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Addiction Theory

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A General Theory of Addictions: Rationale for and Evidence Supporting a New Approach for Understanding and Treating Addictive Behaviors. Durand F. Jacobs. In Compulsive Gambling: Theory,Research, and Practice. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1989. Jacobs defines an addiction as "a dependent state acquired over time by a predisposed person in an attempt to relieve a chronic stress condition." He further states that to be predisposed, a person must first have a persistent state of either chronic excitement or depression — and "childhood experiences that have produced a deep sense of personal inadequacy and rejection." Further, a conducive environment for the addictive behavior must exist, and the individual must experience "a chance triggering event" which leads them to pursue future experiences of that type. Jacobs concludes that addicts of different types use their addictions as a way of "entering and maintaining a dissociative-like state" — an altered state of identity that manifests itself in conditions like the "trance" of the problem gambler.

Pathological Gambling. Richard J. Rosenthal. Psychiatric Annals 22:2, p72-78, Feb. 1992. Pathological gambling is very similar in definition and symptoms to substance dependence. This article discusses the evolution of the DSM-IV criteria for diagnosing pathological gamblers. Various studies of pathological gamblers in treatment reveal that approximately 50 percent have histories of alcohol or drug abuse. In males, the disorder typically begins in adolescence. Females typically start gambling later in life, are more apt to be depressed, and gamble as a means of escaping the depression. It is not unusual for male gamblers to have a history of 20 to 30 years when they seek treatment, compared with three years for females.

Addictive Behavior: An Informal Clinical View. Julian I. Taber. In Gambling Behavior & Problem Gambling. Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming, University of Nevada, Reno. 1993. The author, a clinical psychologist, draws conclusions from his years of experience treating people with addictive disorders. He describes his view of the mind of the chronic addict, suggests guidelines for effective treatment, and expounds on his view that gambling and other addictions are all forms of a single, underlying disorder he calls "Addictive Response Syndrome. (ARS)" ARS, in Taber's view, "always arises from some personal vulnerability acquired before the development of any specific addiction." Treating the addiction without changing the patient's basic personality structure, he argues, is an invitation to relapse.

Understanding the Means and Objects of Addiction: Technology, the Internet and Gambling. Howard J. Shaffer. Journal of Gambling Studies, Vol. 12(4), p461-469, Winter, 1996. This article describes how using new computer technology and the Internet for gambling can represent both the means and object of addiction. Through exploring the concept of addiction, its social setting, neurochemistry and gaming characteristics, this article suggests that addiction is the result of shifts in subjective experience and that new technology and the Internet can provide relatively reliable and potent contemporary vehicles for changing emotional states.

The Application of Harm Minimization Principles to Gambling and Gaming in Western Democracies. Robert Quinlan. 10th International Conference on Gambling and Risk-Taking, Montreal. Northern Problem Gambling Service, Victoria, Australia. June 1997. The discussion places gambling firmly within the scope of addiction theory and focuses on harm minimization to society through the application of public health initiatives that have been used to combat tobacco, drugs and alcohol.

Psychosocial Challenges of Responsible Gambling. Tiit Tammik. Sault College of Applied Arts and Technology, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada. June 1997. A major part of this work lies in the premise that some people are "at risk" to develop cravings and addictions to activities that raise dopamine levels in their brain's "pleasure" centers. This "biosychosocial" perspective emphasizes the importance of interactions among all classes of relevant variables; genetic-biological, psychological and socio-cultural. The author believes risk-taking behavior is an integral part of our human nature and a market driven, consumer culture is not likely to send out messages encouraging restraint. We are bombarded with messages urging us to consume and immediately indulge our every need. Novelty seeking behavior, another aspect of our human nature, is cleverly exploited by gaming industry marketers, casino designers and designers of enticing gaming equipment and activities. Tammik implies that since gambling and gambling addiction are not going to go away, society needs to encourage "safe gambling", perhaps in ways similar to how it encourages "safe sex" and responsible use of alcohol.

Problem Gambling and Experiential Avoidance: Experiential Avoidance as a Functional Process of Problem Gambling. Jeffrey Marotta & Duane Varble. 10th International Conference on Gambling and Risk-Taking, Montreal. University of Nevada, Reno, June, 1997. This article explores the theory (experiential avoidance) that "a proportion of problem gamblers follow a pathway from experiencing a critical life-event, to experiencing discomfort, to engaging in emotional avoidance as a coping mechanism, to discovering gambling as a vehicle for emotional avoidance, and finally, to developing problem gambling behaviors." The paper also discusses historical literature on compulsive gambling and treatments concluding that pathological gambling, in comparison with other addictions, has received very little attention.

An Empirical Examination of Jacobs' General Theory of Addictions: Do Adolescent Gamblers Fit the Theory? Rina Gupta and Jeffrey L. Derevensky. Journal of Gambling Studies 14(1) p17-49. Spring, 1998. Using a sample of 817 adolescents and a variety of measures, Gupta and Derevensky found significant evidence to validate Jacobs' theory. "Adolescent problem and pathological gamblers were found to have exhibited evidence of abnormal physiological resting states, showed evidence of greater emotional distress, reported greater levels of dissociation, and reported higher rates of comorbidity with other addictive behaviors." Further, they found that gambling severity was caused by the need to escape, which in turn was caused by abnormal physiological and/or emotional states.

Strange bedfellows: a critical view of pathological gambling and addiction. Howard J. Shaffer. Addiction (1999) 94(10) pages 1445-1448. In this editorial, Shaffer explores whether pathological gambling is an addiction in the same sense as substance abuse. The difficulty, he believes, lies more in our understanding of addiction than in our understanding of gambling. This lack of understanding stems from the inability to distinguish between an impulse that cannot be controlled and a habit that simply isn’t controlled. An addiction, Shaffer argues, is the “consequence of overwhelming and uncontrollable impulses, compromised biobehavioral regulatory mechanisms, or a combination of both.” The importance of understanding whether a problem gambler truly suffers from an addiction or is the victim of intemperate but controllable behavior lies in the possibility that each may benefit from a different treatment regimen.

Pathways to Pathological Gambling: Identifying Typologies. Alex Blaszczynski. The Electronic Journal of Gambling Issues. March 2000. Vol. 1. Blaszczynski begins this article with a criticism of models of pathological gambling that “assume that gamblers are a homogenous population” which leads to the belief that a given treatment can be applied to all pathological gamblers. He proposes instead a model identifying three main subgroups of pathological gamblers. The first is the “normal” subgroup – those whose excessive gambling results from bad judgement or poor decision strategies and who exhibit no other psychopathology. The second, “emotionally disturbed gamblers,” have a predisposing psychological vulnerability such as depression, anxiety or substance abuse and a history of negative developmental experiences and neurotic personality traits. Members of the third subgroup, “biological correlates of gambling,” exhibit neurological or neurochemical disorders affecting impulse control.

A Profile of Canadian Adults Seeking Treatment for Gambling Problems and Comparisons With Adults Entering an Alcohol Treatment Program. Jamie MD Wiebe and Brian J. Cox. Can. J. Psychiatry 2001; 46:418-421. This study compared 1,376 adults seen in a Winnipeg problem gambling program with 11,661 clients of the same organization's alcohol program. Gambling clients tended to have higher socio-economic status, including significantly higher income and educational attainment, were more likely to be married, female, and older. Alcohol-related problems were found to be rare in the gambling sample, but tobacco use was extremely common. 69 percent of the gamblers reported using tobacco, compared to rates of about 30 percent found in surveys of the general Canadian population.