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When Gambling Takes Over

The casino is a world unto itself. There are no windows, no clock, but there are flashing lights and the clatter of coins and the hum of slot machines. Beyond the slot machines, the figures are mesmerized at the craps table. Interest in poker reached new heights with televised Texas Hold ‘Em tournaments. For most players, this is excitement, recreation, a diversion or escape from the ordinary, and a chance to beat the odds. For others, an estimated three percent of the adult population is an addiction, a never-ending roller coaster of excitement and despair.

A pervasive feature of addiction of any kind is that repeated behaviors have led to a number of negative consequences. This can be said mildly in the case of pathological gambling, because someone in the grip of compulsive gambling usually takes severe financial and relationship shocks before seeking help. His life may be in shambles.

Often times, the compulsive gambler’s denial leads him to believe that the next round will save the day. Of course, if the numbers are correct, the cash or credit earned is “invested” again. Gambling addiction is not a recent development, but the advent of electronic poker and the breakneck speed of today’s slot machines, as well as internet gambling, have sped up the time it takes to gamble for fun and when it becomes problematic, then compulsive behavior.

Pathological gambling, like other addictions, is both a biological and a behavioral disease. While we don’t know all of the factors that lead to gambling addiction, they UFABET  often include social, family, and psychological elements. We know that brain neurovias that involve brain mechanisms are affected in individual perception of rewarding experiences. The emotional escape an individual finds in gambling can take hold.

We have seen between 15 and 20 percent of patients suffering from cross-addiction disorders, such as alcoholism or drug dependence, with gambling problems. Some estimates state that 35 percent of people with substance abuse or dependence have also met diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling at some point in their lives. SOGS (South Oaks Gambling Screen) is the accepted psychosocial diagnostic tool for identifying a gambling problem and its progression.

Both substance addiction and gambling addiction are progressive diseases and can be characterized by an inability to control impulses (to use or play), denial, mood swings of anxiety and depression, and the need for instant gratification. Gambling, like chemical dependency, offers euphoria, which is inevitably followed by emotional valleys and usually remorse and shame. An important difference between gambling and substance addiction is that the alcoholic or drug addict does not believe that substance is the answer to recovery and their problems, whereas the compulsive gambler believes that Big Win will be the answer to all their problems.

Gambling addictions can also lead to symptoms such as fainting, sleep disturbances, and hopelessness. Divorce, relationship and work problems, even arrests, are among the devastating consequences of compulsive gambling. The general health of a person is often neglected, including medical conditions that have been ignored. Gambling addiction is undoubtedly a family disease, creating a dysfunctional family system that revolves around the addiction of the individual. Children can be emotionally stranded and physically neglected. Children are also affected in the long term, with studies estimating that 35 to 50 percent of the children of pathological gamblers eventually experience their own gambling problems.

It is important that when addictions to chemicals and gambling coexist, they are treated at the same time. Like chemical dependency, gambling addiction is addressed in a comprehensive treatment based on the Twelve Step Philosophy. Treatment is individualized and takes into account gender and age issues.