Are Drug Addictions and Gambling/Shopping Addictions Similar?

Are Drug Addictions and Gambling

We know that substance abuse disorders are all remarkably similar when it comes to the specific symptoms of the disease. Alcoholics, opioid addicts, cocaine addicts, and methamphetamine addicts all have powerful cravings for those drugs, and quitting them can be incredibly difficult. Most people understand the seriousness of addiction, and many people have had a loved one or family member who has suffered from it, even if they have no personal experience with substance use disorder. In the past few decades, non-substance addictions have not always been portrayed as seriously by the media. There are movies about shopping addiction, gambling addiction is often joked about, and the depiction of those problems was not much more accurate than the classic depiction of a drug addict. Not so long ago, drug addicts were people who lived under bridges and made bad choices in life. I believe that many people who have no personal connection with something like gambling or shopping addiction may also assume those people did something wrong to end up in that predicament. In reality, there may be more similarities than differences between drug addiction and non-substance addictions, but I recently read a study that investigated that very issue. I quickly learned that there are, in fact, genetic and biological markers for non-substance addiction, just like there are for drug addiction.

I personally know that, on the treatment side, there are meetings all over the country, like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, for people with other types of addictions. I also know that the best drug rehabs in Florida and around the country only take substance abuse patients. The center that I often write about, located in Panama City, is probably the best drug rehabilitation clinic in the state of Florida but does not take patients for gambling addiction or mobile phone addiction, as an example. I assume this is a question of expertise, because all the people that work at drug rehabs, for the most part, are incredibly well versed in that specific illness. I was interested to find out more of the specifics on addiction as a general idea, rather than simply substance addiction.

I looked at a comprehensive study in the book series “Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology.” I learned that things like shopping addiction are also known as behavioral addictions. There are differences between drug addiction and behavioral addiction on the basis of neurobiology, or the science of the brain, as well as psychology and genetic differences between the two diseases. The diagnostic criteria between the two forms of addiction is also different. I found two sections of the study most enlightening. Firstly, I came across this section, 

“Though the proposed diagnostic criteria of many non-substance addictions are currently most useful as survey instruments to access the prevalence of the problem, there is little or no validating proof for these diagnostic criteria.”

This section seems to come to the heart of this discussion. Although an expert can ask people survey questions about their habits, there is no validating proof behind the answers. If you are a person that is seeking drug abuse treatment for opiate pain killers, as an example, the people who ask you survey questions at a drug rehab center will often drug test you before admitting you to treatment. They do not expect you to be clean from drugs and alcohol, they are making sure that you are actually addicted because oftentimes the medications that are used to treat drug addicts would be dangerous if they were given to non-addicts. Methadone and suboxone could both be very risky drugs if the person administering them was not sure that the patient is already opiate dependent. They are simply too strong for non-addicts to take safely. Gambling addiction, though similar in many ways to drug addiction, does not have a fool-proof test. People must self-assess for the most part, and probably seek treatment at the types of meetings I mentioned earlier in this article. I know that Gamblers Anonymous, specifically, has a nationwide presence in the United States. Also interesting was the fact that animal studies have not been widely used or adopted for behavioral addictions. We know that mice and other animals can become addicted to drugs, just like humans, and, in some cases, they will change behavior in a drastic way. The same cannot be said for the behavioral side of addictions, so again, self-assessment and treatment options become paramount. If you are a person that is looking for the best drug rehabs in Florida, there is more information on this website. If you are a person looking for treatment for a behavioral addiction, I am not an expert, but I know that there are many resources available. Both behavioral and substance addictions have the capability of ruining people’s lives, most of the differences seem to be on the scientific and measurement side of things.

By Tim Cannon



Zou Z, Wang H, d’Oleire Uquillas F, Wang X, Ding J, Chen H. Definition of Substance and Non-substance Addiction. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2017;1010:21-41. doi:10.1007/978-981-10-5562-1_2