Addictions can form from using mood altering drugs such as, nicotine, alcohol, cocaine and caffeine, or behavioral processes as with gambling, eating, sex or shopping (Schwartz 21). Schwartz defines “An addiction, as is any process over which people are powerless, which leads them into behavior inconsistent with personal values, and which they are unwilling to give up, often at the expense of work, relationships or family.”(21)
Behavioral processes, such as gambling, provide the brain with a sense of gratification, while ignoring the resulting consequences (Henderson 154). Psychologists compared the conditioning effects produced by a slot machine with similar conditioning experiments on animals. A slot machine may dispense a reward at unexpected times but a person will continue to use the machine even though a reward is not guaranteed. Animals that performed certain behaviors were given a reward at unforeseen intervals. Although, they were not always given a reward they continued the behavior in the lure of possibly receiving a reward. This test demonstrates that a specific behavioral response can be instilled into the brain, regardless of the subsequent outcome. Activities like gambling arouse the pleasure center of the brain by releasing dopamine (Friedman 29). Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain that recognizes feelings of pleasure. The abundance of dopamine results in an over stimulation
Cited: Berman, Linda and Mary-Ellen Siegel. Behind the 8-Ball. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992. Custer, Robert and Harry Milt. When Luck Runs Out. New York: Facts on File Publications, 1985. Friedman, David. False Messengers: How Addictive Drugs Change the Brain. Florida: CRC Press LLC, 1999 Henderson, Elizabeth Connell. Understanding Addiction. Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 2001. Schwartz, Patricia. “The Analysis of Addictions.” The Women’s Review of Books. 5.3 (1987): 21 Thombs, Dennis. Introduction to Addictive Behaviors (3rd Edition). New York: Guilford Publications, Incorporated, 2006.