Vulnerability To Compulsive Gambling Is Partly Inherited

Vulnerability to compulsive gambling is partly inherited Casinos, gambling boats and state lotteries have become popular ways to raise revenue and provide some excitement for those who donate their dollars. But as legalized gambling has become more common in the United States, gambling problems have too. In part, that's because some of us are genetically predisposed to certain gambling behaviors.

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in St. Louis studied twins to get a better idea of genetic influences on gambling behavior. Reporting in the September 1998 issue of the journal Addiction, they say genes have a significant influence on at least two behaviors that contribute to compulsive gambling.

The researchers studied 3,359 pairs of male twins. All were part of a Department of Veterans Affairs database of twins who served in the military during the Vietnam War. The sample included both identical twins, who have exactly the same genes, and fraternal twins, who share about half of their genes.

"Because all of these twins were brought up in the same household, we can control for differences in formative experiences during youth. Those experiences will tend to be very similar, so with both identical and fraternal twins, we are able to zero in on inherited factors," explains Seth A. Eisen, M.D., principal investigator, associate professor of medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and staff physician for the Department of Veterans Affairs. "By comparing the sharing of a particular behavior in identical twin pairs with that in fraternal twin pairs, we can estimate the inherited and noninherited contributions to that behavior."

The study was funded by grants from the Department of Veterans Affairs Health Services Research and Development Service, the National Institutes of Health and the Public Health Service.

In the genes
To be officially diagnosed wi

Contact: Jim Dryden
Washington University in St. Louis

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