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The Addiction to Gambling

Updated on February 6, 2016
Colleen Swan profile image

Colleen is a psycho-therapist in private practice specializing in human relationships

To leap by chance is to lose one’s grasp of reality

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Introduction

At what point is the bon vivant trapped by his pleasures? When does the social drinker sink into alcoholism, the gourmand expand into obesity, the lottery ticket buyer and bingo player deteriorate into compulsive gambling?

The process can be rapid or gradual. Despite intensive, continuing research, the sources of all addictions remain only partially understood. It has been ascertained that the same patterns permeate all addictions, encompassing gambling.

Like other addictions, there are predisposing characteristics: those with a parent/s or pivotal role model who gambled are more likely to develop this addiction than are those without such exposure.

The quest to gain a lot for a little

Why do we gamble? First, there is no more powerful word, universally, than the word “free”. Where things are not free, the temptation to gain a lot for a little proves enticing, at times, overwhelming. Who of us has not bought a lottery ticket, reveling in dreams of vast wealth? Even when it is well-understood that, in casinos, the odds are stacked in favor of the house, there is still the potential, however slight, of investing a small amount at a gaming table, to walk away affluent.

John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, 1718 to 1792 an avid card player

Source

Pursuing the obsession

Gambling has become so entrenched in society as to have developed into legend.

It has been said, that the word “sandwich” stems from John Montagu, the Earl of Sandwich who, unwilling to halt his card game long enough to eat a meal, asked those employed by him to place something nourishing between two slices of bread, to enable him to pursue his obsession with the strength needed to continue.

Beating the odds by betting

In the past, geography has been a factor: those living near casinos have had greater opportunities than did those residing farther afield. The globalization of the internet has made it easy for anyone to engage in games of chance 24-7. Whether feeling lucky or not, the idea is awakened.

Once the addiction has taken hold, the compulsive gambler finds infinite avenues. Even at work or on family holidays, he will wager on whatever comes to hand: who might be absent from work the next day, results of sports events, or national/local elections. While winning is the ultimate goal, like the hunter, he soon finds delight in the joy of the chase.

The luckiest gauge when to quit

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The adrenaline rush

People who say they work best under pressure are often conceding, perhaps unconsciously, their addiction to the adrenalin rush. Meeting a deadline by minutes provides a charge of that most exhilarating endorphin. The tide of adrenalin pulsing through every artery, vein and capillary is the wildest excitement we can obtain, without recourse to external stimuli such as nicotine, alcohol or mood-elevating drugs.

Some people deliberately create situations in which adrenalin is forced to flow, by entering into the ultimate gamble, that between life and death. This is evidenced by dare-devils who endanger their lives through exploits which could easily end in demise.

Taken to the edge

Arguably, to risk one’s life is a right we possess. Still, this right cannot extend to the lives of others. More than one nurse has been convicted of murder by bringing patients to the edge of death, via injections, in order to resuscitate them at the last feasible second. Not surprisingly, their efforts have sometimes failed, resulting in the deaths of those who had trusted their lives to these care-givers.

Win or lose, the wager-made is sweeter than certainty

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Natural Responses

Originally, our endorphins evolved in order to help humankind to survive. Adrenalin, the fight-or flight response, was needed to spur our species to battle or run from hazards, in the form of human or animal foes, or climatic menaces. Our original brain-stem functions were: to fly from danger, fight to survive, eat and drink in order to live, and to copulate to perpetuate our species.

Synchronized reward

Another endorphin, Dopamine, worked as our reward system, providing pleasurable sensations for performing the four brain-stem functions. Those endorphins remain at the core of the brain, despite our veneer of civilization, impelling us to strive, to achieve, to conquer. At this stage in our evolutionary process, the rewards received might, to some, appear paltry, when measured against the forces of brain-stem drives. Perhaps, as humankind evolves, there will be more synchronicity between drives and rewards.

From freedom to enslavement

While exercise, achievement and success release endorphins, the effort involved requires sustained self-discipline. On the other hand, external substances in the form of mood-altering drugs, or activities such as gambling, are initially painless pathways to pleasure.

The anguish comes later, when addicts find themselves enslaved to those substances or activities which had at first provided freedom from the tedium of day-to-day drudgery.

Remaining hidden until the final destruction

Compulsive gamblers are sometimes cross-addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, but gambling can prove more insidious than chemical dependencies. The reason for this is that the symptoms often remain concealed until it has decimated a life. They lack the odor of alcohol, as well as the overt behavioral changes produced by alcohol and drug abuse.

Thus, it can remain hidden until it has cost great financial sums, often obtained by theft or embezzlement, as well as the home, spouse, children, job-and most destructively, and self-respect. Despondent, the addict may then return to his one remaining pleasure and hope: gambling.

Do not stake your heart upon the game, it might get broken

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The anaconda waits to squeeze again

Thus this game of chance is similar to other addictions in that, once he has relinquished the habit, his commitment must be for the rest of his life. As has been shown with other addictions, he is never safe in assuming that, having once learned his soul-wrenching lesson, he can gamble for fun, with no chance of relapsing.

As is the case with substance abusers, he will find that the anaconda he had thought he had slain, had only feigned sleep, waiting to squeeze the life out of him, at the first sign of susceptibility. The addiction resumes at the point where the addict had halted it, progressing until he is wholly destroyed.

Jeremy Kyle talks about resisting temptation, his personal fight against addiction, and the false hope of winning

Feeding the demon of debt

What then is the probable future of the gaming industry? Economic forecasters predict that it will accelerate throughout the next several years. Exponentially, the number of people seeking counseling for debt related problems will grow, largely due to gambling. As debt collection and/or criminal charges escalate, suicide is frequently viewed and implemented as the sole alternative. Medication and psycho-therapy have enjoyed limited success in helping these victims to combat this pathology.

If there must be a dupe, let it be someone other than yourself

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Tempting shapes

As Shakespeare warns us, “The devil hath power to assume a pleasing shape”. The gambling marketing machine exploits the urge for excitement, status, prestige. Its propaganda is akin to that utilized in the days of cigarette advertising, focusing upon the athletic, and the glamorous. To comprehend the incessant incentives to win by chance, we need only scan our spam, surf prime-time TV, or stroll into a local shop any day, to be inundated by the glut of alluring shapes, encouraging us to join the ranks of the gorgeous, the rich, the adored.

Despite this trend, there is hope for the future. As public concern and awareness increase, further funding is likely to become available; both to study the causes and develop enhanced treatment plans for this horrific addiction.

Don't trust the Joker; you might be his next prey

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The parlance of gaming in everyday life

Linguistic usage

Words deployed in gambling have become inculcated into everyday speech. We offer here, by way of examples:

  • Put your cards on the table.
  • I’m ready to hand in my chips.
  • The deck was stacked against me.
  • I got a raw deal.
  • Once I knew the chips were down.
  • Was the game worth the gamble?
  • I’m willing to bet...
  • I would stake my life on...
  • An opponent upped the stakes...
  • The luck of the draw.
  • Hope is built on a house of cards.

Please help to build this list, add yours in the comments

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Conclusion

While public consciousness has enhanced understanding of the perils of gambling, the internet has created a force strong enough to overcome this endeavor. The internet ideal of freedom through Globalization contains the liberty to tempt those striving to recover from this addiction by bringing its source to hand via a few quick mouse clicks.

As one such struggler recounts, seconds after he has ended his access to one gambling website, he feels the immediate need to discover a fresh one-and so he does.

Thus, a gambler’s restructured life can be wrecked, his addiction, held in abeyance for months or years, can once again engulf him. This proves especially painful where one spouse hides an increasing absorbing debt from the other. In such cases, financial fear becomes magnified by a sense of deceit and betrayal. Once this has occurred, even if a level of trust is restored, its roots will, in all probability, remain thin, damaged and fragile.

© 2014 Colleen Swan

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    • rebelogilbert profile image

      Gilbert Arevalo 2 years ago from Hacienda Heights, California

      The best way to gamble is treat the activity as a game. People need relief from their work schedule. It's bad for people to treat gambling too seriously, especially if they lose the farm for putting all their chips on the table. Unfortunately, not everyone is strong enough to exert self control. I'd never tell people not to gamble. Some people are responsible gamblers and don't do foolish things. A little fun doesn't hurt. A little alcohol doesn't hurt either. It's horrible when things become addictive and tears apart your life.

    • Colleen Swan profile image
      Author

      Colleen Swan 2 years ago from County Durham

      Thank you Gilbert for your wise words. I agree the odd flutter and a glass of wine doesn't do anyone harm. It's all about self control and inner happiness.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      People who gamble and expect big payment are just dreamers they hope for something that never be. If one gambles for fun and knows when to stop is another pleasure to be had but if one chooses to gamble and depends on that win they can lose it all in their life. It is all about self-control thank you

    • Colleen Swan profile image
      Author

      Colleen Swan 2 years ago from County Durham

      Thank you DDE. True these people are dreamers, and eventually they and often those closest to them are drawn into a nightmare.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 2 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Colleen, a comprehensive and very interesting article! When it comes to gambling, it's wise to "quit while you're ahead" unfortunately; that is the crux of the matter, they just don't know when to quit. Addiction to gambling machines has been recently compared to addiction to crack cocaine, both can certainly wreck lives.

      Up and sharing.

    • Colleen Swan profile image
      Author

      Colleen Swan 2 years ago from County Durham

      Thank you Tobusiness for looking in. I noted that the news is full of calls for restrictions on the use of these machines and planning permission for the premises that use them.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 2 years ago from Wales

      Thankfully I have never had the inclination to gamble but can understand how many become overcome to dangerous levels by it. You have covered the subject wonderfully Colleen.

      Voted up.

      Eddy.

    • Colleen Swan profile image
      Author

      Colleen Swan 2 years ago from County Durham

      Thank you Eiddwen, I appreciate your looking in, and am happy you found the subject of interest.

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