Gambling Addiction and Treatment
If you have a compulsive need to gamble, you need help. If you use drugs and alcohol in combination with your gambling addiction you need specialized treatment. Call 800-993-3869 to get the information and help you need. Recovery Connection coordinators can answer your questions about treatment.
The definition of gambling is to "play games of chance for money" or "bet a sum of money" (Oxford English Dictionary). Gambling could be anything from buying a lottery ticket to dropping a quarter in a slot machine. 125 million Americans gamble at least once a year (1999 National Gambling Impact Study). For most, gambling is not a problem. The average person gambles:
- For entertainment
- To win money
- For a challenge
- For excitement
However, there is a big difference between recreational and compulsive gambling. When someone suffers from an addiction, the brain's reward system is affected. The risk-taking behavior associated with gambling, with the potential for a large reward, induces the release of several neurotransmitters and activates the parts of the brain that are associated with addiction. These neurotransmitters induce a pleasurable feeling in the gambler, just as drugs or alcohol induce a pleasant sensation in those who take them.
Ultimately, however, the cycle of addiction leads to despair and hopelessness. Unfortunately, for the gambler, this may mean the loss of financial resources, employment, legal difficulties, and even death by suicide or involvement in violent crime.
Neurotransmitters are altered, resulting in compulsive behavior. A compulsive gambler gambles to:
- Feel better
- Cope with emotions
- Overcome loneliness
- Feel more powerful
- Live a fantasy
- Hide from reality
- Experience a euphoric feeling (caused by neurotransmitters being released)
Pathological gambling, or gambling addiction, is an impulse-control disorder, and a process addiction. People who are addicted to gambling are often competitive and struggle to control impulsive behaviors. Gambling addicts are also more likely to have other issues such as alcoholism, drug dependence, sexual addiction, or process addiction. Compulsive gambling creates financial, marital, legal, and/or work related problems. Everyone in the gambler's support network suffers. Addiction is a mental health issue that requires appropriate treatment.
For most people, gambling is a harmless activity that happens once in a while. They might place a bet without much thought. But for gambling addicts, it's an all-consuming need.
If you're unable to stop gambling or you feel like you have to bet on something, you might already be feeling the effects of a this addiction. Without gambling addiction treatment, you're at risk of:
- Not having enough money to live on
- Losing your job
- Losing your family or a significant relationship
- Alcoholism and/or drug abuse
- Stealing or other criminal behavior
- Legal difficulties
- Suicidal thoughts and/or other negative feelings
Much like other addictions, compulsive gambling requires addiction treatment. Many rehabs utilize a 12-step method. Gamblers' Anonymous, a 12-step support group just for gambling addicts, holds meetings throughout the country and is full of people who understand exactly what you're going through. Find a meeting near you.
24/7 all conversations are confidential