This news item was created by students Scott Culbertson, Cory Kent, Lia Thornberry and Jeff Anderson as part of their Chemistry 212 Collaborative Group Activities in WS00 under the guidance of Prof. Rainer Glaser.

Glaser's "Chemistry is in the News"
To Accompany Wade Organic Chemistry 4/e.
Chapter 24. Amino Acids, Peptides, and Proteins.

For each of the following questions, please refer to the following article:

By NN (Los Angeles Times, December 15, 1998.)

Editorial Comments

Scientists and addiction specialists agree that the rush from narcotics and alcohol is remarkably similar to the rush caused by placing a bet. The chemical in the brain responsible for the rush is known as dopamine, and is responsible for pleasurable feelings. Other neurotransmitters including serotonin and norepinephrine also play important roles in the so-called "pleasure pathways" of the brain. Dopamine has been linked to many other self-destructive behaviors other than gambling and drug or alcohol abuse, such as smoking, eating disorders, and compulsive sex. It is believed that people who have below average levels of dopamine may compensate by engaging in activities that would release more amounts of dopamine into their bloodstream.

Different treatments have been developed to treat or at least help with gambling addiction and other psychological conditions relating to the actions of different neurotransmitters. Gambler's anonymous is a group formed to provide social support to those dealing with gambling addiction. In addition to peer support programs new drugs are being developed to help combat psychological addictions and compulsive behaviors. One such drug, fluvoxamine, has been found to help in the treatment of gambling addiction. Fluvoxamine is a Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor (SSRI) which acts to regulate serotonin levels in the brain and thereby regulate behavior.

A research group based out of the University of North Carolina is currently conducting new research on dopamine and other neurotransmitters. The research suggests that dopamine may be only the initiator and serotonin the final step in the process of providing a pleasurable sensation.

More information on dopamine and addiction

Pertinent Text References
Chapter 19-Amines.
Chapter 24-Amino Acids, Peptides, and Proteins.
Chapter16-Aromatic Compounds.


Question 1: Determine the structures of dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, and fluvoxamine using Chemfinder.

Question 2: Provide a synthesis for dopamine starting with 1,2-benzenediol. Hint: Refer to Wade p.847 and p.904.

Answer: Refer to Wade p. 847 and p. 904.

Question 3: What is the difference between a recreational gambler and a compulsive gambler in terms of their reaction to winning or losing?

Answer: A recreational gambler receives a rush from winning while a compulsive gambler receives the greater rush from losing. The evidence supporting this view comes from the fact that recreational gamblers show increased brainwave activity only while winning, but compulsive gamblers show increased brainwave activity while they are simply engaging in the act of gambling regardless of whether they are successful or not.

Question 4: What has recent research about dopamine shown?

Answer: Dopamine may not be the endpoint of the pleasure pathway system after all. Research at the University of North Carolina suggests that dopamine may play an early role in the pathway but that serotonin may be the main chemical responsible for pleasurable sensations for both humans and other animals.

Question 5: What programs and drug treatments are available to those people with gambling addictions? Which are more helpful and why?

Answer: Gambler's Anonymous is a non-profit organization that began in 1957 to help compulsive gamblers quit. Members rely on the Gamblers Anonymous Recovery Program to help in their effort to do this. There is also a program to maintain the unity of the organization to ensure that it works. The main drug treatment for gambling addiction involves the use of Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (SSRI). The new SSRI that is being used in treatment of compulsive and anxiety disorders is fluvoxamine. SSRIs work by preventing the re-uptake of serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure. SSRIs help to even out a personŐs mood and to ease the anxiety that is associated with many psychological disorders. The question of which treatment is more beneficial is really up in the air, but most studies suggest that a combination of the two different treatments is most successful for overcoming gambling addiction.