Gambling, whether at the casino, racetrack, online or through the purchase of lottery tickets, is a lot like drinking alcohol. In moderation, it can be a lot of fun, but it can also become an addiction. Compulsive gambling, as with alcohol or any other addiction, can have disastrous consequences.
Rolling the dice, placing bets or just pulling the lever on a slot machine can have a mood altering effect on the brain that is akin to what someone else might get from taking a tranquilizer or having a drink. As with drugs and alcohol, tolerance and cravings can develop. People with gambling addictions respond by gambling more. To do so, they spend money that otherwise may be needed for mortgage payments, utility bills and other essential daily living expenses. When that’s not enough, retirement savings and children’s college funds can be depleted.
Financial ruin is not the only fallout. Quarrels and fights erupting over the addict’s behavior increase the likelihood of domestic violence. Children growing up in these households are more likely to develop mental disorders including stress and depression. The children themselves may be at increased risk for becoming compulsive gamblers.
It is essential to recognize when gambling has crossed over from being a recreational activity to a compulsion or addiction.
Signs of Compulsive Gambling Include:
- A preoccupation with gambling, either by reliving past gambling, planning for future gambling experiences and/or thinking of ways to secure money to finance gambling
- Needing more and more money for gambling in order to achieve the desired level of gambling enjoyment
- Repeated unsuccessful attempts to stop or reduce betting behaviors
- Becoming uneasy or easily irritated when trying to reduce or stop gambling
- Gambling for the purpose of escaping problems or to relieve sadness or anxiety
- Returning to gambling after losing money in an effort to recoup losses
- Lying to family or other loved ones, mental-health professionals or others in an effort to hide the extent of the gambling behavior
- Committing crimes (for example, stealing, fraud or forgery) in an effort to finance gambling
- Risking important relationships, employment or other opportunities due to gambling
- Depending on others for money to resolve dire financial situations that are the result of gambling
Where to get help:
The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) has developed a list of resources. They include:
Gamblers Anonymous (www.gamblersanonymous.org) is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other to help solve their common problem.
Gam-Anon (www.gam-anon.org) is a self-help organization for the spouse, family or close friends of compulsive gamblers.
Your First Step to Change Online Workbook (http://basis.typepad.com/basis/selfhelp_tools.html) This guide will help you understand gambling, figure out if you need to change and decide how to deal with the actual process of change.
An interactive map on the NCPG website can further assist you and your family in finding programs in your specific state.
A 24- Hour Confidential Hotline is also available at the NCPG. Call 800-522-4700.
Check to see if you have access to:
- Member/Labor Assistance Programs (MAPs)
The LHSFNA has a poster available in English and in Spanish that calls attention to gambling and other addictions that can be posted at your jobsite. Order it by clicking on Publications.
Gambling addictions wreck lives, but yours doesn’t have to be one of them. If you or someone you love has a gambling problem, help is available. Take advantage of it.
[Janet Lubman Rathner]