The chemistry of gambling

For many people, the excitement of a casino game is a fun night out, which is soon brought to an end. However, some people are more sensitive to the stimuli of gambling. If you are sensitive to it, then you quickly fall into a state of intoxication while playing. This is how it happens to you that you exceed your own limits, and you don't stop in time. You run a greater risk of becoming addicted. This sensitivity is a combination of factors over which a person has little or no control.


The neurotransmitter dopamine plays an important role in the development of gambling addiction. Neurotransmitters are substances that transmit signals in the brain, and dopamine plays an important role in learning, desire/motivation and reward/joy, among other things. 

Dopamine is produced when gambling

The release of dopamine provides a pleasant feeling during activities such as eating and reproducing (primary occupations). It therefore functions as an incentive and reward for good behaviour.

Risky activities are also stimulated by dopamine, especially when there is a chance of a favourable outcome. Dopamine makes you want to voluntarily take risks and learn from your experiences, so that you can do better next time. This is important when it comes to your chances of survival, but not so useful when playing games of chance.

When you bet on a game of chance, the tension between the risk of losing and the chance of winning also releases dopamine. With a 50/50 chance of winning, this tension is the greatest and the most dopamine is released. Because people generally know that the chance of winning is a lot lower than 50%, all sorts of tricks are used to make the chance of winning seem bigger than it is. You are challenged by nice prizes, the chance of a nice life and so on.

At first, wanting to win such a nice prize is motivating enough to keep playing, but because playing also releases dopamine, playing soon feels like a reward in itself. In addition, it is in our nature to want to understand the game and do better next time. Unfortunately, this is not possible with games of chance.

It has long been assumed that long-term gambling addiction reduces the sensitivity of the dopamine system, as is the case with drug addiction, where you need more and more for the same effect. However, research has shown that this is not the case with gambling. You continue to experience the same feelings even when you are not gambling!

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