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The Health Risks of Powerball Fever

By SHARON BROCK

Powerball fever is at an all-time high: The multi-state Powerball lottery jackpot is up to $1.5 billion (yes, that is a "b"), making it the largest in U.S. history.

A customer at a 7-Eleven store checks the numbers on his Powerball lottery ticket

Although the odds of winning the jackpot are extremely low (roughly 1 in 292 million, according to the Multi-State Lottery Association), people across the country are lining up to buy tickets for even the smallest possibility of becoming a billionaire.

[Read More: What Causes Gambling Addiction?]

For most, buying a lottery ticket provides a momentary thrill, but for others, it is a form of addiction. Even though gambling is a behavior and not a drug, studies show that habitual gambling can create the same neurological response as a chemical drug such as cocaine; both tap into the reward pathway of the brain that causes a surge of a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine causes an intense feeling of excitement for the gambler, thus perpetuating the behavior.

Pathological gamblers are at increased risk of developing stress-related physical conditions, such as hypertension and cardiovascular disease, as well as depression, anxiety and substance-abuse disorders. To make sure your benign habit of buying a lottery ticket here and there doesn’t affect your health, many advise to spend only what you’re willing to lose on lottery tickets and keep the low odds of winning in perspective.

Luckily, the U.S. Department of Education receives a portion of lottery ticket sales and with more than $1 billion in ticket sales so far, education is a big winner. To play, you must buy a $2 ticket and choose five numbers between 1 and 69, and a sixth number between 1 and 26. To win, you must match all six Powerball numbers, which will be drawn on Wednesday night at 7:59 p.m. PST.

– Sharon

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