When Gambling Spirals into Addiction
When we think of the word “gambling” the image of red and black roulette wheel with a little ball whirling around might come to mind. But these days, there are many varieties of gambling available outside of the typical casino environment. There are lotto scratchers, office football pools, and, of course, the stock market. There are myriad gambling platforms available right on the Internet, making getting in a car and driving to a casino unnecessary. If someone happens to have a risk-taker personality combined with low impulse control there is a good chance they might develop a gambling disorder. If one does develop a gambling disorder, it is wise to have access to a gambling addiction hotline handy.
Prior to 1988, legal gambling was restricted to the state of Nevada and Atlantic City, New Jersey. In 1988 the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act legalized the building of casinos, which now proliferate in all states, excluding Hawaii and Utah. In addition to the numerous gambling venues available across the country, now there is the Internet gambling landscape, adding unending sources for betting online. According to SAMSHA’s 2014 published report of the National Council on Problem Gambling, more than 2% of the adult population has some degree of disordered gambling behavior.
Suicide rates among individuals who struggle with a gambling disorder are high. The report states that about 25% of Gamblers Anonymous members have admitted attempting suicide. Someone may reach this point of despair when all financial resources have been depleted, high debt levels have been accumulated, and other negative consequences of the pathological gambling have compounded to the point that they see no way out from under it.
Things that Can Promote Disordered Gambling
Back in the day when you actually had to insert real quarters into a slot machine people at least had a very tangible sense of throwing real money away. To some extent, using real money acted as a kind of deterrent to losing a grip on the reality of what gaming was—throwing money away. But with the advent of electronic gaming machines that utilize sophisticated algorithms, gaming transactions are silent. There is no clinking sound from the quarters dropping into a tray when you win. Now, all results, whether you win or lose, are tracked electronically and financed via a player card, loyalty card, or ticket that is inserted into the machine, somehow softening the blow that it is real money you are likely losing. Some casinos provide ATM access right there at the gaming site, so patrons don’t even need to leave their chair to withdraw more money out of their bank account.
Online games or casino games—it doesn’t really matter—all are programmed to lull you into a semi-hypnotic stupor and keep you engaged. Casinos use all sorts of incentives to entice the player to keep spending with daily promotions, free food, or even a free hotel room. Freebies are hard for some to resist, playing right into the hand of the casino (pardon the pun). Some of the slots use a multiplier lure, tempting higher bets with the hope of much higher payouts. Others are program for the “near miss” effect, where the player sees the jackpot symbol just slightly above or below the payline, the resulting row of symbols displayed, giving the player the impression that they were this close to winning. This sends a subliminal message to the player to keep trying, since they were so close on that last spin.
How Gambling Addiction Develops
In 2013 the DSM-5 changed the definition of a gambling disorder from the category of an impulse control disorder to an addiction disorder. As the understanding of addiction continues to be studied and revised, science has shifted the idea that addiction must involve the dependency on a chemical, such as drugs or alcohol, to include certain highly rewarding behaviors that results in the same neurochemical changes in the brain. The compulsive gambling behavior may be a genetic predisposition toward reward seeking and impulsive behaviors.
When problem gambling develops, the individual no longer experiences the same high as they once did gambling small amounts of money. The need to take continually more risk, by placing bigger bets, satisfies the need for the thrill. Eventually, the money runs out and the individual may experience serious consequences due to their gambling addiction such as being financially devastated, may have lost their job, or may have engaged in illegal behaviors. These can be telling signs that someone has become deep in their gambling addiction and need treatment and help.
Getting Help Through a Gambling Addiction Treatment Center
When someone has reached a point of urgency in their gambling disorder there are resources to help find appropriate treatment and support. Gambling addiction hotlines can assist individuals who are in crisis and guide them toward the help they need.
Some of the signs the gambling disorder has reached the level of addiction include:
- You continue to gamble, even when it is causing serious problems in your life
- You increase the amount of money being gambled in order to experience the same rush as previously
- You exhibit secretive behaviors, hiding the amount of time you spend gambling or how much money is being spent gambling
- You want to stop gambling but cannot stop.
Intensive Treatment for a Gambling Disorder or Addiction
Treatment programs tailored for a gambling disorder or addiction may utilize opioid antagonists such as naltrexone, antidepressant drug therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is a short-term behavior therapy that can help the individual with a gambling disorder identify certain emotional states or thought patterns that trigger the impulse to gamble. Once these are identified, the CBT teaches the individual how to change the disordered thought-behavior pattern to a productive, positive one. With practice, these new thought-behavior patterns can become habit, helping the individual overcome their obsessive need to gamble, and rebuilding their lives.
Receive Help for Gambling Addiction
The Treatment Specialist will connect you to a treatment center hotline that offers a team of expert mental health and addiction professionals who can help the individual struggling with a gambling addiction locate the help they need. A specialist will guide the individual by offering an initial telephone assessment and review the treatment options. For immediate support, please contact a Treatment Specialist at (866) 644-7911.