have significant and negative consequences on the individual's personal and professional life.

What is the prevalence of gambling addiction in Spain?

According to statistical studies carried out by the Ministry of Health in 2020, which analyzed several variants of gambling, the prevalence of people with gambling addiction is 2.2%. This data corresponds to a segment of the population between 15 and 64 years of age.

Prevalence of gambling addiction in Spain

Some of the criteria for diagnosing gambling addiction (according to DSM-5 - the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) include:

  • The need to gamble with increasing amounts of money to achieve the desired excitement.
  • Irritability or restlessness when trying to stop playing.
  • The making of repeated but unsuccessful efforts to control, reduce or stop the game.

The consequences of gambling addiction can be devastating, including serious financial crises, bankruptcy, loss of personal relationships, employment problems, and even associated legal or mental health problems.

Among online money games, sports betting, card games and video games are the most popular.

Prevalence of online money gambling in Spain

How much does genetics influence gambling addiction?

Gambling addiction is a complex behavior influenced by genetic and environmental factors.

Accessibility and exposure to gambling is considered a risk factor, as are stressful life situations. Examples of this would be job loss, trauma, economic problems or situations of economic pressure, and other situations that can push people towards addictive behaviors as a form of escape.

There are also genetic factors, and research suggests that these factors account for approximately 40% of the risk of gambling addiction.

Gambling addiction and genetics

Several studies have proposed that genes associated with brain function and behavior may play a role in the onset of pathological gambling. This is due to their influence on the release of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, which modulate reward-seeking behavior.

However, the specific genes that have a strong effect on gambling behavior have not been definitively established. Research on the subject is still limited.

How can compulsive gambling be prevented?

Knowing our genetic predisposition to gambling is a key factor that can help us to prevent it, since our DNA does not mark an immovable destiny. Only in specific genetic diseases are certain mutations directly responsible for the condition, and these represent only a small proportion of all diseases.

It is crucial to understand our genetic predispositions in order to act proactively. For example, in the context of pathological gambling, if I am aware of having a genetic predisposition toward gambling addiction, it would be prudent to refrain from participating in gambling games, even if it involves minimal amounts and in relaxed settings with family or friends. While, for the majority of the population this might be a harmless pastime, for people with a strong predisposition toward gambling addiction, it could be a trigger.

Find out your genetic predisposition to gambling addiction with the DNA TEST of ADNTRO and play your own cards! If you are already genotyped with another company, upload raw dna data.

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